ST. PAUL (AP) -- Opposition to a unicameral legislative system is making for strange political pals.
Organized labor and big business sat beside the chairmen for the Republican and DFL parties Monday in opposition to a change.
Chamber of Commerce lobbyist Bill Blazar and AFL-CIO President Bernard Brommer testified against Gov. Jesse Ventura's push for to put the question of a unicameral system on the November 2000 ballot.
At first glance, Blazar said it might appear business would like a unicameral system because it would mean less government. On further inspection, the conclusion was different.
''A unicameral system might not mean less government because it would lower the hurdle over which an idea would have to pass before it became law,'' Blazar said.
His argument extended to a belief that a second house often improves bills. He also believes flaws in the two-house system can be fixed.
His comments echoed those of many opponents, including GOP state Chairman Ron Eibensteiner and DFL state Chairman Mike Erlandson. Most say they don't want to fix what isn't broken.
Erlandson was most concerned that Minnesotans, who now have two representatives in the Legislature, would have only one.
''Removing one member of the Legislature takes away an advocate for every individual, increases the power of a few while at the same time doubling the workload of the legislators who are left,'' he said.
Supporters view a unicameral system as a chance to make the process more accountable, accessible and frugal.
The biggest supporter, of course, is Ventura. He spoke twice on the issue Monday, once at a news conference, then at a joint evening hearing before the House Governmental Operations Committee and the Senate Elections Committee.
Because the issue is one of Ventura's main government reforms, a question is whether it would become tied up in session end-game negotiations. Ventura said no.
''I don't believe you make it part of any poker game,'' he said.
Among the lawmakers by his side was House Speaker Steve Sviggum, R-Kenyon, the main sponsor of the House bill, and Senate President Allan Spear, DFL-Minneapolis and the lead Senate sponsor.
The governor's strategy for now is to compel votes on the issue on both the House and Senate floors. If both chambers approve it, voters would decide in November whether to follow Nebraska and become the second state with a one-house Legislature.
As Ventura sees it, the Legislature would have 135 members who would be elected to staggered four-year terms and be called senators. It would first convene in 2003.
Many lawmakers were skeptical.
''The constituents that sent me down here said they did not want making new laws made easier,'' said Rep. Steve Dehler, R-St. Joseph.
Sviggum argued for the change, saying ''The loudest voice speaking for going to a unicameral (system) is the lineup of special interest groups going against.''
But Rep. Mike Osskopp, R-Lake City, said the biggest supporters are ''Twin Cities millionaires.'' Osskopp also said he was worried about a lack of checks-and-balances in the unicameral system.
Sviggum said, ''Ultimately, the best check-and-balance is an open process.''
While Spear likened the unicameral system to tuning up an already good car, Sen. Mark Ourada, R-Buffalo, didn't buy it.
Ourada considered switching systems to ''akin to going in for an oil change and deciding to throw out the whole engine while you're at it.''
A particular focus of Ventura's ire is the conference committees that meet, usually toward the final days of the session, to work out differences in bills passed by the House and Senate.
The bill is considered to be a long shot for passage. The House panel could take a vote on the bill as soon as Friday. It's unclear where it would go if it makes it out of the current committee.
The bill is House File HF159 or Senate File SF43. Both can be found at www.house.leg.state.mn.us.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.