April 26th, 2012 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
Minnesota’s Equal Parenting legislation that passed the state House of Representatives last week is now stalled in the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee. As of now, the bill is effectively dead, but Molly Olson, who’s spearheaded the drive for equal parenting for many years, says there’s still a chance to pass it.
What’s clear is that State Senator Warren Limmer, chairman of the committee, doesn’t want the bill to go to the Senate floor for a vote.
He doesn’t want to take the blame (or the credit, depending on your point of view) for killing the bill, but he so far has refused to allow it to come to a vote in committee. According to this article, he claims the votes aren’t there to pass it out of committee (Minnesota Star Tribune, 4/25/12).
“I didn’t kill anything,” he said politely, but adamantly, seated in his office on Wednesday. “I informed the [bill’s] authors that we do not have the votes. I asked the authors, ‘Do you want to advance this bill and then have it fail? Or, pause right now and not advance it and build again?’
“There is an answer to this in the future,” Limmer said, “but it’s not today.”
There are a number of things that don’t pass the smell test about that. First, I asked Limmer’s office who the committee members are who oppose the bill, but so far haven’t gotten an answer. Why not? After all, if they oppose it, don’t you think they’d have the courage and the decency to admit it? If they did that, then we’d have the opportunity to ask them why they voted ‘No.’
Or maybe Limmer actually did kill the bill and just wants to pass the buck to unnamed others. Profiles in courage.
Second, Limmer talks glibly about bill proponents retreating for now and fighting another day. But as Limmer knows, they’ve been doing that for 13 years. Every year Olson has gotten an equal parenting bill carried in the Minnesota Legislature and every year it’s been shot down by tactics like Limmer’s. If it doesn’t pass this year, the same thing will happen in 2013. My guess is that Limmer will say the same thing then – “not this year; maybe next.”
Of course Limmer knows all this; he just hopes the people reading the Star Tribune don’t. Limmer looks like a shill for the family law bar, so as long as he’s in office, the same thing will keep happening.
Meanwhile, Olson tells us what Limmer’s actually up to. He wants the bill amended and he wants total capitulation by pro-equal-parenting forces on all items. Olson says that under Limmer’s idea of fair play, “he gets everything he wants and we get nothing we want.”
But despite Limmer’s best efforts to kill the bill, there is still a way it can be passed. Apparently, if 41 senators vote to bring the bill to the Senate floor for a vote, it effectively bypasses Limmer’s committee. Therefore, Olson is now beseeching everyone to call their Minnesota State Senator and ask him/her to vote to bring HF322 to the floor for a vote. I do too.
The House bill passed by a vote of 80 – 53. This is popular legislation. It is beyond disgraceful for Warren Limmer to block a vote on it. The people of Minnesota are represented by their elected officials – all of them, not just Warren Limmer. They deserve an up or down vote on this much-needed legislation.
So please call and email your state senator and politely but firmly ask that he/she vote to bring this bill to the Senate floor for a vote, and when it gets there vote in favor of equal parenting. Better yet, deliver the message in person.
Here’s Molly’s message to all of you:
We URGENTLY need your in-person help — whenever you can be down there with us today and/or tomorrow, call Molly and Brian at 320 250 2354 or text 651 276 5566 and we will meet you, instruct you, etc. It makes a HUGE impact to see these senators face to face. We can do it together. We need to show them what mass outcry looks like — we need both DFLers and R’s.
YOUR ACTION ITEM:
1) Contact as many senators as you can – ask them to pull the bill (HF322) from Senate Judiciary Committee back to the senate floor for a vote. Explain why this is important. The House did a lot of work to get this bill where it is today. Don’t let the Senate Judiciary Committee kill the bill. People say the Senate Judiciary Committee is “where good bills go to die.” Don’t let this happen to this bill. Family law problems are one of the biggest issues legislators hear complaints about – for 13 years the solution has been developed. HF322 is an important step in the right direction. It of course won’t fix all problems in family court, but it lays the ground work. See list of senators: www.senate.leg.state.mn.us (see members)
Thanks to all of you. Now is the time!