Attempt to override veto of fireworks bill fizzles

by T.W. Budig
ECM Capitol reporter

An attempt by Sen. Michael Jungbauer to override a veto of his fireworks bill by Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton fizzled Thursday, May 3, on the Senate floor.

Sen. Michael Jungbauer, R-East Bethel, attempted to override a gubernatorial veto of his fireworks bill, but the attempt fell short. The senator, his arm in sling from a recent mishap, joked that fireworks might be better left out of the hands as someone as accident prone as he is. (Photo by T.W. Budig)

Jungbauer, R-East Bethel, his right arm in a sling from banging his elbow while working under a car, argued on the Senate floor that fireworks pose less of a threat to people than many other forms of human activity.

Indeed, statistically, Christmas trees pose a greater threat to the public safety than fireworks, argued Jungbauer, whose Senate district includes part of Elk River.

“It’s a jobs’ bill,” he said of perceived retail opportunities his legislation would make possible in Minnesota.

But other senators disagreed with Jungbauer’s assessment.

“The experts have spoken really clearly about this,” said Sen. John Harrington, DFL-St. Paul, former St. Paul police chief, about the perceived risks fireworks pose the public.

Jungbauer’s bill originally left the Republican Senate floor on a 48 to 17 vote.

But it failed to gain the two-thirds vote necessary to override the veto and failed.

Meanwhile, Dayton made another veto rejecting the Republican education initiative, Last In, First Out (LIFO).

The goal of LIFO is to have school districts in times of layoffs place teacher excellence before seniority in deciding who stays and who must go.

Dayton and other Democrats have argued that since work continues on teacher assessment, the legislation isn’t needed at this time.

Indeed, Sen. LeRoy Stumpf, DFL-Plummer, former Senate K-12 Committee chairman, on the Senate floor argued that if the state’s economic recovery continued, school districts may be able to avoid layoffs for some time.

Beyond this, Democrats argue the LIFO legislation served as a temptation to school districts to get rid of more highly paid teachers and retain lower paid ones in layoffs.

But Sen. Pam Wolf, R-Spring Lake Park, Senate LIFO bill author, argued the reasoning behind LIFO is sound.

“We worked in a bipartisan manner to draft a bill that benefits Minnesota’s teachers and students,” said Wolf in a statement. “When schools are able to retain good teachers, a child’s learning experience is greatly enhanced.”

“LIFO reform would have opened doors for effective, experienced teachers to move to schools where their skills are needed without the fear of being laid off for lack of seniority,” she said.

Rep. Brandon Peterson, R-Andover, House LIFO bill author, issued an “Open Apology On Behalf of Governor Dayton” in which he argues that the governor opted to side with labor unions and special interests in vetoing of LIFO.

“I met with Governor Dayton four separate times throughout the bill’s process and found myself begging and pleading with him for compromise on this great piece of reform,” said Peterson in a statement.

“Despite our complete openness, the governor had no intention of working with us; as evidenced by his announcement that he planned to veto this bill even before the conclusion of its conference committee!” he said.

But Dayton in his LIFO veto letter depicted the bill as belonging to a wash of Republican bills that are anti-teacher, anti-public schools, anti-collective bargaining.

“This bill, with the rhetoric accompanying it, is yet another example of this prejudice against public school teachers,” said Dayton in his veto letter.

While the LIFO bill would largely displace seniority in determining layoffs, it replaces its with “vaguely formulated ideas,” argued the governor.

Further, Dayton questions why the Legislature is so eager to put into law a provision that would not start until September of 2016.

While Dayton vetoed LIFO, the governor signed into law the game and fish bill May 3.

The legislation included hunting and fishing license fee increases, provisions establishing a gray wolf hunting and trapping seasons, a provision providing for the use of taxpayer-subsidized shooting ranges in the seven-county metro area to select youth firearm instruction classes — the cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis are exempt — plus keeps but partially defunds a state venison donation program.

In other action on the Senate floor, the Republican Senate on a 41 to 25 vote passed the Republican conference committee tax bill.

The bill will now go to the governor.

Debate on the Senate floor mirrored debate earlier this week in the Republican House.

Democrats criticized the bill for blasting a $145 million hole in the state budget in the next two-year spending cycle, while Republicans depicted the bill as a job creator.

“It has a huge benefit, and they are immediate,” said Senate Tax Committee Chairman Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhassen.

Sen. John Marty, DFL-Roseville, noted the tax bill had been dubbed a “smokin’ hot” tax bill in the House.

“I hope the governor has smokin’ hot veto pen waiting for it,” said Marty.

One key provision in the tax bill is the freezing of the statewide business property levy at $817 million.

On the Senate floor, Sen. Paul Gazelka, R-Brainerd, noted that although the levy is frozen, this does not mean businesses aren’t paying any more local property taxes.

They are, he said.

The tax bill contains a provision providing a tax credit to businesses hiring veterans — part of a jobs’ creation proposal that Dayton had championed.

But Dayton has expressed concerns over the legislation.

He has spoken of pursuing broader property tax reform, arguing the Republican approach is too narrow.

Dayton Administration officials have indicated the governor is likely to veto the tax bill.