Mitchell gives session passing marks

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 25, 2002

Features Editor

On the heels of the closing of the legislative session, Sen. Wendell Mitchell D – Luverne gave the session high marks overall with only a few "incompletes" on the report card.

"This legislature did something no other legislature has accomplished," Mitchell said. This legislature passed redistricting legislation for the state legislature, the congressional delegates and the state school boards and each was approved by the justice department, he said.

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"The Deep South is still under the Voting Rights Act and we have to submit redistricting plans to the justice department," Mitchell said. "The Northern states don’t have to do that and that’s not fair, but our plans have been accepted and that’s a tremendous accomplishment."

Mitchell said doing away with the "yellow mama" electric chair in favor of a lethal injection as a method of execution was a dramatic decision.

"Another major accomplishment was that the budget was passed by mid-session and that’s almost unheard of," Mitchell said. "We also passed several safety consumer measures, including the 16-year-old restrictive driver’s license bill and that should help save lives and another important piece of legislation, the Women’s Right to Know."

Chief among the accomplishments was the elimination of proration in public schools, Mitchell said. "Looking back at the efforts of other administrations, it took them forever to bail out those deficiencies and we bailed out proration in four months."

One of the major disappointment for Mitchell was that the House of Representative killed a bill that would have curbed smoking in public places.

"There are a lot of cigarette lobbyists at the capitol and they influenced this bill," Mitchell said. "But, this bill got stuck in a logjam in the House. The delaying tactics used by the House were not aimed at this bill as much as other bills. A lot of innocent bills can get caught up in a filibuster and not be the object of the filibuster."

Mitchell said the cry for Constitutional reform brought about some movement in that direction, but not a lot.

"Critics see Constitutional reform as a dead issue, but I see the issue coming into its own," Mitchell said. "I strongly believe in the next two years we will see significant Constitutional reform."

Mitchell said the Voter ID legislation bill probably got caught up in the Senate in the same way as the anti-smoking bill got caught up in the House.

"Sufficient sentiment is there to pass both those bills and I expect them to come back with a lot of life," Mitchell said.