The 9 worst ideas of the 2018 Minnesota Legislature

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The Minnesota State Capitol: A beautiful building, where people propose ugly ideas. Glen Stubbe, Star Tribune

The 134 members of the Minnesota House of Representatives have combined to introduce more than 1,700 bills.

Their 67 counterparts in the Senate have produced almost 1,600. Many proposals are duplicates, or recycled from years past, or authored strategically by a legislator working to appease a constituency — sometimes, even just one person, if he or she has the right sort of bank accounts.

Only a small percentage of these bills will be passed and signed into law. The vast majority of bills don’t go anywhere, and that’s just as well. Many are shockingly stupid.

Below, read through a list of nine of the very worst ideas elected representatives have come up with... since late February.

The Porn-Free Phones Act

This bill would require businesses making or selling products with internet capability to come with a feature that blocks “any obscene material.” Rep. Peggy Bennett (R-Albert Lea) also wants device manufacturers to set up “a Web site or call center” where people could “report unblocked obscene material.” Oh, Peggy. Sweet, innocent Peggy. Do you know how much new porn shows up online every day? The anti-porn crusaders would spend all day, every day on the phone with some poor call center employee. “Can you describe the penis?” (Pause.) “In that case, why don’t you start with the penis of the gentleman on the left?”

The Crank-Choice Voting Act

GOP Sen. Mark Koran wants ranked-choice voting banned, saying it “just confuses voters.” Maybe in North Branch, where he’s from. But they don’t use it; Minneapolis and St. Paul do. And last year, both cities had their highest voter turnout in more than a decade. If the people of North Branch are confused by the cities’ voting practices, consider us just as perplexed by their curious decision to elect Mark Koran.

Pic-a-nic Basket Prohibition

One passage in House File 3242, authored by Rep. Clark Johnson (DFL-North Mankato) states flatly: “Feeding a bear by hand or other physical contact is prohibited.” But let’s think this through. What if a bear eating the sandwich out of some man’s hand and the Fritos off his lap was not the guy’s idea, but the bear’s? Now this poor guy’s out a sandwich, chips, a finger, a testicle... and he’s the one going to jail?

The V for Vendetta Scared Me Bill

This bill would criminalize protesting while hiding one’s face “by a mask or otherwise.” Its author, Rep. Matt Dean, R-Dellwood, is an outspoken (and outrageous) critic of lefty Antifa protesters—“punks and thugs,” he called them—but says nothing about armed and creepy neo-Nazis who demonstrated at the Capitol. Dean, at least, is no extremist: He makes an exception for face coverings if the temperature is “below zero degrees.” See? Would the Nazis do that?

The “Keep Drinking, You’ll Get Used to It” Act

Ever notice the water coming out of your tap looks or tastes funny? Does it make you a little nervous? Under this proposal, you could keep that nervousness literally on the tip of your tongue for years! Sen. Andrew Mathews, R-Milaca, wants to give public wastewater treatment plants violating new pollution standards five full years before any punishment goes into effect. How much tap water does someone drink in five years? If this bill passed, maybe none?

The Minnesota Measles Freedom Bill

Back in February, the Vaccine Safety Council for Minnesota invited lawmakers to a secret meeting at the Minneapolis Club. On the menu: hors d’oeuvres and fear. This bill from Sen. Jim Abeler (R-Anoka) would require the state health commissioner to “consult” with the group—which peddled junk science about “vaccine-damaged” kids to Somali parents amid the shocking 2017 comeback of measles in this state—before making any changes to the state’s immunization requirements. Next, legislators will force planners working on the Southwest Light Rail Transit line to get their proposals approved by a horse.

The Cute Little Shooters Bill

Wisconsin: “Kids as young as nine years old should get hunting licenses.” Minnesota: “Hold my beer... and my kid’s rifle, it’s too heavy for him to get a good grip on it.” After Wisconsin lowered its hunting age, critics and comics from around the country savaged the Scott Walker-backed move. Rep. Chris Swedzinski (R-Ghent), meanwhile, wants to lower Minnesota’s licensed hunting age to eight. Eight! Ever hung out with an eight-year-old? Would you trust one to even hold your phone?

The Loophole in One Bill

Stand back, tax-hating rich people. Rep. Joe Hoppe (R-Chaska) is reaching for new heights. Hoppe wants to exempt from sales taxes some of Minnesota’s least common, least necessary purchases: tickets to “major professional golf tournaments.” These would include the U.S. Open, the PGA Championship, and the Ryder Cup, the international competition pitting Americans against Europeans—who would, if they heard of Hoppe’s bill, struggle to make solid contact with the ball, since they’ll spend the entire day shaking their heads.

The “Stop Me Before I Legislate Again” Act

The Legislature traditionally begins each odd-numbered year with the responsibility of passing a state budget; it traditionally ends May of each odd-numbered year trying to pass every single dollar of it in one panicked last-minute rush. Mistakes get made. Even worse is what they do on purpose, sneaking ugly policy into big budget bills the governor is obliged to sign. In recognition of this ineptitude, a bill from Rep. Randy Jessup (R-Shoreview) would fund government agencies at 90 percent of the existing budget in the event of a government shutdown. Great idea! That way, they don’t even have to try to pass a budget, and can get back to what they do best: writing bad bills.

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