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Don Davis, Forum News Service, Published April 24 2012

Minnesota legislative notebook: Parties look to find wins in latest session

ST. PAUL – Minnesota legislators face a self-imposed Monday deadline to finish their 2012 work, but on Tuesday they were not sure how to get there.

The answer could come if Republicans and Democrats find a way both sides can claim victory at the end of the legislative session.

House Majority Leader Matt Dean, R-Dellwood, said Republicans need to show accomplishments on issues such as government reform and lowering the statewide business property tax. But he stopped short of saying if that does not happen the GOP would thwart Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton priorities, such as building a Vikings stadium and funding public works projects.

Neither chamber has debated a stadium or public works bill, and normally it would take several days to mesh such bills coming out of the House and Senate.

Republican-backed business tax cuts looked different when they left the House and Senate, leaving even that strong GOP issue in need of negotiations.

The House and Senate held relatively short sessions Tuesday, but are expected to meet on Saturday. If major bills can pass by then, weekend House-Senate conference committee meetings are likely to work out compromises.

Asked if it feels like the legislative session is wrapping up for the year, Dayton said: “It does, because of the intensity and pace.”

The Legislature does not have to adjourn Monday. The state Constitution allows it to meet until May 21.

Carp caught

Rep. Denny McNamara, R-Hastings, says an example of why money is needed to fight an Asian carp invasion was caught near his hometown of Hastings.

The latest Asian carp discovery came last week when a commercial fisherman caught a 30-pound bighead on the St. Croix River near where it flows into the Mississippi.

Other carp were caught last month to the south, near Winona.

House-Senate negotiators are beginning to discuss the issue as the legislative session nears an end. One of several measures being considered is an increase in fishing and hunting license fees, with some of the new money going to fight the carp.

The fear of natural resources experts is now that the carp have been found in Minnesota, there is little to prevent them from going north and spreading throughout the state.

Lester the soil

Lester is a vote away from becoming Minnesota’s official soil.

The soil covers 500,000 acres of Minnesota land, Rep. Paul Anderson, R-Starbuck, said as he argued Tuesday on behalf of an overall agriculture bill.

Lester is “very representative of both the agricultural and forest soils,” Anderson said before the House voted 111-20 for the bill. The Senate approved the bill 66-0, sending it to the governor.

Also in the bill is a three-year exemption for loggers, miners, railroads and vessels inspected by the Coast Guard from using biodiesel in their engines. Others must to use the diesel-biofuel blend.

However, Anderson said, the state agriculture commissioner must study whether biodiesel can be used in all Minnesota diesel engines.

Another provision keeps the current ethanol requirement to include 10 percent of the crop-based fuel in gasoline. The bill keeps a newer crop fuel, biobutanol, out of the ethanol blend but orders a study to see whether it should be included with ethanol in two years.

Clinic inspection wanted

Republican sponsors of a bill requiring inspection of abortion clinics have asked Dayton to sign their bill into law.

Sen. Claire Robling of Jordan and Rep. Mary Liz Holberg of Lakeville told Dayton in a letter that their bill does not limit access to abortions.

“It seeks to ensure that the same health and safety measures required of outpatient surgical centers are followed at abortion clinics,” the letter said.

The state does not inspect abortion clinics, although Robling and Holberg said it does regulate barber shops.

Under the bill, clinics doing at least 10 abortions a month would be inspected and licensed.

Dayton’s fireworks

Whether to allow more powerful fireworks, including those that shoot into the air, now is up to Dayton.

The governor said he has not decided if he will sign the bill into law.

The Senate on Tuesday approved changes made in the House 48-17, sending the bill to Dayton.

Under the bill, the more powerful fireworks could be sold June 1 to July 7 each year.


Danielle Nordine contributed to this report. Nordine and Don Davis report

for Forum Communications Co.