2009 proved to be one of the most challenging sessions yet for
Minnesota lawmakers, with the legislature and the Governor clashing
over how to balance the budget. Governor Tim Pawlenty had originally
advocated borrowing $1 billion, a plan that met with near universal
disdain in the House, which voted 130-2 against. Lawmakers held listening sessions throughout the state to hear from over 10,000 citizens on how best to handle an unprecedented deficit of $6.4 billion.
Ultimately, after the legislature passed two omnibus budget bills
including a balanced budget and failed to overcome the Governor's
veto, Pawlenty decided to use his unilateral power of unallotment to
slash $2.7 billion of funding over the next two years, hitting cities, counties and health services the hardest.
Minnesota legislators passed a landmark voter registration modernization bill
recently that would, absent a veto, have registered or updated the
registration of voters automatically when they applied for a driver's
license, learner's permit or ID card. It would also use information in
motor vehicle and corrections databases to verify and maintain voter
rolls. This legislation, sponsored by Rep. Steve Simon and Sen. John Marty,
would have made Minnesota the first state in the nation to proactively
register voters, and made it among the most advanced in maintaining
clean, accurate voter rolls. The bill was designed to build on the
state's already first-in-the-nation portability bill, which requires automatic updates to voter registrations based on changes of address.
However, Governor Pawlenty vetoed this historic legislation last week...
In the final week of their legislative sessions, the Colorado and Indiana legislatures gave final approval to bills allowing residents to register to vote online. Colorado Senators passed HB 1160 and Indiana House Members passed HB 1346;
both bills allow residents with driver's licenses or state-issued ID
cards to register to vote online. The legislation has been sent to the
governor in both states. In Colorado the governor is expected to sign
the bill, while Indiana's governor has not indicated support or
On Monday, March 23rd, the Vermont Senate overwhelmingly passed (26 to 4) a bill legalizing same-sex marriage,
making the state the first in the nation to take legislative rather
than judicial steps toward granting marriage rights to same-sex
couples. Although House Speaker Shap Smith was confident a majority of
representatives would vote in favor of the "marriage equality" act,
Governor Jim Douglas revealed in a press conference Wednesday that he
would veto the bill, though he did say he would accept a legislative