Making sausage, making laws

Burnsville’s new legislators see several of their ideas turn into law.
By Lee Ann Schutz Wahi
Burnsville Patch

Making laws is commonly compared to making sausage – the process can be very messy. And it’s rare that freshmen legislators are able to get in on the action.

Freshmen, it is said, are to be seen and not heard.

But during the 2011 Minnesota legislative session, the new crop of lawmakers didn’t take that direction. It turns out they were responsible for a good share of the session’s 117 new laws.

Republican first-termer Sen. Ted Daley, who represents District 38, which includes a portion of Burnsville and Eagan, believes the number of freshmen coming from the private sector gave them an advantage.

“The (new) folks have a lot of real world experience that they brought to the committees they served on. That really helped,” he said.

Burnsville and Eagan representatives were part of the tsunami of new Republicans taking a seat at the table in 2011. Of the 67 Senate members, 24 were new, and in the House, 36 new members comprised the body of 134.

With such a high percentage of newbies, mostly serving in the majority, they could play an active role in the bill-making process. Some of their bills made their way alone to the governor’s desk, while others were rolled into various omnibus bills.

Take for instance, Rep. Pam Myhra, a Burnsville Republican. A modified version of her statewide literacy initiative is part of the omnibus education bill, passed during the recent special session. It restates the goal that every child in the state be reading at or above grade level no later than the end of grade 3, and requiring school districts to adopt a local literacy plan toward that goal.

Myhra said she felt passionate about the issue, and learned that if you want to see a bill to law, it can be a long arduous process.

The House Education Reform Committee chair brought her the preliminary language and asked her to develop the bill. “I just started talking to people, and gave them the language and asked them to review it. As you go through it, it makes it much better,” she said.

After the bill is crafted, if you’re lucky it gets a hearing in committee.

“Sitting at the testimony table, you don’t know what questions are going to come at you,” Myhra said. When it came to the House floor, she had to “fend off a delete all amendment” from the minority.

Daley introduced 21 bills, and of those at least six made it to law. Quite a feat considering the bipartisan support needed, as well as the DFL governor’s signature.

Burnsville’s other new Republican senator, Dan Hall, fared well after introducing 17 bills, with about six turned into laws.

In the House of Representatives, Rep. Diane Anderson (R-Eagan) saw at least one of her seven bills become law.

Myhra introduced three bills. One of those was inserted in the first omnibus education policy bill that was vetoed by the governor.

Here are some of the laws sponsored by the new Burnsville-area legislators that take effect Aug. 1. For a more detailed look at Aug. 1 new laws, click on this link:

CPR requirements at child care centers

Sponsored by Sen. Dan Hall (R-Burnsville), a new law requires all teachers and assistant teachers at a child care center to successfully complete CPR training, including CPR techniques for infants and children.

Modifications to health services policies

A new law, sponsored by Rep. Diane Anderson (R-Eagan), makes notable changes to chemical and mental health care-related statutes to help those areas of the Department of Human Services and help them conform to the recent federal instruction.

Air carrier employees can trade shifts

Air carrier employees are now exempt from overtime requirements under the state’s Fair Labor Act. A new law, sponsored by Rep. Ted Daley (R-Eagan), which was effective April 8, allows air carriers such as Delta Airlines, to permit employees to trade shifts with other employees even if they would work more than 48 hours a week.

All bills introduced and not acted on in the 2011 session have another chance to make it to law when session convenes Jan. 24, 2012.