Legislative notebook: 'Nothing is not an option' in gun debate
ST. PAUL -- Joan Peterson said Minnesota lawmakers must act to control gun violence like the shooting that killed her sister in the Twin Cities 13 years ago.
"Nothing is not an option," the Duluth woman told a couple hundred people at a Monday anti-gun violence rally in the state Capitol rotunda. "There is no reason not to act."
Peterson, one of several rally speakers, has worked against gun violence since her sister, Barbara Lund, was killed. Her audience was on her side, chanting "enough is enough."
People held signs calling for "peace now" and proclaiming "protect children, not guns" around the Capitol in anticipation of Senate committee hearings on several gun-related bills Thursday and Friday .
The chairman of the Senate judiciary committee announced Monday he would not take testimony about the two most controversial issues being discussed: banning so-called assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition clips.
Sen. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park, said the hearings will focus on other topics, such as requiring all gun buyers to undergo background checks.
"I think most people agree that universal background checks is the first place we should start," Latz said. "We need to focus on what we can accomplish right now to make our state safer. The outright banning of guns is a conversation that is more suited on the federal level."
Most Republicans oppose gun controls such as banning assault weapons, and are joined by many rural Democrats, making passing such measures difficult.
Rep. Michael Paymar, DFL-St. Paul, who leads a House committee that heard gun-related testimony two weeks ago, urged those at the rally to encourage lawmakers to support bills to control gun violence "especially rural members. We can't let the NRA (National Rifle Association) control the agenda on this."
Tax, IRRRB changes OK'd
Minnesota representatives passed a bill 119-19 lumping together tax changes and a new Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board system after lengthy debate about the Senate putting the two issues into one bill.
Democrats who control the Legislature said the bill needed to move quickly so 250,000 Minnesota taxpayers would not need to file tax returns twice this year.
The bill, expected to get Gov. Mark Dayton's signature, establishes new tax breaks to match federal tax law Congress passed late in 2012. If the bill passed later in the legislative session, those 250,000 taxpayers would have had to file their returns, then file an amended return after Minnesota approved its new tax law.
No representative argued against the so-called federal tax conformity, but some from the Iron Range and many Republicans said they could not back the bill because senators amended the bill to remove citizens from the IRRRB.
Republicans, especially, argued against the IRRRB measure because the provision has not gone through the House committee process.
"This was a low blow in the Senate and was not discussed with us," Rep. Jason Metsa, DFL-Virginia, said.
Democratic Reps. Metsa, Carly Melin of Hibbing and Tom Anzelc of Balsam Township voted against the measure. Melin's IRRRB bill passed one House committee, but has more stops before it could reach the full House.
Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston, said he wanted the tax change to happen quickly but could not support the IRRRB portion because "I didn't see it in committee."
Attack of amendments
House Republicans went on the counterattack Monday, filing nearly 160 amendments to what had been considered noncontroversial bills in front of the full House.
House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, filed all of the amendments on three of the four bills, mostly proposing minor changes.
The amendments follow last week's lengthy full House debate on a rule change that requires representatives to file amendments 24 hours before a debate. In the past, representatives were allowed to propose amendments as a debate proceeded, which the Senate still allows.
Democrats who control the House made the change, saying it gives the public a better chance to weigh in on proposals. Republicans claim it stifles debate and does not allow needed changes to be made in bills.
Kline: Let locals decide
U.S. Rep. John Kline is a gun supporter, but said Monday that states and local school districts should decide how to deal with school violence.
"I would think I would rather have an armed teacher than a gunman go wild," the Minnesota Republican said. "But I'm not sure it is an answer everywhere."
Such decisions should not be made in Washington, he added. "I'm always looking to limit the federal government's role in education."
Gun-control legislation being considered in St. Paul and Washington, like banning so-called assault weapons and magazines with large ammunition capacities, is "a direct attack on the Second Amendment," he said.
Attorney bills mount
The Minnesota Senate's legal bill to defend against an ex-employee's lawsuit approaches $200,000.
The Senate rules committee Monday approved paying the latest bill of $6,000.
Former top Senate GOP aide Michael Brodkorb sued the Senate, saying he was improperly fired after an affair with then-Majority Leader Amy Koch, R-Buffalo. Brodkorb claims that other workers who had affairs with senators retained their jobs.