Democrats in the Minnesota House are proposing to change how the House operates during floor debates.
The plan would require proposed amendments to be filed 24 hours before the debate on a bill starts. It’s a dramatic departure from current rules that allow members to draft and propose changes to legislation as members are debating it.
House Majority Leader Erin Murphy, DFL-St. Paul, said she’s making the change to give lawmakers and the public more time to consider proposed changes to legislation.
“The floor debate is where Minnesotans have the least amount of access,” Murphy said. “When amendments are being drafted on the floor and then debated on the floor, it’s hard for representatives to be able to talk to constituents and get answers to questions as to what it means.”
Murphy chairs the House Rules Committee, where the rule change is likely to be debated today.
Republicans are furious with the proposal.
“What they’re doing here is Washington-style politics,” said House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown. “I don’t think anybody thinks that government in Washington runs better than Minnesota. Why are we going to Washington-style rules?”
Daudt says the plan would also limit a lawmaker’s ability to take the temperature of the public on a particular bill. For example, he said there have been times when lawmakers have heard ideas from lobbyists and constituents that were eventually drafted as amendments.
“As interactive as we are in today’s day and age, constituents can call us or text us or Facebook us or Twitter us and say there’s a huge problem with this bill,” Daudt said. “This basically removes the public from participating in debate over the last 24 hours.”
Daudt said Democrats are afraid of robust debate. But Murphy argued there won’t be any restrictions on the length of floor debates. She said the change would just allow lawmakers to be fully informed as they prepare to debate a bill.
“We think that giving everyone access to the amendments before the debate will allow us to facilitate the discussion,” Murphy said.
Murphy said the proposed rules would also restrict reintroducing amendments that have already been voted on by the full House.
It isn’t clear whether the proposed changes would lengthen or reduce the time it takes for the House to debate a bill.