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Monday, March 12, 2007

OutFront Press Release

Monica Meyer, Public Policy Director, 612-822-0127 ext. 115
C. Scott Cooper, Legislative Lobbyist, 651-260-9950
Jo Marsicano, Communications Director, 612-822-0127 ext. 106
March 12th, 2007
Two Bills Promoting Fairness for GLBT people Move Ahead in the Senate
(St. Paul) Two bills promoting fairness and common sense for the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community are gaining momentum at the Minnesota legislature.

Today, two senate committees passed bills that would open the door for domestic partner benefits at the local government level, and re-instate domestic partner benefits for state employees. Senators voted with clear majorities in both cases.

Local Government Health Benefits Bill

The Senate Committee on State and Local Government Operations voted to pass the Local Government Health Benefits Bill by a majority in a voice vote, and included bipartisan support. Testifying in favor of the bill were St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman and Minneapolis City Council Member Scott Benson who told the committee this was an issue of competitiveness and local control. Said Mayor Coleman, "We believe…this is a decision that should be left up to cities, counties, and other local governments…who feel it’s important to offer these benefits." City of Minneapolis employee Jan Fondell testified that because she cannot receive family benefits through her employer, her family pays several thousand dollars a year in premiums and copays for themselves and their children. Fondell also testified that her partner receives medical coverage through Medicare, which she says is more costly to taxpayers than if the family were to receive health benefits through Fondell's employer – the city of Minneapolis.

Currently local governments cannot offer domestic partner benefits due to a 1995 Minnesota Court of Appeals ruling preventing it, due to its interpretation of state law.

The Local Government Health Benefits bill now goes to the full Senate for a vote.

Now the question is what house speaker Margaret Kelliher is going to do for the house version. When I talked to her, she was non-commital, saying the bill would be heard in committee.

This piece is interesting:

State Employee Domestic Partner Benefits Bill

Also today, the Senate Government Budget Division voted to add the State Employee Domestic Partner Benefits bill into the omnibus budget bill by a 6-3 vote. This legislation would re-instate domestic partner benefits to state employees, a benefit withdrawn by the legislature in 2003. Chief Senate Author Sandy Pappas testified that the initiative would have a small budgetary impact – noting that in the years 2001-2003, the only time the benefits were offered, the cost to the state was approximately $200,000. OutFront Minnesota Legislative Lobbyist C. Scott Cooper testified, in response to one senator's question about promoting a "back door to marriage," that "We're not asking for marriage. Marriage is not part of this." Cooper says state domestic partner benefits are common sense, simple to implement, and good business, noting the more than 200 Minnesota businesses and thousands nationwide that already offer domestic partner benefits.

The State Employee Domestic Partner Benefits bill now becomes part of the Senate Omnibus Budget Bill.

OutFront Minnesota is working at the legislature to promote bills that would address current inequities in law which adversely affect the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community. A 2006 poll showed that 70% of Minnesotans believed that "gays and lesbians should have the same rights and responsibilities as everyone else," and just short of 80% thought "government shouldn't treat people differently because of their sexual orientation."

OutFront Minnesota is an advocacy, direct services, and public policy organization for the GLBT and allied community.

Leading Minnesota Toward GLBT Equality. Celebrating Our 20th Year.

Now can Pawlenty line item veto this piece of the omnibus budget bill?