Capitol roundup: Bill would slash number of lawmakers
ST. PAUL -- A new bill, introduced Monday after most legislative deadlines passed, would reduce the number of lawmakers serving Minnesotans and, thus, eliminate the need to build a new Senate office building.
Rep. Bob Barrett, R-Lindstrom, would reduce the number of House members from 134 to 65 and senators from 67 to 32.
“Minnesota has more state senators than any other state in the entire country,” Barrett said. “Building a new $90 million Senate office building because we have too many is foolish."
Minnesota has the fifth largest legislature in the country.
Legislators last year approved spending $63 million on a new Senate building and Gov. Mark Dayton signed it. However, it still needs to be approved by the House rules committee, but its members are hesitant.
“We live in an era where technology allows faster and more efficient communications between legislators and the public than ever before,” Barrett said. “Larger districts will not have an impact on constituent services."
More money for health
ST. PAUL -- Home health care workers would receive a nearly 7.7 percent raise under a measure the Minnesota House Ways and Means Committee heard Monday.
Committee members approved increasing health and human services spending from $75 million to $91 million this year, modifying what already was in a two-year budget that passed last year.
Caregivers' wages have not risen in years, and the 2011 Legislature cut pay as a way to help balance the state budget.
Monday's home care action comes as the Ways and Means Committee continues to hear budget plans for each part of the state budget. The Senate Finance Committee plans to do the same throughout this week.
The Legislature is combining tax relief measures, increasing the state budget reserve and bumping up spending after February news of a $1.2 billion surplus.
Final House and Senate budget votes are expected late this week.
State wants ice reports
ST. PAUL -- As parts of Minnesota are thawing, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is asking residents to document when ice disappears from lakes.
Lake ice-off data is used by the agency and Department of Natural Resources to track climate trends and their effects on lakes and wildlife.
All ice-off dates and questions may be emailed directly to firstname.lastname@example.org.