Post by Kathleen Lohmar Exel, Foundation Director
March 8, 2018 found the current LSP class gathering for Media & Communications Day at both MPR and Twin Cities Public Television. The day began with a storyteller/reporter activity facilitated by Damon Shoholm, the LSP Curriculum Lead, which helped the class examine the difficulty that journalists face telling complex stories in our ‘social media driven, short-attention span’ society. This segued to the ever-popular Media Panel on “How Does the News Get Made?” featuring, Charles Hallman from the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder, Michael Olson of Minnesota Public Radio, Jana Shortal from KARE11, Dave Orrick from the Pioneer Press/TwinCities.com and it was moderated by Cathy Wurzer of MPR. The class also heard from the ever-engaging Chad Weinstein and his Ethical Leaders in Action interactive presentation. Tours of both MPR and tpt allowed participants to visually see how the news gets made and the class was also trained in social media trends and the importance of careful communications in day-to-day leaders’ lives by Goff Public.
Special thanks to Richard Fong of Granicus and Suzanne Thompson of the Pioneer Press, co-chairs of the day and their committee, Mary Huss of Catholic Charities and Brad Losee of Anchor Bank, all from LSP ’17. Julia Jenson, Curriculum Chair and Damon Shoholm, Curriculum Lead were instrumental in making sure the day was a success.
What is an amendment?
Bills start out with specific language “as introduced.” Amendments are how that language gets changed. They’re either done in committee or on the floor, but have to be voted on. Amendments are how the legislature makes sure all the changes are official and accounted for. It’s a way of keeping track, and allows changes as a bill progresses through the system.
What is a “delete all?”
A “delete all” is a kind of amendment. While most amendments make individual changes to the text of a bill – either adding or subtracting certain language – a delete all strips all of the current language out of a bill and replaces it at one time. A delete all is helpful if there have been multiple changes.
Think of a bill like a car engine. If a spark plug goes bad, you just swap out that spark plug, or if you decide that synthetic oil is better than conventional, you drain out the old oil and put the new in. The spark plug swap or oil change would be like individual amendments. The engine is still the engine, but you’ve got new parts.
But let’s say you have an engine with lots of issues. It needs two new spark plugs, a hose, an oil change, and a fan blade is bent. You could do individual fixes (amendments) or your mechanic could offer you a whole different engine. Swapping out a new engine for the old would be like doing a delete all – it’s still an engine, but all of the little problems get taken care of at once. Efficient, right? Right.
However… here’s the catch with delete all’s – it’s really easy to sneak in extra changes. If you have an unscrupulous mechanic, and he gives you a different engine that fixes the spark plugs, the hose, the oil change and the fan blade, he could also “forget” to mention that one of the pistons has a crack in it. If you have an unscrupulous legislator, they could “hide” extra provisions or changes in a delete all. This has the highest probability of happening with large omnibus bills, or at the end of session, when lots of things are happening quickly. Intentional swaps and unintentional mistakes are the reason that legislators should be afforded time to read the bills they’re voting on, especially when there are changes right at the end.
In legislation as in life, make sure to read the fine print.
Post by Shannon Watson, SPACC Director of Public Affairs
The Minnesota legislature has a few dates that guide its work. The most important is the constitutionally-mandated adjournment date – no later than the Monday after the third Saturday in May. This year, that date is May 21st.
As of this writing, there have been 3,816 bills introduced in the House of Representatives, and 3,377 bills introduced in the Senate*. Bills can, and are, introduced anytime during the session – often all the way up until the final day. Many bills don’t even receive a hearing, but to become enacted into law, bills need** to move through the committee process. Occasionally you’ll hear about bills meeting or missing “first deadline” or “second deadline” or “third deadline” – those are the dates that the legislature uses to narrow down their scope of work for the year. Of course, like most rules, these have exceptions. Deadlines don’t apply to bills that have to go through Capital Investment, Ways and Means/Finance, Taxes, or Rules.
"The first deadline is for committees to act favorably on bills in the house of origin."
This means the bill needs to get a committee hearing (House bills in House Committees and Senate bills in Senate committees) and pass through the committee, or be “laid over for possible inclusion” which is when a bunch of little bills are bundled together in one big omnibus bill. If it passes or is laid over, the bill has met the first hurdle and can continue. This year, first deadline is March 22.
"The second deadline is for committees to act favorably on bills, or companions of bills, that met the first deadline in the other house."
Once a bill passes its own committee, it needs to pass the other body’s committee that deals with the same subject. The House and Senate both have committees that deal with all of the same subjects, although it’s not a perfectly mirrored system. Some committees have different names and some have slightly different jurisdictions. If a House bill meets first deadline and then gets a favorable hearing in a Senate committee (or vice versa), it has met the second deadline and can continue. This year, second deadline is March 29.
"The third deadline is for committees to act favorably on major appropriation and finance bills."
This is the deadline specific to bills that deal with money. This year, third deadline is April 20.
If a bill doesn’t meet its deadline but gets a favorable hearing in committee, the Rules committee can override the other deadlines and let it proceed.
*Since the Minnesota legislature works on a biennial – 2 year – system, bills are in play for the duration of the two years. A bill that is introduced on day 1 year 1 doesn’t have to start the process over on year 2. Conference Committees (which are made up of members from the House and Senate who work out differences between their versions of the same bill) also still meet. At the end of the two year session (when they adjourn “sine die”) is when everything stops, and bill numbers start back up after the election at House File 1, House File 2, etc.
**Bills are never really dead until “sine die”, and can bypass the committee process by becoming an amendment on to another bill, which is called a “vehicle”. This often happens late in session when legislators are moving things quickly in the last few days.
Have a question about the legislature? Let Shannon know and maybe you’ll see it answered here!