The Minnesota Legislature didn't get a whole lot done this year. There was a tax cut bill, sure, but that's pretty easy to pass when you can afford it... and when everyone's up for reelection.
But on other issues, notably transportation and a capital investment bill, this year was full of fail, so much so that Gov. Mark Dayton might still call the legislators back in for a special session. Before he does, a word of caution: Some of these people cannot help themselves from writing bad bills.
The 134 members of the Minnesota House of Representatives authored a collective 4,032 bills these last two years. You haven't heard of most of them. And that's a good thing for them: Frankly, there are more bad ideas out there than good.
We herein submit for your consideration the 10 worst, weirdest, and least necessary bills produced by the Minnesota House during its 2015-16 term. Keep these in mind the next time someone refers to the Capitol as "The People's House." If people in your house were tossing out ideas like this, you'd throw them out The People's Window.
House File 17, the Make Minnesota('s State Band) Great Again bill: This bill, chief authored by Rep. Mike Freiberg, DFL-Minneapolis, would “provide free rehearsal space in the Capitol area for the Minnesota State Band.” From this, we can learn two things. First, there is a Minnesota State Band, and second, Mike Freiberg, a hobbyist musician himself, thinks they sound good enough to hold jam sessions in his office.
H.F. 59, the Start Seeing Motorocyclists as Victims! bill: This bill from Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, would bring about public safety policies to address police and State Patrol harassment in the form of “motorcycle profiling.” There’s just this one problem. No one has ever proved that motorcycle profiling exists. While we’re stopping fantasy discrimination, let’s also prohibit profiling people whose left foot is slightly larger than their right, and Minnesotans who look like they might someday try on but ultimately decide not to buy a large brown hat.
H.F. 86, the 14-Over-Par and 12-Beers-Deep bill: This bill from Rep. Jim Newberger, R-Becker, would give a liquor license to the golf course in the town he represents. Helping a local business? Sure. But this and other similar “19th hole” bills – here’s looking at you, Rep. Joe Atkins, DFL-Inver Grove Heights — also sound like Jim might’ve added a few strokes to his score lately, and would at least like to work up a decent buzz while he's out there hacking.
H.F. 272, the No Big Government for My Teeth bill: This bill from Rep. Ron Kresha, R-Little Falls, would allow local governments to opt out of the introduction of fluoride into its drinking water supply. For the record, photographic evidence indicates that Representative Kresha does, in fact, have teeth.
H.F. 486, the Guardian Add Miller Litem bill: This bill from Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, would let Minnesotans under 21 drink alcohol if they were in the presence of a “parent, guardian or spouse.” Sounds good until that last word, “spouse.” Just imagine the sham marriage market for 18-year-olds who just want to get into bars, and will tie the knot with any old (literally, old) geezer just to get a head start on jello shots.
H.F. 878 the Timeshare in Heaven bill: Rep. Tom Hackbarth, R-(Cedar), wanted an exemption to elevator code upgrades for “common interest ownership” properties built before 2007. Your next trip to an old condo or timeshare might be your last. The bill thoughtfully limited the exemption to building with “five or fewer floors,” so, really, 50 or 60 feet is the most you’d ever plummet. Think of it like an amusement park ride! That kills you!
H.F. 1282, the Party's Over bill: Forgive Rep. Jim Knoblach, R-St. Cloud, who wants to let people run for the legislature without having to identify with either party. He took a few years away from the House, and forgot how wickedly partisan it is. Though, in this system, candidates could at least be more honest, and wear bright-colored jackets, like Nascar drivers, that identify their sponsors. “I’m Randy Morris, brought to you by UnitedHealth. I’m asking for your vote and begging for their money.”
H.F. 1687, the By the Power Vested in Me, By Me bill: Oh, Rep. John Lesch, DFL-St. Paul. Your bill extending the authority to perform civil marriage to legislators sure does sound romantic. But we’ve seen you guys at work, and bringing people together isn’t your thing. Maybe there’s a more appropriate opening somewhere in the state’s divorce law?
H.F. 2537, the First Amendment for First Graders bill: This bill means well. Rep. Cheryl Youakim, DFL-Hopkins, intended to bolster the right to free speech and a free press for student newspapers. Sounds great. But it extends down to protect kids in kindergarten. What kind of content are newspapers for six-year-olds publishing? Top five lists of the best-tasting glue? “Report: Joey says he knows where babies really come from.”
H.F. 4022, the "I shot my eye out! And it went into my brain!" bill: When was the last time you met a fifth-grader and thought, man I wish that little kid had a loaded gun. This is the thinking behind a bill from Rep. Mary Franson, R-Alexandria, who wants to drop the legal age for hunting from its current minimum of 12 years down to 11. Evidently Franson meets a lot of little kids who are both completely responsible and annoyingly impatient, who really, really need to exericse their right to shoot a deer this year and cannot wait until next year, why should they wait 'til next year you PROMISED AUNT MARY! (We're just guessing here.) Fine. Let them hunt. But only if we also pass the bill that also lets them get drunk before they take aim.