Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.
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ST. PAUL - The focus of a bill funding outdoors, water and arts programs on Wednesday became whether it is best to put the proposal in the state Constitution or to simply pass a law. For seven hours the answer was split after a Senate committee decided it was wrong to budget in the Constitution while a House proposal favored a constitutional amendment.
ST. PAUL - A Minnesota Senate committee decided that one property tax relief measure - funded by an income tax increase - wasn't enough, so on Wednesday it voted for a second one. The Taxes Committee approved a House-passed proposal "in the event this session stalls, and we are not able to get an omnibus tax bill out," Committee Chairman Sen. Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said. The bill "is a safety valve" in case the broader tax bill stalls, Bakk said. It would increase income taxes on couples earning more than $400,000 annually to finance a bigger property tax refund program $223 million.
Minnesota lawmakers will have one more chance to pass a statewide smoking ban. House and Senate negotiators approved a strict smoking ban early Wednesday. The negotiators' conference committee decided to allow a few relatively minor exemptions to the ban and leaves decisions on outdoors smoking up to local governments. However, the bill - which cannot be further changed by lawmakers - does not permit smoking rooms in bars, a provision the House earlier approved.
ST. PAUL - Gov. Tim Pawlenty was in his office just five minutes Tuesday - and did not even take time to change clothes after touring a northeastern Minnesota forest fire - when he vetoed an $11 billion health bill. And he promised that more vetoes are coming as early as today, if the higher education funding bill reaches his desk.
House and Senate negotiators think they have a transportation funding bill the Legislature can pass, despite a threatened veto by Gov. Tim Pawlenty. They won't reveal what they plan to approve until today, but there were indications the bill could vote to increase the gasoline tax a nickel a gallon "It's going to be significant enough that we are in a good position for an override," Rep.
ST. PAUL - Gov. Tim Pawlenty did as he promised - vetoed two more of the state's major funding bills and pared down another. And the Republican governor said he is ready to wield his veto pen some more. However, he also signed a couple of bills. One funds public safety programs to the tune of $2 million.
Drivers will need to use approved child restraints for children younger than 8, new drivers would face new restrictions and more vehicles could be stopped if occupants don't wear seat belts under a bill senators preliminarily passed on a voice vote Monday. Conservative Republicans and some Iron Rangers tried and failed to strip the bill of some new requirements. Child restraints now are required for children 4 and younger. The bill written by Sen. Steve Murphy, DFL-Red Wing, requires children younger than 8 to be restrained. "It's excessive." Sen.
ST. PAUL - Gov. Tim Pawlenty plans to look over the expanding Ham Lake fire today, and offers to provide more state help if needed. The governor criticized "the knucklehead who started this" rapidly growing forest fire by leaving an unauthorized campfire. "It is increasing by the hour," Pawlenty said. He plans to fly by airplane to Grand Marais today, where he will transfer to a helicopter to look at the fire from the air. His 10:15 a.m. helicopter flight will be followed by an 11 a.m. meeting at Gunflint Fire Department Station 2.
A bill to allow some patients to use marijuana to ease pain is headed to the full House. A version already has passed the Senate, but Gov. Tim Pawlenty says he will veto the measure. Rep. Tom Huntley, DFL-Duluth, said he would expect about the same number of Minnesotans to make use of the law as in Colorado, where 200 to 400 patients use marijuana. Rep. Steve Sviggum, R-Kenyon, is a strong supporter of the measure, but questioned the Health Department estimating that 10 state employees would be needed to enforce the law.
Clean water supporters hailed legislation passed this week requiring electronics manufacturers to collect and recycle televisions and computer monitors. "This is a big victory for the residents of Minnesota and for the environment," said Sara Rummel, political coordinator for Clean Water Action Alliance of Minnesota. "We will now be able to easily recycle our old electronics." Manufacturers must collect 60 percent of the weight they produce under the bill, which Gov. Tim Pawlenty is expected to sign into law.