Senate passes bills, House fights over $12 million in spending initiatives

ST. PAUL (AP) — A special legislative session looked Monday to drag out over three days despite quick passage by the Senate of a $12 million economic aid package and a bill to help Warroad-based Marvin Windows and Doors.
The House was another matter, with House Minority Leader Steve Sviggum, R-Kenyon, saying the 64-member GOP caucus would use a procedural maneuver to delay final votes on the bills until Wednesday.
“I think it’s our job as Republicans to stand up for the taxpayers,” Sviggum said.
House Republicans contend the state already has spent enough money, but their Senate counterparts agreed to allow the bill’s consideration and 11 of them voted for it.
A House hearing on the spending bill is scheduled for Tuesday.
DFLers say the spending bill helps some of the state’s neediest residents, with $3.5 million going to child-care subsidies and $3.3 million for low-income housing.
“House Republicans want to drag this session out and they want to tie up the process and they want to refuse to help children and families,” said House Speaker Phil Carruthers, DFL-Brooklyn Center.
Carruthers and Senate Minority Leader Dick Day, R-Owatonna, also noted the House GOP would cost the state money. Special sessions cost roughly $10,000 a day.
“Why not just do it one day?” Day said. “We save the taxpayer money. We all get to say what we think.”
GOP Gov. Arne Carlson already approved both bills, although some senators from both parties objected to each of the bills.
Sen. Leo Foley, DFL-Anoka, said the $12 million wasn’t enough to help needier Minnesotans.
“These are crumbs,” Foley said.
The Marvin Windows bill was the trickiest. Lawmakers struggled with differing opinions of its legal significance.
“I think the courts are going to ignore what we do here today,” said Sen. Tom Neuville, R-Northfield. “It’s like changing the rules in the ninth inning.”
The bill would clarify state law so businesses can sue other businesses for fraud in disputed transactions under Minnesota’s Uniform Commercial Code.
Marvin Windows sued the former Pittsburgh Plate Glass Co. four years ago for breach of contract and fraud, alleging the company sold a defective wood preservative from 1985 to 1989, forcing Marvin Windows to spend tens of millions of dollars to replace windows that are now rotting.
PPG has denied the allegations, and some of Marvin’s claims have been dismissed by a federal court.
“We’re not really deciding the case here, all we’re doing is allowing that case to proceed to a court,” said Sen. Leroy Stumpf, DFL-Thief River Falls. Marvin Windows, which is based in his district, employees some 3,300 employees.
Marvin Windows president Susan Marvin said the company could go bankrupt if a new law weren’t passed.
“We could not continue to operate as we are,” she said. “We could not continue to stand behind the product.”
Brian Rice, a lobbyist for PPG, said a change in the law “is not good business for this state. It’s not fair to this company.”