Not enough time in the day

The Minnesota Senate had a 17-hour debate last week on legislation that would allow the unionization of home child care and personal care workers. Not to be outdone, the House then took its turn, beginning Sunday by debating for five hours, recessing, then taking it up again for another three hours. No vote was taken on the issue Sunday, partly because Republicans came up with more than 100 amendments to fight it. Despite strong opposition, the bill is headed for Gov. Mark Dayton’s desk following more spirited House debate Monday.

This is clearly a sensitive issue and one worthy of thorough vetting – we won’t argue that – but 17 hours in the Senate? Another 10 in the House? And we ask, what makes lawmakers think care providers want to be part of a union anyway? What makes them think they want to be considered state employees? Just let them run their business. Let them take care of the kids. Leave them alone.

With so many issues needing attention – and knowing our elected officials make it a practice to bring things down to the wire every May – we would like to see time and amendment limits put into place on all issues. Time is precious at the Capitol in the week leading to adjournment and having one issue monopolize our legislators’ time seems counterproductive. There needs to be a cap put on the time spent on one piece of legislation; without one, the debates seem endless, and the result is other important issues get stuck in the proverbial can that gets booted to the next year.

Case in point: the state needs a new school bullying law badly, but there won’t be one this year, and Democrats said Sunday the reason was time, or lack thereof. It was officially tabled by the Senate on Monday.

The Senate minority leader said this weekend that a new bullying policy would be a burden to schools and expose them to lawsuits. This is an issue that shouldn’t even have two sides. This shouldn’t be Democrat vs. Republican, or rural vs. metro. And it’s not as if this is a new problem – on the contrary, it’s one that seems to be getting worse. Everyone knows a new bullying policy needs to be implemented, yet, as we’ve been told, there wasn’t time.

And even though it’s not a bonding year, we wonder if legislators had had more time would they have been able to come up with something that resembles a wide-ranging construction projects bill so many cities were crossing their fingers for (you can uncross them now).

With so much at stake each and every session, it seems to us a wise choice would be to put a shot clock on every legislative debate. Without one, across-the-board due diligence doesn’t stand a chance.