ST. PAUL (AP) -- Ignoring Gov. Jesse Ventura's veto threat, the Senate approved a $6.7 billion bill Tuesday that ties funding for nursing homes, hospitals and welfare programs with a measure that sets new guidelines for abortions.
The companion House bill, to be taken up later this week, also has language requiring women seeking abortions to wait 24 hours after they get certain information about the procedure and alternatives.
Ventura's spokesman, John Wodele, insisted the governor "will veto it," potentially forcing a special session or even a lapse in some health and welfare services if new funding isn't approved by July 1.
"The most vulnerable people in our state are being affected by this kind of legislative maneuvering," Wodele said. The abortion measure "should be done on its own merits and not in a way that holds the sick or holds the elderly hostage."
Wodele said it was too early to speculate on what circumstances might trigger a special session, which only a governor can call.
Abortion opponents, led by Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, have tried for years to get the so-called "informed consent" legislation through. Last year, it reached Ventura's desk but was vetoed.
Attaching it to the gigantic spending bill raises the stakes, but supporters say it also improves their chances.
"The 'woman's right to know' provision does not have much likelihood of succeeding unless it's part of the omnibus health and human services funding bill," Sen. Tom Neuville, R-Northfield, said before he and other abortion opponents narrowly beat back an attempt to sever the measure from the health and human services bill and put it in a less-critical bill.
Left without other options, Senate leaders agreed to put the bigger bill to a vote. It passed 43-22.
Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe, DFL-Erskine, said an end-of-session time crunch will make it difficult to craft a bill acceptable to Ventura. It could be late next week before the House and Senate reach agreement on other differences in the 680-page bill. The session ends May 21.
"It's reckless at best to put in jeopardy a bill that will do so much for seniors in our state, for the disabled in our state and uninsured children in our state," Moe said.
The measure's sponsor, Sen. Michelle Fischbach, R-Paynesville, said it's premature to predict how things will play out. But she disputed Moe's assertions that a veto would prove dire.
"If folks are that concerned about the issues in this bill and there's the talk about shutting down programs," she said, "(abortion rights lawmakers) should help us override a veto."
Wodele said Ventura is holding out hope abortion opponents will back down before it gets that far.
Two lawmakers in the closely divided Senate -- Republican Roy Terwilliger of Edina and DFLer Dean Johnson of Willmar -- demonstrated a willingness to go another route. When the Senate was debating whether to put the abortion measure on another bill Tuesday, Terwilliger and Johnson sided with abortion-rights lawmakers despite their support of the informed consent provision.
Terwilliger acknowledged later that he's worried about putting funding at risk for essential programs.
"I've never been a big one to play chicken," Terwilliger said.
On the Net:
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