When husband lobbies against wife's higher-ed bill


With MPR’s Tom Scheck:

The husband of Minnesota Senate President Michelle Fischbach is asking his organization’s constituents to pressure legislators to reinstate one or more pro-life measures stripped by Gov. Mark Dayton as a condition of the budgetary framework agreement reached last week.

Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, a group opposed to legalized abortion, sent out an action alert urging its members to contact lawmakers about the budget bill. Scott Fischbach is the executive director of the organization. The group issued an e-mail blast to thousands of supporters criticizing the budget deal and urging supporters to reinstate the cloning ban in the Higher Education bill.

Allowing the budget deal to go forward, the alert states, “means that an existing prohibition on taxpayer funding of human cloning would not continue, and for the first time since Roe v. Wade, pro-lifers would lose an existing pro-life state policy. … In 2009, pro-lifers across the state worked tirelessly and were successful in implementing a two-year ban on taxpayer funding of human cloning. This year, if the Legislature doesn’t reauthorize the ban, taxpayers will be forced to pay for cloning.”

It also warned that “protecting pain-capable unborn children” and ending taxpayer funding of abortion were off the table.

MCCL’s criticism of the GOP controlled Legislature is interesting since many Republican members are in line with the organization’s efforts to put added restrictions on legalized abortion. But it’s also intriguing since Fischbach is married to Senate President Michelle Fischbach (R-Paynesville). Sen. Fischbach chairs the Senate Higher Education Committee and is chief author of the Senate’s Higher Education budget bill.

So would Scott Fischbach scuttle a deal that his wife, as a GOP leader, would normally have to back?

“We just want to hang on to the current law that we have,” he said. “We want to urge (legislators) to keep the ban on taxpayer-funded cloning.”

And what does Michelle Fischbach have to say about this? Does she support him? And would she still introduce the new higher-education bill – stripped of abortion and cloning policy — despite MCCL’s effort against it?

The MCCL chief wouldn’t say, when reached by cell phone.

“You’ll have to ask her,” he said. “We don’t come home at night and start talking at this bill and that bill. She does her thing and I do mine. ”

Dayton stripped, among others, the anti-cloning and taxpayer-funding-of-abortions elements from the budgeting bill, calling them policy issues that did not belong in a financial bill. His plea to remove all policy provisions from the legislation was a major factor in reaching a budget deal last week.

But Scott Fischbach said that’s just “spin.” Those elements do indeed involve taxpayer dollars and so belong in a budget bill.

Yet when reminded that his wife is a Republican leader, he said, “No … she was not part of that negotiation (for a framework agreement) … at all.”

Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch (R-Buffalo), he said, was responsible for taking the pro-life elements off the table.

“She agreed with the governor to get rid of all the social issues,” he said.

And a lot of Republicans, he said, “don’t like this plan.”

Dayton and lawmakers are working out the final details of the budget. The governor is expected to call a special session once the two sides agree to the wording in all nine budget bills.

Michelle Fischbach was in caucus and not immediately available to comment.

(Chris Van Guilder, communications specialist for the Senate Republican caucus, said Monday night that the caucus was running late and that Fischbach or a representative would not be able to answer until Tuesday.)