Tags: Abortion-Waiting | Bill | Hold

Abortion-Waiting Bill on Hold

Tuesday, 15 May 2001 12:00 AM

Sviggum, R-Kenyon, who supports the abortion language, said he was about halfway through the 600-page bill. The bill is stalled at least temporarily because, without Sviggum's signature, it cannot be sent to Gov. Jesse Ventura, who has pledged to veto the measure if it contains the abortion language.

After a day of charges and counter-charges, the political maneuvering continued Monday night, when the House unexpectedly voted to amend the entire bill -- including the abortion language -- onto an unrelated health bill. The measure, introduced by Rep. Kevin Goodno, chairman of the House Health and Human Services Finance Committee, passed 84 to 49.

The move is likely to keep the abortion debate alive even after the expected Ventura veto. The Senate could hear the new bill with the attached language as early as today.

In a surprise move Friday, the Senate approved the House version of the health and human services bill, bypassing a conference committee and accelerating the move toward the threatened veto. A few senators who oppose the House bill voted for it, hoping an expedited veto would allow time for a new version to be crafted before next Monday's deadline for the Legislature to adjourn.

On Monday, both Ventura spokesman John Wodele and Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe, DFL-Erskine, denounced Sviggum's actions -- or lack thereof.

With the adjournment deadline approaching, Sviggum acknowledged that a special session now appears likely, but he blamed Senate leadership for the slow pace on the bill.

"The person that thinks that politics is being played would place it upon Roger Moe and the Senate, not upon the House," Sviggum said.

The health and human services bill funds a number of state agencies for the next two years. If a bill isn't approved, the agencies face a possible shutdown by July 1, the start of the next fiscal year. Hanging in the balance are programs for the elderly, pay increases to nursing home workers, child immunizations, welfare-to-work programs and dozens - if not hundreds - of others.

The abortion provisions are at the center of the debate. The bill carries a provision requiring a woman seeking an abortion to receive specified information, then wait at least 24 hours before having the procedure, and a provision that abortion-rights supporters call a "gag rule" that keeps abortion from being discussed as a family planning option in many state-funded programs.

Abortion-rights supporters say those provisions should not be attached to the funding bill.

Carrying a dog-eared copy of the bill, Sviggum, an abortion opponent, said he received the "engrossed version" of the measure at 10:45 Saturday morning. The engrossed version includes the official accounting of the 24 amendments that were included in the final House bill. Sviggum acknowledged it was the first time he has read the entire engrossed version of a bill, but said he was doing so not to stall the process but because of the Senate's action.

Sviggum said the state Constitution, state law and the rules of the House are clear that he must sign the bill, but require only that it be done in a reasonable period, with no specific time limit.

The stalemate has frustrated Moe, an abortion-rights supporter whose chamber was narrowly tipped toward abortion opponents in the last election, changing the complexion of abortion politics in both chambers.

"[Sviggum], on behalf of the Republicans, is singlehandedly heading us toward a shutdown of government. That's really tragic," Moe said. "I think it's unconscionable that one person would be willing to risk all of that and the meaningful changes in those bills all because of abortion language that's controversial and could be dealt with separately."

Criticism by Wodele

Wodele reiterated Monday that the governor adamantly opposes the abortion language and will veto the bill as soon as it reaches his desk.

"Every minute that bill sits in the speaker's office is a minute toward disaster," Wodele said. "At this point we are the victims of this legislative game-playing. It surely does not bode well for the integrity of the system."

In addition, 38 House members signed a letter Monday urging Sviggum to sign the bill and send it to Ventura. They also sent a letter to Ventura welcoming his expected veto.

"I regret this unprecedented abuse of the legislative process, pushing forward this extremist agenda at the expense of thousands of Minnesotans," said Rep. Jim Davnie, DFL-Minneapolis.

Citing a recent Star Tribune Minnesota Poll that shows support for the waiting period by almost a 2 to 1 margin, Sviggum said Ventura and House opponents are on the fringe.

"Where is the extreme agenda? The extreme agenda is on the other side," he said.

© 2001 star tribune. All Rights Reserved.

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Sviggum, R-Kenyon, who supports the abortion language, said he was about halfway through the 600-page bill. The bill is stalled at least temporarily because, without Sviggum's signature, it cannot be sent to Gov. Jesse Ventura, who has pledged to veto the measure if it...
Tuesday, 15 May 2001 12:00 AM
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