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Special Session May Be Tied to Unicameral Vote
By Michael Khoo, Minnesota Public Radio
May 22, 2001
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Gov. Jesse Ventura says he may ask lawmakers to consider eliminating one house of the Legislature as a condition for calling a special session. The 2001 session ended without an agreement on outstanding tax and budget issues. The lack of agreement would force a government shutdown on July 1 unless lawmakers craft deals for passage in a special session before then. Ventura said he's not sure when he'll reconvene the Legislature.

Gov. Ventura, during an appearance on MPR's Midday, said he wouldn't rule out the idea of tying a vote on a unicameral legislature, to calling a special session of the Legislature to pass major spending bills. But he said a government shutdown would be 'disastrous.' Listen to his comments.
an outspoken advocate for a one-house legislature. He now says the current legislative deadlock is further evidence of the failings of bicameralism. The governor says he hasn't made a final decision as to when or under what conditions he'll call a special session. But he says one condition could be requiring lawmakers to vote on whether unicameralism should appear on a statewide ballot for ratification.

"All I'm asking for is for them to be accountable and take a floor vote in both houses. And let them vote it up or down on whether they agree to put it on the ballot," he said on MPR's Midday broadcast.

Legislative leaders are reacting coolly to the governor's suggestion. Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe, an opponent of unicameralism, initially called Ventura's request "not serious." But Moe says he's not ready to rule anything in or out of discussions during the expected special session.

House Speaker Steve Sviggum, however, says he'd oppose the idea. Sviggum was a leading supporter of the unicameralism movement that failed last year. But he says he wants any special session to be short and focused on tax and spending measures. "I think the one-day special session should be on those eight bills; in and out in one day. I just don't think that the unicameral issue should be part of that special session or otherwise we can make 10 other issues part of the special session as well," Sviggum says.

The Legislature remains deadlocked on how to structure property-tax reforms and how much money should be available for K-12 and higher education. Legislative leaders and tax negotiators met for discussions Tuesday - some involving Ventura - but failed to make significant progress. After nearly five months of work, lawmakers have passed only one major funding bill which covers child care and community education programs.
Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe, left, and House Speaker Steve Sviggum in the MPR Capitol bureau, during an appearance on Midday with Gary Eichten. Listen to their comments.
Leaders pushed that measure through only seconds before the adjournment deadline in an effort to accomplish something during the regular session.

Ventura says he's not impressed. "It would have been a whole lot better if they'd been accompanied by about eight or 10 more. So they got one bill done in five months. Pretty good," he said.

Legislators say, however, that the governor's criticisms are misplaced. Moe says the pace of progress is due to legitimate philosophical differences and the complexity of the property-tax reforms. And he says it's wrong for the governor to imply nothing has been resolved.

"A lot of progress has been made. We're not going back. That's ground that's been plowed. So we will continue the process as we have been. And continue to get the bills conferred and work out our differences," according to Moe.
See the results of our online survey regarding unicameralism.

Moe and Sviggum both say they'd like to reach agreement and process the state budget by the end of May. But Ventura says he may hold lawmakers' feet to the fire by delaying a special session until July 1. Ventura acknowledges, however, that allowing a one- or two-day shutdown would be "utterly disastrous."