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Don Davis, Forum News Service, Published May 12 2012

Minnesota legislative issues: What passed, what failed

ST. PAUL – Here is a list of how some issues fared in the 2012 Minnesota Legislature.

• Bonding: Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton signed a public works bill, to be financed by selling bonds, of $496 million. It includes money to begin Capitol building renovation and repair state-owned buildings around Minnesota.

• Budget: After last year’s budget impasse and resulting government shutdown, little work was needed on the budget this year.

• Ethics: Senate Republicans faced one problem after another, including then-Majority Leader Amy Koch resigning after an affair with a Senate employee, a resulting new leadership team, an ethics charge about Sen. Geoff Michel’s handling of the Koch situation and whether former House Speaker Steve Sviggum had a conflict between his Senate GOP communications director job and serving as a University of Minnesota regent (he resigned the unpaid university position).

• Gambling: Legislators debated several gambling-related issues, mostly to fund a new Vikings football stadium. The eventual stadium funding plan allows electronic pull tabs and bingo. Allowing casinos at horse tracks and a White Earth Nation Twin Cities casino proposal failed.

• Labor: Some Republicans wanted a constitutional amendment to make union membership voluntary and allow workers in union shops to not be forced to pay union dues, but it never came up for a vote.

• Facebook passwords: There was no action on a proposal to forbid businesses from asking job applicants for Facebook or other social site passwords.

• Fireworks: Dayton vetoed a bill to allow more powerful fireworks, including those that shoot into the air.

• Gary Kubly: The long-time lawmaker died during the session, and Rep. Lyle Koenen, DFL-Clara City, was elected to replace him.

• Governing: Dayton and Republicans who control the Legislature occasionally got along, but not on most major issues. Dayton at one point called Senate Republicans “unfit to govern.”

• Guns: Dayton vetoed a bill that would have expanded Minnesotans’ right to use deadly force, such as guns or other weapons, if they felt they were in danger. He signed a law allowing county attorneys and assistants to carry guns. A constitutional amendment affirming the right to bear arms went nowhere.

• Jacob’s Law: The governor signed into law a bill named after Jacob Gould, a Clara City youth who was abused but his mother was not notified. The new law requires both parents to be told when a child is victim of neglect, physical abuse or sexual abuse outside of the home.

• Jobs: Dayton and legislative leaders went into the session calling for action to support new jobs. But Republicans and Dayton could not agree on proposals each other offered. Other than public works and stadium construction bills, few measures directly affected jobs.

• Pregnancy: A Positive Alternatives law expansion provides pregnant women with more options for medical attention, nutritional services, housing assistance, adoption services, education and employment assistance.

• Outdoors: Hunting and fishing license fees were raised to rebuild a game and fish account. A wolf hunting and trapping season was approved. Several bills included funds to fight invasive species, such as Asian carp.

• School payments: Everyone says they want to repay Minnesota school districts $2.4 billion the state has borrowed from them by delaying payments, but could not agree on a plan.

• Sex offenders: Sex offenders released from a state treatment program will be the subject of community notification. Legislators rushed the bill through the Legislature, and Dayton signed it, when they learned that while sex offenders being released to prison are subject to community notification laws, those who get out of a state treatment program are not.

• Shutdown: A few proposals passed to prevent specific programs from being affected by a government shutdown like occurred last year.

• Stadium: The last major action by the Legislature was to approve a

$975 million Vikings stadium, the largest state government construction project ever.

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Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.