Typically, bills that promise any sort of small benefits or praise to military veterans sail through the legislative process.
But on the final day of the 2014 Minnesota legislative session, a handful of Republican House members tried to praise vets while burying a bill that would have given veterans the opportunity to actually take Veteran’s Day off.
Rep. Andrew Falk, DFL-Murdock, introduced the bill. It was filled with caveats:
- A vet would have to give the employer 30 days notice that he/she wanted Veterans Day, Nov. 11, off
- The employer would determine whether the vet would be paid or not
- The employer could cite various logistical reasons for turning down the vet’s request.
The bill, Falk explained, would allow vets to have a day to reflect or to do such things as attend ceremonies. In many cases, some of Falk’s DFL colleagues pointed out, vets can’t get off work and therefore can’t attend the ceremonies that are held to honor them.
However, a number of GOP legislators, including vets such as Rep. Ernie Leidiger of Mayer and Bob Dettmer of Forest Lake, started attacking the bill. The bill was just another government mandate. The bill was poorly written. The bill would give employers another reason not to hire vets. The bill was unneeded because employers already appreciate the vets they hire. The bill was anti-business.
On and on the attacks on the bill came — until Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Good Thunder, stood.
Cornish suggested that those attacking the bill must live in “la la land’’ if they think all employers treat their vet employees well. He added that he’d have a hard time showing up at his local VFW Club if the House couldn’t pass this bill.
Cornish’s little speech seemed to pour cold water on some of the GOP fire. After all the debate, the vote in support of the bill was lopsided, 111-17.
But the bill didn’t do so well in the Senate.
Given its late arrival on the floor, the bill, carried by Sen. Lyle Koenen, DFL-Clara City, needed a suspension of rules to be voted on. GOP senators said that a suspension of rules would be granted only if the word “may’’ in the bill would be substituted for the word “shall.’’
In other words, employers “may’’ grant veterans a day off, not “shall’’ grant vets a day off.
The word change “gutted the bill,’’ according to Falk.
The bill was tabled in the Senate. The process will begin again next year when legislators of all stripes will praise veterans as often as possible.