Inside the Capitol: Legislature shifts focus following Easter/Passover break; Rarely used loophole keeps all bills alive

After taking their annual “spring break”, legislators are back to work on Tuesday, April 6th. The break is a fixture in the legislative calendar and always coincides with the Easter/Passover holidays. While traditionally intended as a time to rest in God, this break is used by many legislators and staff as a respite from the tumult created by thousands of bills and the proponents/opponents of bills who are vying for legislators’ attention.

Since the start of session in January, legislators have introduced nearly 5,000 bills. Each bill introduced in this steady stream (nearly 100-200 bills per week) of requests for funding, proposals to change existing policies, or ideas for new policies has the potential to become law and impact some aspect of life in Minnesota. With so many bills, the return from recess marks a transition in which House and Senate committees shift their efforts from vetting new bills to working on final priorities.

Typically, bills that had stalled or not yet been heard by a committee would now be dead, but that may no longer be the case this session due to a rarely used loophole to keep bills alive. The day before recess, the House Rules Committee voted to waive the deadline required for four bills including H.F. 600, Representative Ryan Winkler’s recreational marijuana legalization bill. In his comments supporting the use of the waiver clause, Committee Chair Winkler noted that the committee would likely waive the deadline for other bills that DFL leadership wants to move despite not meeting the established deadline.

From an advocacy standpoint, the House’s willingness to waive the deadline rule for select bills means that proposals such as the comprehensive sex education bill H.F. 358 (Jordan) and the reproductive health rights bill H.F. 259 (Morrison), may remain viable for the duration of session. These bills, which attack the dignity of the human person, require on-going vigilance to ensure this loophole does not enable them to slip into law.

Not only will MCC be keeping a careful watch over any attempt to attack life, dignity, and the common good, but in this “second-half” of session, MCC – like other advocacy groups – will examine how the legislature’s priorities align with our priorities and how to then engage in end-of-session negotiations.

ACTION ALERT

As the Church’s agent at the Minnesota Capitol, the Minnesota Catholic Conference (MCC) is actively engaged on around 50 of the thousands of bills introduced this session. Our level of engagement ranges from submitting letters of support/opposition to working with various coalition partners and stakeholders, to reaching out to Catholics across Minnesota – through our Catholic Advocacy Network (CAN) – urging them to contact their legislators about a given issue. If you have not been contacted by CAN, get registered today by going to www.mncatholic.org/actioncenter/join-us. After registering, you can also explore our action center where you can track bills and contact your legislators on key issues.