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.
- Member for
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ST. PAUL -- Minnesota voters send 201 lawmakers to St. Paul, expecting each to have a voice in how their tax money is spent, and whether to enact laws affecting them. But the spotlight now shines on about half of them, with a far brighter spotlight pointed at two lawmakers and the governor. Welcome to conference committee season in the Minnesota Legislature, a time when on the surface it appears a few lawmakers make decisions about how to spend what could be $35 billion over the next two years. It is a mysterious, controversial and often maligned process that few Minnesotans understand.
The DFL-led Senate showed support Wednesday for a measure outlining the University of Minnesota's ability to use state funding for human embryonic and adult stem cell research. The bill drew preliminary approval from 36 senators, who said stem cell research is a critical tool for the university. Twenty-six senators, mostly Republicans, voted no. "Not everything should be sacrificed on the altar of research," Sen. David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, said. Republican Gov.
House Republicans failed 83-51 Wednesday in an attempt to pass Gov. Tim Pawlenty's tax proposals. The debate set up a long one for Friday, when the full House is expected to approve raising income taxes on the richest Minnesotans to provide property tax relief. Pawlenty frequently has said he will veto a bill raising income taxes. Democrats claim his proposals would force up local property taxes. "Do you want to vote for huge property tax increases today or do you want to wait until Friday to vote for significant property tax cuts?" asked Rep.
Minnesotans with urgent needs for a restroom would be allowed to use businesses' private facilities under a Senate-passed bill. Senators gave 52-10 preliminary approval to the "restroom access act," requiring businesses to make their restrooms available to patients of Crohn's disease, colitis, other bowel problems and medical conditions requiring immediate access to a restroom facility. A similar bill awaits a House committee vote. The bill would prevent "embarrassing accidents," bill author Sen.
ST. PAUL - A plan dedicating funding to outdoors and arts programs came to a screeching halt in a Minnesota Senate committee Tuesday while it got a start in the House. The mixed message left in question the future of the bill amending the state Constitution to raise the sales tax state sales tax 0.375 percent for outdoors, clean-water and arts programs.
ST. PAUL - House Democrats support retaining Minnesota's main rural economic development program and even would start a similar one aimed at farmers. A Democratic-Farmer-Laborite proposal keeps the Job Opportunity Building Zones mostly intact, except for a provision designed to stop businesses from moving from one Minnesota community to another. Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty wanted to extend JOBZ, which gives expanding and new rural businesses a variety of tax breaks. Senators voted to kill the program. The House bill introduces a new program, FARMZ, that Rep.
ST. PAUL - Nuclear power plants either are the answer to the country's power and environmental problems or they create worse problems. That is the range of opinions Minnesota legislators face as they consider whether to alter state laws dealing with nuclear plants. While a Senate committee held meetings on the matter this week and the House energy chairman promises hearings before lawmakers adjourn on May 21, it is not clear whether anything actually will happen this year. Sen. Steve Murphy, DFL-Red Wing, has two bills that would lift a Minnesota moratorium on building new nuclear plants.
ST. PAUL - The Taxpayers League of Minnesota plans to spend tens of millions of dollars to tell Minnesotans that Democrats want to raise taxes. "Hopefully, the ad campaign will generate hundreds of calls and e-mails to legislators about their liberal tax and spend agenda," league President Phil Krinkie said. The league's "Liberalism 101" campaign with billboards, newspaper and other types of advertising follows a fund-raising effort by Republican Gov.
Minnesota shoppers who buy some gift cards would be protected under a bill passed Wednesday in the Senate. The bill, authored by Sen. Katie Sieben, DFL-Cottage Grove, eliminates expiration dates and service fees on gift cards not issued by federal banks. "I urge the governor to listen to Minnesota consumers and sign this legislation into law when it reaches his desk," Sieben said of the bill, which passed 43-16 in the Senate. A similar bill awaits a floor vote in the House.