ST. PAUL -- House Republicans want to put Gov. Jesse Ventura's administration on notice that they won't approve a contract that grants benefits to the gay and lesbian partners of state workers.
If they follow through on their threat, it could lead to a resumption of a strike by the members of two unions that represent 52,000 state employees.
A resolution Republican leaders planned to send to the floor for a vote Wednesday afternoon objects to the contract on the basis that it includes the same-sex provision. Rep. Dave Bishop, R-Rochester, the author of the resolution, said the contract also costs too much.
The move is a step shy of a full vote to reject the proposal. But House Speaker Steve Sviggum, a Kenyon Republican, said the administration should consider the action a warning that the House will reject the idea.
It would be the first time the Legislature has rejected a contract negotiated between state workers and a governor.
Several members expressed frustration with their situation. House lawyers said it is unclear if employees would have any health insurance if the contract is eventually rejected or not voted upon during this session.
"Why did you accept this in the bargaining process when you knew we didn't want this?" Rep. Marty Seifert, R-Marshall, asked union officials during a discussion of the resolution by the House Rules Committee.
"A contract is a contract is a contract," said Jim Monroe, executive director of the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees, the other union. "It was a result of a compromise settlement."
Last session, the Republican-led House voted 78-54 in favor of an amendment to a state budget bill that blocked Ventura's administration from offering the benefits in contract talks. The prohibition was never enacted because the DFL-controlled Senate wouldn't go along.
It will take a majority of the House, 68 votes, to ratify the contracts.
Experts from each side said they expect the issue may not be resolved until the final days or hours of the legislative session, which could last as long as mid-May.
Patrick Howe may be reached at phowe(at)ap.org.
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