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House, Senate Look for Options as Ventura Vetoes Health Bill Over Abortion
By Laura McCallum, Minnesota Public Radio
May 15, 2001
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Gov. Ventura vetoed a sweeping health and human services bill because it contained an abortion waiting period. Meanwhile, the DFL-controlled Senate narrowly rejected the waiting period while working up a backup health and human services package. With less than a week left in the legislative session, lawmakers will have to scramble to reach a compromise to fund nursing homes, welfare and other programs.

"At a time when the House and Senate should be working to settle on spending targets, tax relief, and tax reform, they're wasting time playing dead-end political games," Gov. Ventura said while announcing his veto of a health and human services bill that contained a provision for 24-hour waiting periods for abortions. Listen to Ventura's comments.
DURING A DAY THAT INCLUDED a bomb threat and a massive power outage at the Capitol, Ventura's veto came as no surprise; he had been threatening to veto the $6.3 billion bill for weeks. The governor read a brief statement shortly before he used his veto pen, chastising Republican House Speaker Steve Sviggum for taking several days to sign the bill and calling Sviggum's maneuver "political gamesmanship."

"I believe the framers of our legislative system did not envision these tactics. I believe that they meant for important policy issues like abortion and conceal and carry to be considered as stand alone issues, and not as riders to appropriations bills," Ventura said.

Sviggum rejected the suggestion that he was responsible for the stalemate; he blamed the Senate for sitting on the bill for a week while DFL Majority Leader Roger Moe tried to convince members to remove the abortion waiting period. The provision requires women to receive certain information 24 hours before having an abortion.

Sviggum says supporters of the waiting period are standing firm on keeping it in the bill. "It's a provision of the citizens of the state of Minnesota," he said. "Two to one, it's a provision of the citizens that support. We are sticking with this very moderate provision in this very, very good bill. I imagine, that what Roger Moe in the Senate has done is twisted some arms; they're not letting people vote the way they want to."

On its second go-around in the Senate, the so-called "women's right to know" provision failed on a nail-biting 33-33 vote. Sen. Ed Oliver, R-Deephaven, was one of three senators who switched his vote to oppose including the waiting period in the health and human services bill.

"I decided that it was time to separate these two issues - the health and human services bill and the women's right to know. It's getting too late in the session to try to compound all these big omnibus bills, and this has been a frightful one, the way it's been handled and the way it's going," he said.

House Speaker Steve Sviggum sent the bill to Gov. Ventura after holding it for several days. He was hoping to delay the bill long enough to force Ventura to sign the bill in order to avoid a government shutdown.
Anticipating the governor's veto, both the House and Senate have moved alternate versions of the bill that will now head to conference committee. The House version includes the abortion language, while the Senate bill does not.

The chair of the House Health and Human Services Finance Committee, Rep. Kevin Goodno, R-Moorhead, says time is running out to hammer out differences between the two bills. "Can we still do it? Yes we can, but we don't have much time. And it's a big bill with a lot of important things in it," Goodno says.

The abortion provision is just one small piece of the nearly 700-page bill. The House and Senate also have major differences on welfare time limits, nursing home reform and family planning money. If lawmakers can't come up with a compromise, those services could shut down July 1.

Gov. Ventura declined to answer questions about calling a special session, although in the past he has indicated he won't call one to force an agreement. "We're sticking with the provision in the House," said Sviggum.

In a message about his veto, Ventura stressed his dislike of other parts of the giant bill, which also funds nursing homes, welfare programs and hundreds of other programs.

The vetoed bill was the House's version. Senate leaders don't like it, but voted to accept the plan in an attempt to speed up Ventura's veto and make time for a compromise.

Ventura said he is disappointed about the plan's measures cutting funding to family planning services with ties to abortion providers.

He also said he dislikes that the House plan would only extend welfare benefits to families due to hit a five-year time limit in specific, limited instances. And the governor said he hoped to see more money to insure uninsured children.

"There is time for them to clean up this mess and get back on the track of tax relief, tax reform and responsible spending," Ventura said. "Let's get it done."