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Gazelka seeks way to prevent future shutdowns

Sen. Paul Gazelka, R-Brainerd, doesn’t want to see another government shutdown. In an effort to prevent such closures, he announced Thursday he’ll author a bill calling for a constitutional amendment stating that if budget bills aren’t passed by July 1 funding levels will revert back to the present budget until a resolution is reached.

“I don’t know anybody who thinks this is a good way to run our government,” he said after a St. Paul news conference. “Over the last few weeks all of Minnesota has endured this government shutdown. This impasse hurt our economy. There were 22,000 workers that basically, for a short time, lost their jobs. Many Minnesotans were inconvenienced.

“Today we’re proposing legislation that forever prevents shutdowns.”

Also speaking at the news conference were two other freshmen senators, Sen. Ted Lillie, R-Eagan, and Sen. Ted Daley, Lake Elmo. They were offering similar legislation.

Gazelka said Lillie’s legislation would prevent shutdowns by statute, but choosing that course would require the governor’s signature on the legislation. The rural Brainerd lawmaker said Sen. Daley’s legislation called for funding the government at 90 percent of the present level.

Despite differences, Gazelka said the three of them were determined that a government shutdown never happen again. They agreed to co-sponsor each other’s bills.

Gazelka said Democratic Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon introduced similar legislation after a partial government shutdown in 2005. He said he didn’t know whether the governor or Democrats would lend support to the legislation.

“That’s my hope,” he said. “We haven’t had that conversation yet.”

While he said his legislation might take away some of the urgency to strike a deal it doesn’t take away the fiscal responsibility. He said a second reason that would encourage leaders to reach a settlement is the sentiment of the lawmakers.

“We don’t want to be down here all the time,” Gazelka said.

Gazelka said he expected committee hearings to be conducted on the proposed legislation between now and January.

MIKE O’ROURKE may be reached at or 855-5860.