ST. PAUL (AP) -- A late push to get Gov. Jesse Ventura's unicameral idea before voters fizzled after the Senate refused to take the measure out of committee and put it before all 67 members.
On a 25-41 vote early Wednesday morning, the Senate failed to go along with a move by Sen. Dave Kleis, R-St. Cloud, to bring the measure to the floor, effectively killing it for this year.
''The Senate should not mirror the moronic actions of the House rules committee,'' which on Monday sent the bill to the House floor, declared Sen. Bill Belanger, R-Bloomington.
When it reached the House floor Tuesday, the single-house plan was dealt a crushing blow, prompting one of its biggest backers to surrender.
''It's done,'' said House Speaker Steve Sviggum, R-Kenyon.
Sviggum made a similar declaration weeks before, but he said this time there was no chance for revival. ''I have no energy left,'' he said.
On a 76-54 vote, lawmakers referred the bill to the House Ways and Means Committee -- an action viewed as a test vote on the plan itself. A day earlier, Sviggum successfully bypassed the Ways and Means panel and put it on course for a vote by all 134 House members.
''This is clearly an attempt to kill the bill without a vote on its merits,'' Rep. Phil Carruthers, DFL-Brooklyn Center and a unicameral legislature supporter, said of sending the bill to Ways and Means.
Ways and Means Chairman Dave Bishop, R-Rochester, scheduled a hearing for Tuesday afternoon, but Sviggum canceled it.
Bishop, a unicameral opponent, figured there was little chance of surviving another hearing anyway.
''This has been an inflated Moby Dick,'' Bishop said. ''It got bought by big money and pumped up by the governor's gas. And it takes just a little prick once in a while to take the gas out of the balloon.''
Ventura wanted voters to decide in November whether to amend the state's constitution to reshape the Legislature. Both the House and Senate need to approve language to place on the ballot, and the House was considered the most favorable territory.
Rep. Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia, voted to send the bill back to committee.
''This bill was killed how many times already? This is a bill that kills democracy,'' he said, taking a jab at Ventura's absence in the process. The governor was in Washington to meet with President Clinton to discuss trade with China in what may be the final week of the legislative session.
''The guy pushing it doesn't give a damn about it,'' Rukavina said. ''So why should we?''
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