I am shocked and appalled by the refusal of Republican leaders to bring to a vote lifesaving legislation to prohibit hands-on cellphone use while driving (" 'Hands-free' cellphone law unlikely to pass this year," May 16). But beyond that, I am flummoxed — and appalled — by the various rationales they have trotted out to try to justify their decision to kill the bill.
Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka compared the issue to the convenience of buying liquor on Sundays — something that took several years of lobbying by wannabe-Sunday-liquor-purchasers to corral the votes to pass the Legislature. The problem with this analogy (besides the offensiveness of comparing the grief of family members whose loved ones have been killed to the anguish of those forced to buy booze on Saturday or drive to Wisconsin): The cellphone legislation already has the votes to pass.
But, wait! According to KSTP-TV, a spokesperson for House Speaker Kurt Daudt indicated that the bill can't be brought up because House Republicans, by themselves, don't have enough votes to pass it — they have only 50-some votes, so DFLers would have to contribute some votes. This argument is, well, interesting. Let's look at the recent past:
On April 24, House Republicans brought a fantasy sports bill to the House floor for a vote. Clearly, they did not have enough Republican votes to pass it, because it failed 48 to 74.
But they brought it to a vote anyway. Apparently, they thought legalizing fantasy sports was important enough to merit debate and an up-or-down vote.
Apparently, the lives of Minnesota drivers and pedestrians are less important. Because further delay in taking up the hands-free bill will result in further loss of life; it's that simple.
Anne Hamre, Roseville
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True to form, our Legislature didn't cast any votes regarding cellphone use while driving. Personal liberties and political party divide were cited as another disregard for public safety is apparent. Minnesota is always years behind other states in this regard. Remember the attempts to make 0.08 the legal blood-alcohol concentration for drivers? We couldn't pass it — too intrusive. Years and many fatalities later, it passed. Every time we are in our cars, there is texting, dialing, YouTube viewing and anything that a cellphone provides except driving the car. More than 70 Minnesotans died last year because of someone's distracted driving. Where is the personal liberty in that? My God.
Jeff Jensen, Bloomington
Membership reform plan is bound to make matters worse
Many agree that the Metropolitan Council is not perfect and is overdue for reform. Legislation being considered, which as of Tuesday was headed for a conference committee, would make things worse.
With SF 2809 and HF 3273, many of the members of the Met Council would be county and city officials who owe their fiduciary obligation to the communities from which they were elected. The ethical conflicts for officials serving in dual public offices would ensure that money grabs would become the new order of business for regional governance.
In addition, some locally elected public officials also have other jobs and families, and now would be expected to attend additional lengthy meetings on behalf of regional governance — a burden that likely would result in regional decisions being made only by those few who have time, ensuring a region of separate islands.
Counties in support of the bill have expressed frustration that their voices aren't being heard. That frustration is understandable by most anyone who has participated in a public process and knows the feeling of being ignored. Dakota County had a highly publicized example of this when it did not listen to 97 percent of constituents who opposed an unpopular plan for a beloved park, but the county approved it anyway. We know the feeling of not having our voices heard, and that problem will not improve with this Met Council legislation.
Supporters of the legislation argue that having locally elected officials serving on the council would increase transparency and accountability at this level. With that in mind, do you even know what County Board members do or who they are? Transparency and accountability should improve at the local level, before they make regional governance even more invisible.
Gov. Mark Dayton should veto this legislation if it makes it to his desk.
Holly Jenkins, Eagan
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So, local elected officials serving on multicounty boards have no conflicts?
Perhaps some have forgotten the Counties Transit Improvement Board and the mess caused when one county member felt it was not getting a fair return on its investment?
It decided to pack up what it determined was its fair share, and to hell with all of the other counties and the mess it was leaving them in ("Transit board brings its business to a close," Sept. 28, 2017).
Stagger Met Council terms so that perhaps different governors will have a chance to appoint members. Let's start there. Give change a chance.
Please, do not destroy the only sector of governance that is actually producing tangible results.
C.K. Peterson, Minneapolis
Don't use simple poll results as the impetus for legislation
The startling results of the Star Tribune Minnesota Poll on the gun issue might suggest it was conducted in Dinkytown. But I won't make that accusation. How do we digest polling results as they pertain to possible legislation? Don't legislators represent a cross-section of their districts? Isn't there already a variety of methods to contact one's representative and make one's priorities known?
A poll is a snapshot in time, and those results can change given new circumstances. Yes, they certainly can be frustrating. But to elevate a poll to the "gold standard" for new legislation is a mistake. We would come to regret the loss of the "legislative process" that is held at the State Capitol. For those who cling to the notion that all we need is another law, you will be disappointed. In this issue, the criminals and mentally unstable will not be deterred. If you really want to improve the safety of society, you will look far beyond the simplicity of a poll.
Joseph Polunc, Cologne
An underlying problem
In the May 16 paper there was a letter about redistricting in an omnibus bill. While I agree with most of what the letter writer said, there is a much bigger problem. According to the Minnesota Constitution, bills are required to limit themselves to what is in the title of the bill. If legislators would simply follow the law, we wouldn't have this problem with unread bills being passed at the last minute or huge multipage bills that are unreadable. Maybe it is time for a class-action lawsuit to declare all omnibus bills invalid. Maybe it is time for legislators to follow the law. Maybe it is time for legislators to work together instead of only working to get re-elected. This will never happen if these omnibus bills keep getting passed.
Bill Lerman, St. Paul