By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
Pawlenty sided with the privacy seekers and vetoed the bill.
Statewide, there are at least six school districts—mostly rural and mostly small—that don't offer health insurance to their employees.
To fix this, a bill that made its way to the governor's desk would have pooled health insurance for all K-12 school workers statewide.
See our selection of the 15 Worst Tim Pawlenty Vetoes in slideshow form.
Pawlenty, who vetoed a similar bill last year, didn't like it much better the second time. In his veto letter, he asserted that the new program could pile on costs of "as much as $110 million per year."
Tom Dooher, president of Education Minnesota, says Pawlenty's figure is inflated, and that the bill would have made school districts stronger when negotiating health plans. "It's a social and moral imperative that everyone be covered," he says.
Believe it or not, it's illegal for Minnesota cities and counties to provide health insurance to their employees' domestic partners.
A bill passed in the Legislature would have removed the restriction.
"It's about fairness and equality for all families in the state," says Monica Meyer, public policy director for OutFront Minnesota, a gay rights group.
It's also about attracting job candidates while competing with companies that offer such benefits, which is why both the League of Minnesota Cities and the Minnesota Association of Small Cities supported the bill.
All of this was lost on Pawlenty, a staunch foe of equal rights for gays and lesbians. Explained the governor: "I vetoed nearly identical language last year, and my position has not changed."
For much of its 34-year history, the Metropolitan Council has been a hands-on regional planning body stocked with policy wonks willing to stare down outer-ring suburbanites averse to dense development and low-income housing.
Under Pawlenty, it's more of a way station for the governor's laissez-faire political cronies.
A bill that easily passed both houses would have meant that the 17 Met Council members, each appointed by the governor to serve four years at a time, would have their terms staggered by two years.
"You wouldn't lose all that institutional knowledge," says Patricia Nauman, a lobbyist for Metropolitan Cities. "It would also help soften the blow from a shift in philosophical or political differences."
Citing the need for "accountability"—and no doubt uninterested in altering a system that gives him maximum authority—Pawlenty vetoed the bill.
Whenever a baby is born in Minnesota, a small sample of blood is taken to screen for 54 diseases. The remainder of the baby's blood sample is kept on file with the state's health department.
Currently, these leftover blood samples exist in a legal purgatory: They can't be destroyed, but neither can researchers have access to them to conduct potentially life-saving studies.
A bill sponsored by the health department would have made the samples available for research. Supported by the Mayo Clinic, the University of Minnesota, and the March of Dimes, it passed through both houses with bipartisan support before arriving at the governor's desk.
Unfortunately for the cause of science, but to the delight of anti-government conspiracy theorists, Pawlenty nixed the bill.
"It's a real shame," says Dr. Susan Berry, who directs pediatric genetic research at the University of Minnesota. "Privacy advocates had a stronger voice than those of us who were trying to get information to help all the babies."
The University of Minnesota does all forms of stem cell research. As such, the bill that sailed through the Legislature to affirm the U's right to conduct such research using state funds was pure symbolism.
But Pawlenty's subsequent veto, on "ethical and moral" grounds mirroring those of his socially conservative base, was nonetheless an embarrassing milestone. With it, Minnesota became the only state to have pro-stem cell legislation vetoed by its governor.
"The bill didn't do anything for us operationally," says Sarah Youngerman, spokeswoman for the U's Academic Health Center. "But it's disappointing that he vetoed it."
When it comes to health care, Pawlenty is a fierce advocate for profit-hungry insurers and an avowed foe of universal coverage.
But even by his standards, the deathblow he delivered to an ambitious five-county plan to administer state-funded health care to the poor was brazen.
Two years in the making, the Stedfast program was set to start serving more than 2,000 Medical Assistance patients in southern Minnesota in October. The idea was to offer better care with lower overhead than the private insurers already contracted by the government for the same purpose.
The bill to get the program off the ground breezed through the Legislature, passing 115-12 in the House and 52-7 in the Senate. It would have automatically enrolled the roughly 30 percent of eligible patients not yet on a plan.
But it's bad for business when a superior, less-expensive product enters the marketplace. Fortunately for Blue Cross and UCare, the two private insurers threatened by Stedfast, Pawlenty was there for them when it counted.