Some would argue no bill is dead until the Legislature adjourns and lawmakers are safely on their way home.
But unicameral legislature supporters might as well start addressing their sympathy cards-- the chances of any vote on the issue are next to none.
House Speaker Steve Sviggum confirmed in a Tuesday phone interview that the bill, listed as Ventura's top priority at the session's outset, is pretty much dead.
"I say that with a great deal of remorse," the Kenyon Republican noted. "I'm the author of the bill. I believe in it in terms of what good it would bring to state government."
Sviggum has asked Ventura to talk to his caucus on the topic in the past few weeks and he has chosen not to do so, the lawmaker said.
The governor disappointed many pro-life lawmakers with his veto of the bill that called for a waiting period for women seeking abortions, sometimes called the right-to-know bill. In the eyes of some lawmakers, Sviggum said, the governor went back on his word by vetoing the bill after his staff had worked with pro-life supporters to devise language that might be acceptable.
"There were some hard feelings," he said. "There's no connection between the right-to-know bill and any other issue but it would be unfair to tell you the veto didn't leave some sour attitudes."
To force a House vote as speaker would require Sviggum to "burn up a lot of political capital."
Another factor in the bill's failure has been public apathy. He recalled speaking on the issue in Brainerd at an event that drew only 20 people. And many of those people were there as part of a class assignment.
He favored giving the public the right to vote on the issue but it was more than just a matter of letting the public decide on an important issue.
"I believe in the issue," he said. "If it were just that (letting the public vote) -- we could do that on 100 things. This is more than giving the people choice. It's a responsible move to an open and more accountable government."
The timing, with reapportionment coming soon after the 2000 census, was perfect for the switch to a unicameral system. Sviggum doesn't see any evidence that the chances for a successful unicameral bill will get any better in future sessions.
"I don't suspect they are going to be much better than they are right now," he said.
Turning to other legislative issues, Sviggum said big differences exist between the House and Senate on a potential bonding bill agreement. The House backed the governor's recommended number of $400 million for general obligation bonds while the Senate bonding figure for capital investment projects (with some cash projects included) is $1.1 billion.
Since the two parties are so far apart, Sviggum raised the possibility that there would be no big spending bills and no tax rebates.
"I don't think that would be the best situation," he said. However, he said it was preferable to spending too much and obtaining no permanent tax cut.
He said he thinks that outcome can be avoided if the Senate is willing to negotiate fairly and honestly.
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