Legislators neglect duties

Minnesota, once known as one of the most progressive states in the Union, is currently being led in a breakneck social retreat by the state Legislature. The same people who cry “privacy violation” whenever gun control is brought up are currently trying to deny health care benefits to people based on whom they decide to have sex with. The manner in which they have chosen to do this undermines a time-tested process and poses a real threat for a broader subjugation of workers’ rights in the future.

The Minnesota House of Representatives approved a non-binding resolution objecting to benefits for same-sex partners of state workers. These benefits were negotiated in a contract by Gov. Jesse Ventura’s office and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. State workers insisted on these benefits, making sacrifices in other elements of the contract to ensure their inclusion.

The Legislature has exceeded its authority in objecting to the benefits. The governor’s office is responsible for negotiating contracts with state employees. The Legislature is responsible for approving them and acts primarily as an oversight body. Had the Legislature determined the contract was too expensive, it would be right to reject it. But legislators’ objections do not center on the cost of the new contract. Instead, too many representatives hold to anachronistic beliefs that deny homosexuals the same rights and benefits of their heterosexual counterparts.

AFSCME has threatened to strike again if the same-sex benefits are not included in their contract. In October, AFSMCE struck for two weeks before the new contract was negotiated. For the Legislature to force another strike is irresponsible, particularly in light of the state’s budget deficit. Such a strike could prove highly detrimental to the state’s already unstable economy. And the Legislature has an already full calendar – it must cut the state’s budget to alleviate the $2 billion deficit and approve capital requests, including the University’s. To supplement these challenging tasks with a controversial but fiscally insignificant debate belies their pettiness. The governor demonstrated his respect for state workers and their choices. The Legislature, angered by his decision, would rather waste time and energy undoing his work than focus on the daunting tasks ahead.