Bye-bye bucks: Two finance provisions meant to mollify House Democrats were taken out of a bill that strips away municipal governments’ power to set local labor rules. Lacking that fiscal carrot, it attracted just two DFL votes following a marathon House floor debate Thursday.
Had the excised money remained, House File 600 would have provided $750,000 to fund the Public Employment Relations Board and another $750,000 to pay for increased wage-theft enforcement over the 2018-19 biennium.
The cash was withdrawn Feb. 27 during a House Ways and Means Committee meeting. The move came after Rep. Tina Liebling, DFL-Rochester, raised objections to embedding finance provisions into the labor policy bill.
Controversial from its inception, HF 600 was authored by Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington. It would bar cities from setting local minimum wages higher than the state’s. It also would block them from requiring companies to offer paid or unpaid family or sick leave, mandate work hours, or set working conditions.
If passed, it would become effective retroactively, vacating sick-leave ordinances already passed in Minneapolis and St. Paul. However, as Garofalo admitted Thursday, the governor is unlikely to sign without major Senate and conference committee changes.
Garofalo earlier told Ways and Means members that he inserted the two appropriations as an act of bipartisan good faith. Liebling wasn’t buying it. She accused him of arm-twisting by inserting policies DFLers want passed into a bill he knows they cannot stomach.
“Whatever other lipstick you might put on the bill, I think it is still a pig,” she said. Garofalo then withdrew the funding provisions, against the objections of Ways and Means’ lead minority member, Rep. Lyndon Carlson, DFL-Crystal.
“My intent was to gain bipartisan support and consensus; clearly that was a mistake,” Garofalo said. “I misinterpreted what members will do.”
After voting 13-7 to remove the appropriations, Ways and Means passed the full bill in a split voice vote.
The House debated it for nearly five hours Thursday. Republicans defended businesses’ right to be free of patchwork regulation; Democrats argued for labor’s right to fight locally for better wages and benefits.
In the end, it passed 76-53. Only Rep. Gene Pelowski, DFL-Winona, and Jeanne Poppe, DFL-Austin, joined the GOP majority.
Its companion, Senate File 580, has cleared its committee stops and is awaiting a final floor vote.
Sunday sales: Going into the weekend, Sunday liquor sales were one signature away from becoming Minnesota law.
Before the measure’s Feb. 27 Senate vote, the smart money held that Sunday sales faced a difficult climb in the upper chamber. Not really — it passed by a relatively decisive 38-28 vote.
The House passed its version 85-45 on Feb. 20. The House passed it yet again on Thursday, 88-39, adopting the Senate’s amendments.
It now heads to Gov. Mark Dayton’s desk. Dayton, who underwent prostate surgery Thursday, will sign the bill either Monday or Tuesday, a spokesman said.
Late last month, House Speaker Kurt Daudt expressed confidence that the lopsided House vote would demonstrate to senators that Sunday liquor sales had gained critical momentum. He predicted the upper chamber would approve it.
He was right, though an observer might have thought otherwise watching the Senate floor debate. Many of the Feb. 27 Senate speeches opposed Sunday sales.
Sen. Carolyn Laine, DFL-Columbia Heights, rejected notions that, by supporting the Prohibition-era ban on Sunday sales, she was “old-fashioned.” She opposed the bill, she said, because she opposes “big liquor.”
“The job of government is to make sure that big interests don’t crush small interests,” she said.
Several others opposed it on moral grounds. Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, said he customarily picks up his granddaughter from Sunday school on his way home from church. He asked senators to consider the message conveyed were he to stop at a liquor store on the way home.
“This is all being done in front of our kids and grandkids,” Ingebrigtsen said. “I think this is a bad idea. I always have.”
Sen. Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, described the desolation of his hometown as big-box regional stores have pushed small shops out of business. He opposed the bill, saying Sunday liquor sales would only extend that sad cycle to the local liquor store, he said.
Support, meanwhile, came from some unlikely corners. Sen. Dan Hall, R-Burnsville, a former minister and the son of an alcoholic, twice voted against Sunday sales. He changed his mind, he said, after a conversation with a long-haired, tattooed constituent who asked him support Sunday sales in the name of freedom
Long a skeptic of Sunday sales, Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, released his caucus to vote its conscience. But he cautioned that, whichever way the vote fell, members would have to live with the results.
“If this fails,” he said, “don’t ask me to bring it up next year.” With that, the Senate passed the bill.
The law will allow liquor stores to open Sundays between the hours of 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. and will take effect July 1.
ID factoid: Here’s a little factoid regarding the House’s Feb. 23 vote to approve Real ID, courtesy of an anonymous tipster.
Among the 133 House members who voted to ban Real ID in 2009, roughly 40 members are still in office. Of those, 16 members flipped their 2009 votes on Real ID last month. Fourteen were Republicans.
That, our tipster notes, happens to be the exact margin by which the House approved Real ID, 72-58. So if just seven of those Republicans had stuck with their original vote, the repeal once again would have died.
Of course, that is not what happened.
Minnesota is one of the last states still out of compliance with the 2005 federal Real ID law, which sets minimum security standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards. The feds set early next year as a deadline for states to come into compliance or risk Minnesotans losing access to commercial aircraft, and to federal and military facilities.
Previous attempts to pass Real ID were derailed by privacy concerns. That led the bill’s House author, Rep. Dennis Smith, R-Maple Grove, to devise a two-tiered solution. House File 3 allows the state to issue a federally compliant ID for those willing to accept one, and a noncompliant version for those worried about privacy.
Yet privacy got scant attention on the House floor Feb. 23. Instead members argued over part of the bill that requires proof of citizenship.
Democrats argued against that because it would forbid undocumented immigrants from getting even noncompliant driver’s licenses, which they said is a violation of both fairness and public safety. Republicans generally oppose giving driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants.
Rep. Carlos Mariani, DFL-St. Paul, offered an amendment to strip out all language referencing undocumented immigrants because, he said, they play a key role in Minnesota’s economy and culture and deserve to be treated fairly.
“My brother-in-law was undocumented,” Mariani said. “He worked, he paid taxes, he strengthened my community and he strengthened my family while he was undocumented. Now he is a citizen.”
Such appeals didn’t work. The Mariani amendment lost 57-74, a slightly wider margin than the full bill’s final tally.
The Senate version — which does not include the undocumented immigrant language — was approved by the Senate Finance Committee March 1. The full Senate was scheduled to take it up Monday.