Monday, May 01, 2006

Stadium sausage 

I haven't seen this story elsewhere:

During the Twins stadium debate Wednesday in the House of Representatives, the time came to vote on whether to follow state law and allow Hennepin County residents to have the final say on a sales tax increase to pay for it.

Each lawmaker pushes a button on his or her desk to cast a vote, and it shows up on two big boards as either green for "yes" or red for "no." The lights flashed green next to the names of Rep. Larry Haws, DFL-St. Cloud, and Rep. Dan Severson, R-Sauk Rapids, for at least a minute.

By the time the vote was finished, their lights had changed to red, and the amendment had failed by two votes.

Why did their � and other lawmakers' � votes change? Because both sides decided beforehand that there could be no referendum, or else the stadium deal would collapse. And nobody wants to be responsible for losing the Twins in an election year.

Vote counting is a common practice at the Capitol. The two party caucuses in each house decide how many votes their groups will give for or against a particular bill or amendment, based on deals worked out by the leadership on both sides. People in leadership positions who vote against their superiors' orders almost always do so because there are enough votes for them to register their protest without affecting the outcome.

The only surprise Wednesday was that people must not have been counting correctly, because the amendment had more than enough votes to pass, at first. So the voting "board" remained open, while it was decided who should change their votes to arrive at the pre-arranged conclusion.

Now why is that? Why would they be the guys that switched? I looked at the Journal, and I think Schumacher is referring to the vote at p. 7119. There's Knoblach voting for the referendum -- as is Krinkie, both of whom need to burnish their fiscal conservative credentials. And there is Speaker Sviggum, voting against the referendum. Did he keep the board open? Sure enough, in the celebratory piece,
Rep. Ann Lenczewski (DFL-Bloomington), who voted against the plan, unsuccessfully offered an amendment to let Hennepin County residents vote on the potential sales tax increase. It failed on a bipartisan 66-64 vote.

With the voting board open for more than three minutes, Bell admitted being a little nervous.
To hear the story told, Mr. Bell, the fix was in.

I hope our two local elected officials who voted to disenfranchise Hennepin County voters have an explanation for their changes of heart.