Legislative notebook: Senate takes up voter ID Friday

Newman

The question of whether to require voters to produce photo identifications is in the hands of Minnesota senators.

The Senate rules committee Wednesday advanced to the full Senate a bill similar to one the House passed earlier in the day. The Senate is to begin debate on the measure Friday afternoon.

If the Republican-controlled Senate agrees with the House, which approved the measure 72-62, Minnesota voters will decide on Nov. 6 whether to amend the state Constitution to include the photo ID requirement. The House vote was partisan, with Republicans supporting the proposal.

In the Senate committee, Sen. Richard Cohen, DFL-St. Paul, asked bill sponsor Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, if he could point out any voter fraud his photo ID bill would have fixed in recent elections.

“No, I cannot,” Newman said, adding that he will try to find some examples before the Senate takes up the bill.

Democrats dominated the House debate, failing to convince Republicans to amend the bill to fix what they called flaws.

At midnight, Rep. Andrew Falk, DFL-Murdock, said the Republican-pushed proposal was a rash decision “made in the middle of the night.”

Democrats argued that there is no fraud and no need to require a photo ID.

“Your word is your bond,” Rep. Kerry Gauthier, DFL-Duluth, said.

“This amendment is wrong for Minnesota, it is wrong for America and it is wrong for who you are and for who I am,” Gauthier said.

Brodkorb files complaint

Michael Brodkorb Wednesday filed a federal complaint saying that the Minnesota Senate illegally fired him.

The former Senate Republican communications director was fired in December, the day after his boss, Sen. Amy Koch, resigned as Senate majority leader.

Michel, Fischbach

Brodkorb attorney Phillip Villaume said he has tried to get the Senate to engage in mediation. Senate officials say they do not plan to mediate the dispute, but Villaume said Brodkorb still is interested in working out an agreement.

Brodkorb’s Wednesday complaint was filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Brodkorb’s attorneys said he and Koch were engaged in an affair. The ex-staffer said that while he was fired, female Senate employees who have had affairs with male senators kept their jobs.

A formal lawsuit is expected to be filed soon against the Secretary of the Senate Cal Ludeman and the Senate.

Also on Wednesday, Senate leaders scheduled a noon Friday ethics committee meeting to deal a complaint against Sen. Geoff Michele of Edina about his handling of Brodkorb’s firing.

Bonding advances

A public works funding bill much smaller than the governor wants advanced Wednesday out of the House Capital Investment Committee.

To be funded by the state selling bonds, the $208 million package concentrates on fixing state buildings. Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton recommends spending $776 million.

Democrats said the House Republican-written bill is far too small.

“The meager bonding bill passed today is a missed opportunity to invest in infrastructure for permanent jobs that are vital to the state’s economic recovery,” Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, said on Wednesday.

Hausman offered a bill spending more, but Republicans rejected it.

“This is not money that just falls down like down like manna from heaven,” Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, said.

He said that even if new facilities can be afforded, “for everything we build, we have to maintain it.”

Rep. Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia, received bipartisan support to amend the bill with a provision requiring Minnesota-made, electricity-producing solar panels on all new state buildings.

Committee Chairman Rep. Larry Howes, R-Walker, said he expects the full House to vote on the bill in early April. A Senate bonding bill is expected in the next few days.

Drazkowski

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