ST. PAUL -- Left for dead by some supporters, Gov. Jesse Ventura's plan for a single-house Legislature is back in play.
Despite heavy legislative resistance and several setbacks usually assuring a bill's demise, the House Governmental Operations and Veterans Affairs Committee will reconsider the unicameral proposal on Monday.
The hearing leads off a week at the Capitol that likely will determine whether lawmakers head home with tax cuts and program investments to add to campaign literature, or whether they leave St. Paul empty-handed.
Ventura can claim victory with either budget scenario. He is open to a mix of one-time and ongoing tax relief, but a meltdown would leave him ample resources for the property tax overhaul he wants next session.
The chance to let voters decide whether to change the structure of Minnesota government is something Ventura desperately wants this year. For that to happen, the House and Senate must put the question of a constitutional amendment for a unicameral Legislature on the November ballot.
Counting procedural votes and those held specifically on the bill's merits, the unicameral plan has suffered three defeats in the House already. It sits one stop from the floor in the Senate, and Majority Leader Roger Moe, DFL-Erskine, refuses to bring the matter to a vote before the House acts.
Rep. Mark Gleason, DFL-Richfield and a unicameral opponent, conceded that supporters have enough votes in the committee this time to put the bill before the full House.
That's the way it should be, said House Speaker Steve Sviggum, R-Kenyon, a chief unicameral backer.
''I don't think members should be afraid of voting on issues. You get elected to vote -- right or wrong,'' Sviggum said. ''You don't get elected to sidestep issues.''
But Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, said the extraordinary measures taken to keep the plan alive are a blow to the committee process, which usually weeds out bills with meager support.
''This is like changing the baseball rules to have strike four, to have your way. It's un-American,'' Kahn said.
Baseball metaphors also extended to budget negotiations. House and Senate leaders remain at odds over tax cuts and new program spending. Both sides blame each other for the stalemate, but Sviggum chalked it up to Moe's negotiating style.
''He waits and waits and waits until the eighth-and-a-half inning and then he pulls out his real deal,'' Sviggum said Thursday. On Friday, he continued the analogy, ''I see the relief pitcher out there.''
Indeed, there are only five days left for one or both chambers to meet in floor sessions. Once that time is used up, only Ventura can call lawmakers back. The governor opposes a special session.
House leaders are calling this a make-or-break week. If the outlook still looks dismal by midweek, they indicated they may shut down the session and go home rather than accept a package they don't like.
''We're not going to surrender,'' Sviggum said.
''We put way too much time in on this already, we don't think we should walk away and let this thing crash in,'' Moe said.
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