The Minnesota House this afternoon approved a bill that would allow legislators who are called to active military duty during a legislative session to suggest temporary replacements while they are deployed.
The bill, HF 2405, proposes a constitutional amendment that would require affected legislators to submit a list of three qualified temporary replacements to serve in their places until they return from active military duty.
Lists of suggested replacements would be submitted to the presiding officer in either the House or Senate for final selection.
“This is the first time that the Army and the Navy have actually worked together,” Rep. Roger Reinert, DFL-Duluth, the bill’s chief author, joked this afternoon, referring to Rep. Bob Dettmer, R-Forest Lake, who worked with him on the legislation.
Dettmer serves in the U.S. Army Reserve, and Reinert is a member of the U.S. Navy Reserve.
“Right now there’s just a gap [when legislators are called to active duty],” Reinert said. “There would be no voice, no representation, and frankly, given the role that the Guard and Reserve are playing today, we think it’s a growing concern instead of just an occasional one.”
Dettmer agreed with Reinert’s explanation of the bill.
“This is bipartisan work, as the good Navy officer over there said,” he said, pointing to Reinert and noting that the two men drill together at Fort Snelling. “This weekend was supposed to be our drill weekend; it looks like we’ll be making those days up.”
Rep. Paul Kohls, R-Victoria, asked Reinert and Dettmer whether such a bill should be expanded to include a similar provision for lawmakers who become ill during a legislative session.
“Why wouldn’t we treat a legislator who becomes seriously ill, or seriously disabled, who is temporarily unable to fulfill his or her duties in the same way as you propose we treat members of the military who are called to active duty?” Kohls asked.
Reinert said he didn’t have a “philosophical objection” to Kohls’ question, but said it was his “first foray into tackling something as large as this” and that he wanted to focus only on military issues.
Rep. Mark Buesgens, R-Jordan, expressed concern about the “possibility for confusion and for shenanigans” and offered an amendment to the bill — which lawmakers approved on a voice vote — specifying that the temporary successor provision would be applicable only for military deployments of at least 30 legislative days.
House members approved the Reinert bill 128-4.