Capital Chatter: Gay marriage ready for Tuesday debates
ST. PAUL -- Gay advocates have lobbied for allow same-sex marriages for years, but they made little progress.
That appears ready to change Tuesday when House and Senate committees will hear bills overturning a state law outlawing gay marriage. With heavy liberal Democratic membership on the two committees, the concept has the best chance to pass ever.
Those two committee hearings, which are to end with votes on the proposal, are the only two planned at the Legislature, Democratic-Farmer-Laborite leaders say. If committees approve the bills, they head to the full House and Senate.
The full House and Senate are not as liberal as the committees, so the battle will heat up there. Leaders say they will not take up the issue until after each chamber passes its budget plan in late April or May.
Republicans and many rural Democrats do not support gay marriage, which leaves House and Senate votes in doubt.
As Rep. Debra Kiel, R-Crookston, said, the issue is divisive.
Still, even many Republicans say gay marriage eventually will be allowed. Some in the next GOP generation are saying the time is now.
"It is not the role of government to dictate who can be married, whose love is valid and which families matter more than others," Chairman Ryan Lyk of Minnesota College Republicans said. "Marriage benefits society in many ways and I cannot in good conscience support excluding same-sex couples from that important institution."
Lyk said he does not speak for everyone in his organization, but "I know I speak for many young Republicans when I say that it is time for the Republican Party to move past this issue."
Minnesota's Legislature is too big, according to Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington.
He introduced a bill that would slash the number of members from 201 to 75. There would be 25 in the Senate and 50 in the House, down from 67 and 134.
"This bill would right-size our Legislature compared to the rest of the nation, saving taxpayers millions of dollars annually in salary, staff and legislative expensive for years to come," Garofalo said. "Reducing the size of the Legislature does not mean reducing representation or responsiveness."
The change would be effective in 2023, after the next census and redistricting in 2020.
Safer courthouses wanted
U.S. Sen. Al Franken has reintroduced the Local Courthouse Safety Act after it did not pass last year.
The Minnesota Democrat said the bill is designed to improve security at smaller courthouses. He first introduced it following a 2011 shooting at the Cook County Courthouse in Grand Marais that injured three, including the Cook County attorney.
The bill would provide funds and training to help rural courthouses obtain more security.
"My legislation will give courthouses all over the state access to the resources they need to keep our justice system safe for everyone, and I'm going to keep fighting to pass it into law," Franken said.
'Get flood insurance'
Meteorologists predict many parts of Minnesota could experience flooding this spring, prompting the state Commerce Department to urge homeowners to buy flood insurance.
Regular insurance policies do not cover flood damage.
"Homeowners should closely monitor spring flood forecasts as Minnesota emerges from last fall's moderate to severe drought, to protect themselves from flooding's potential dangers and risks of property damage," Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman said.
Flood insurance takes effect 30 days after purchase, so it must be bought a month before a flood.
Allowing cell phone moves
U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar is among lawmakers trying to make it easier for mobile telephone users to more easily change carriers.
The Minnesota Democrat's bill would order the Federal Communications Commission to allow phones to be allowed on different networks.
"Consumers should have flexibility and choice when it comes to their wireless service and they deserve to keep and use cell phones they have already purchased," Klobuchar said. "This legislation will help allow consumers to unlock their phones."