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Legislature Completes 2000 Session
by Amy Radil
May 18, 2000
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Legislators returned as promised Wednesday to scrutinize Governor Ventura's vetoes to their spending bills. They successfully overrode four of his 11 line-item vetoes to restore funding for their projects. But the votes weren't without opposition, or last-minute lobbying among legislators.
  • $1.5 million for multicultural development grants in Pelican Rapids and St. James. Overridden on 100-26 House vote, 57-5 Senate vote.
  • $1 million for the Lanesboro Center for the Arts. Overridden on 92-36 House vote, 58-4 Senate vote.
  • $3 million for a new Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. Overridden on 92-36 House vote, 55-5 Senate vote.
  • $135,000 to purchase an organ donor vehicle. Overridden 112-16 House vote on 61-0 Senate vote.
  • HF 2809 required the state to keep open the Ah-Gwah-Ching nursing home in Walker. Overriden in April.

  • $500,000 for the Center for Agricultural Innovation in Olivia.
  • $150,000 for the St. Croix Valley Heritage Center.
  • $2.7 million for a Cold Weather Testing Center in International Falls.
  • $100,000 for the Landfall HRA retaining walls.
  • $30,000 for the purchase drug detection dogs.
  • $1.75 million for construction of regional adult detention facilities.
  • SF 884 offered a break in marriage fees for those who take premarital education.
  • HF 2891 provided spending for various road, bridge and transit projects. Line-item vetoed was $750,000 for three new travel information centers in the Minnesota River Valley.
  • HF 118 instituted a time limit of 18 months for unconfirmed cabinet members to serve in a governor's administration.

  • SF 76 modified DWI motor vehicle forfeiture laws to lift the responsibility of financial institutions to reimburse law enforcement for processing costs.
  • SF 3291 allowed vehicle owners to get their possessions from inside their car or truck before it is towed.
  • SF 3387 required a 24-hour waiting period for most women seeking abortions.
  • SF 2484 designated the left lane for passing. Compromise worked out to post signs in Greater Minnesota urging slower drivers to keep right.
  • SF 2385 exempted public hospital employees from a state compensation limit.

    HOUSE REPUBLICAN LEADERS initially said they had no plans to override Ventura's line-item budget vetoes, which they said trimmed a reasonable $11.6 million from the state budget. But House members quickly broke rank to successfully override four of the governor's vetoes.

    One restores funding for libraries in the towns of Pelican Rapids and St. James to offer more services to the newly arrived immigrant groups. Many immigrants work in the towns' meat processing plants. DFL Representative Greg Gray, who sponsored the legislation, says the residents should be rewarded for wanting to welcome a diverse population.

    "Some people react in terms of fear," he told his colleagues. "I was encouraged in Pelican Rapids because the fear wasn't there. This was a group of people who were interested in maintaining a sense of community even though they'd had 700-plus arrivals over a five-year period."

    The restoration of arts funding was more dramatic. Overrides of the vetoes affecting the Lanesboro Center for the Arts and the Guthrie Theater Foundation were unsuccessful in the House Wednesday morning. When the subject resurfaced later in the day, freshman Republican Representative Chris Gerlach of Apple Valley cried foul.

    "The worst in politics is going on," Gerlach said. "What's happening is votes are being traded, deals are being cut, we have motions to reconsider and I'm hoping everyone at home is watching that board when it lights up."

    His accusation brought an angry response from Republican Greg Davids of Preston, who sponsored the bills for both projects. "There's no deals cut," he said. "How many deals did I cut with anyone over there? I said I've got a good project in my district that deserves to be funded, so does this one. Representative Gerlach, you owe us an apology."

    But Davids persuaded eight representatives to change their vote in favor of the override; joking when it was over that he'd lost 25 pounds in the process of hustling around the House.

    Republican Tim Finseth of Angus switched his vote to support the two projects the second time around. "I just felt it was important for those communities, the things in the bonding bill important to my community (which) all these people helped me get passed, so I thought it was only fair that we help out the other communities."

    The override means the Guthrie Theater Foundation will receive $3 million in state bonding toward a $75 million theater complex to be built in Minneapolis. The theater's operations are currently scattered between seven different locations in the city.

    Guthrie Artistic Director Joe Dowling stopped by the Capitol after the vote to thank legislators. He praised them for their help with his own project, and with the new arts center in southeast Minnesota.

    "I think it's wonderful that both the Guthrie and Lanesboro have been included and that this statement about the need for the arts both in the cities and the rural areas are mentioned in the same breath," Dowling said.
    "You know, governor, you haven't been around here, you haven't been involved, and basically for about two years, you've kind of whiplashed all of us and said we aren't doing our job and whatever, and I think people said 'today's my day to let my vote do my talking,'"

    - Dick Day
    Senate Minority Leader

    The Legislature's overrides restored $5.6 million in state spending and brought the number of overrides against Ventura to six since he took office, making him the most overridden governor in the state's history.

    While House Republican leaders tried to discourage the votes, Republican Senator Dick Day was jubilant. Day says the overrides were based both on the projects themselves, and on sending a message of animosity to Ventura.

    "You know, governor, you haven't been around here, you haven't been involved, and basically for about two years, you've kind of whiplashed all of us and said we aren't doing our job and whatever, and I think people said 'today's my day to let my vote do my talking,'" Day said.

    Ventura has been blase about the overrides, saying he does his job, the legislators do theirs.