ST. PAUL -- Opponents of a unicameral Legislature are giving Gov. Jesse Ventura and other supporters another chance to explain why the issue should appear on the November ballot.
Rather than let Ventura's signature agenda item die Wednesday in the Senate Election Laws Committee, some lawmakers against the idea permitted a bill for a single-house Legislature to move on to another committee.
''Every victory is a victory,'' said Minnesota Planning Director Dean Barkley after the 6-5 vote to advance the proposed constitutional amendment without recommendation to the Senate Governmental Operations and Veterans Committee.
Moments earlier, the committee voted 7-4 against sending the amendment to a second panel with a recommendation that it pass. In most cases, such a vote is considered a death blow.
Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe said that vote sent ''a strong signal'' that the bill ''has been strongly defeated.''
But Moe, a unicameral opponent, prodded his colleagues to give supporters another chance to make their case. Some argued Moe, DFL-Erskine, was making a mistake by letting supporters cling to hope.
''This one is alive and well and the governor is down there trying figure out where to get sunshine and rain on the new planting that just took place,'' said Sen. Dean Johnson, DFL-Willmar. ''I honestly thought we were going to have a memorial service today.''
Backers of the plan to trim one house and 66 members from the Legislature concede that it faces long odds in the Senate. The proposal is advancing slowly through the House, where it has somewhat wider support.
Throughout the Senate hearing, those on both sides of the issue relied on familiar arguments.
Supporters claim it would streamline government and make it more accountable by doing away with back-room dealmaking between powerful members of the House and Senate. Foes argue it would reduce checks and balances and hurt rural representation.
Whether to shift to a unicameral Legislature is not before lawmakers. They must decide whether to ask voters Nov. 7 if they want to amend the state constitution to move to a one-house Legislature.
To put the question on the ballot, both chambers would have to approve it. The single house would first convene in 2003.
The bill is S.F. 43
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