ST. PAUL (AP) -- Despite popular public and legislative support, a number of bills went unpassed in this legislative session without a single vote being cast against them.
A bill to expand Minnesota's hate-crimes law looked like a sure-winner with emotional testimony from a Holocaust survivor, unanimous approval in a House committee and overwhelming passage by the Senate.
But the bill, sponsored by Rep. Jim Rhodes, R-St. Louis Park, died in the House before making it to the floor.
Rhodes blames himself for not pushing it hard enough. But Majority Leader Tim Pawlenty, R-Eagan, says the snag came with opposition in the Republican caucus, which decided not to bring the bill to a vote.
Whatever the explanation, the outcome shows that broad support, public outrage and even apparent legislative unanimity are not always enough to win passage at the State Capitol.
Privacy-protection bills met the same fate as Rhodes' bill this year. So did a measure, sparked by reports of a Burnsville language instructor's sexual contact with a 13-year-old student, to require background checks on unlicensed teachers.
Even the abduction of Katie Poirier could secure passage of only two out of five bills recommended by a task force in the wake of her apparent murder.
''I'm extremely disappointed for the families of the victims who have promoted this legislation,'' said Sen. Becky Lourey, DFL-Kerrick, sponsor of a bill to improve video surveillance and other anticrime measures at convenience stores like the one in Moose Lake, where Poirier, 19, worked the night she was abducted.
The bill, opposed by the retail industry, passed the Senate 59 to 3 but wasn't heard in the House. Other Poirier-inspired bills, to boost crime prevention and subsidize local search and rescue efforts, died in committees in both houses.
However, an $18.4 million bill combining stronger sex offender laws and a statewide crime computer network recommended by the Poirier task force passed both houses with only two dissenting votes and was signed into law April 3.
Not one privacy initiative, proposed last winter by all four legislative caucuses and DFL Attorney General Mike Hatch and enthusiastically endorsed in public opinion polls, made it into law.
Hatch blamed the inaction on the Republican House majority, which never took floor votes on the bills.
''They basically went with the interest groups,'' which had more than 50 lobbyists lined up against privacy bills, Hatch said. ''This is an election-year issue. I'm going to make it one.''
Sometimes a popular bill doesn't even need critics to waylay it. An effort to require background checks on unlicensed teachers, a noncontroversial item that Pawlenty said would have passed nearly unanimously fell short because sleepy education conferees forgot to include it in a compromise bill during late-night negotiations.
Rhodes' hate-crimes bill was controversial because of opposition from the Minnesota Family Council, which said it was unnecessary and ''exacerbates the problem of multiculturalism.''
The bill would have added nearly a dozen offenses to the list of crimes for which tougher penalties could be imposed if bias were proved on the basis of the victim's race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, age or national origin.
Despite testimony against the bill from Family Council president Tom Prichard, the House Crime Prevention Committee approved it without audible dissent. The Senate later passed it 52 to 11, but that was its last hurrah.
Rhodes and Pawlenty wouldn't speculate on the source of opposition to the bill.
But retiring Rep. Peg Larsen, R-Lakeland, said: ''I'm sure it had something to do with the Council, which is too bad. It gets at a subject people don't want to talk about and don't want to admit exists.''
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