Historically, votes on bills in legislative committees were mostly procedural. In the past, bills for inclusion in the Omnibus bills from the respective committees were not thought of as major points of contention, nor given much issue of note, but such is not the case any longer. The Minnesota House of Representatives has taken on a complexion similar to that of the US House of Representatives. Every vote cast in committee appears to no longer be thought of a miniscule but rather a point of principle or a defining moment.
On both sides of the aisle, members are calling for roll call votes on, what longtime Capitol observers would consider, some of the most innocuous items. In each instance a member can request a roll call vote, but in previous years this was left for the passage of the final bill or on specific bills thought to be a major departure from the norm, or when a political opportunity arose. Now, this procedure is becoming more the rule than the exception, and it characterizes the hyper partisanship of the Minnesota House in 2015.
Granted, this point is largely inside baseball, but it is clearly evident to anyone with any level of experience and understanding of the legislative process. We had thought this was an a nominal procedure brought about by newly minted chairs of the respective legislative committees, as we had witnessed early on in the legislative session, when Environment and Natural Resources Policy and Finance Chair Rep. Denny McNamara (R-54B, Hastings), called for a roll call vote on the committees’ items for inclusion in the Capital Investment/Bonding Bill, What was seen as a random occurrence is now standard procedure.
Before, when different organization want to “score” votes, which they would later use for inclusion in their literature in the next campaign, members were informed of the pending scoring and they prepared to cast a vote they new would have longer term implications. Today, in the land of social media everything is on record, different persons sit in committee and monitor every action taken and nothing is simple or taken for granted.
Items which had been thought of as pet projects for a particular legislator and given little thought are now serious bones of contention. At times when a member was given wide latitude to propose an idea and the particular committee advanced the bill to another committee are long gone. In this current situation, any issue at any time is of partisan concern and can be utilized for partisan advantage.
This is the standard operating procedure in the most populous body in Minnesota politics.