"He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left."
Matthew 25:33

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Floor Debate Time Limit or Gag the Minority?

From the Session Daily,

Some call a proposed change to the House Permanent Rules just a “newer fancier way to gag the minority,” while others say that it will make for better and more informed debate.

This and other potential changes to House rules governing procedure and acceptable conduct were approved by the House Rules and Legislative Administration Committee. The changes are expected to be taken up on the House floor Thursday. But don’t expect passage to happen without debate.

One rule change would expand the committee’s authority to set the amount of time a bill would be debated on the floor, including amendments.

House Majority Leader Tony Sertich (DFL-Chisholm), chairman of the committee, said this change would not place a mandatory time limit on floor debate nor eliminate floor amendments. “We won’t be using a stopwatch,” he said.

But House Minority Leader Marty Seifert (R-Marshall), called the plan "a dangerous precedent," saying the floor, oftentimes, is the only place where concerns of minority caucus members can be heard. “If we have a bill that impacts my community, I’m going to stand there and defend my communities and my values.”

There was disagreement as well over the value of amendments offered on the floor. Seifert said when large omnibus bills are considered, there is the potential for more amendments, and emphasized they serve as a tool for the minority caucus to be heard.

Rep. Gene Pelowski Jr. (DFL-Winona) countered that amendments offered on the floor leave little time for member review, and that the committee is the appropriate place for amendments to be considered.

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