Capitol notebook: Rare disease may get awareness week

Reps. Downey, Garofalo

A bill written to raise awareness of a rare disease that killed a southwest Minnesota boy is headed to the governor.

On the last day of the Legislature’s regular session, the Minnesota House voted 129-1 Monday in favor of creating Mitochondrial Disease Awareness Week in the third full week of September each year. The Senate already passed the bill.

“This can affect anybody at any time,” Rep. Rod Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake, said before the House vote.

Hamilton brought the bill up after the death of 1-year-old Leo, son of Andrew Nesseth and Lindsay Chapman of Jackson County. The boy died of the rare genetic disorder.

Mitochondria creates much of the energy a body needs, and diseases that affect it often are fatal. While mitochondrial disease usually impacts children, adults also can be affected.

Hamilton said tens of thousands of children have the disease.

Cheeseburger bill passes

The Legislature says Minnesotans can eat all the cheeseburgers they want, they just can’t sue because those greasy creations made them fat.

Senators passed the measure 34-31 late Sunday, days after the House voted in favor of it 76-56.

Officially known as the Personal Responsibility in Food Consumption Act, the bill now heads to the governor’s office for his signature or veto.

This is the first time in seven tries that Rep. Dean Urdahl’s bill has passed the Legislature. The Grove City Republican’s proposal does not allow lawsuits to be filed against companies by people who claim food or nonalcoholic drinks made them gain weight.

Invasive fight

Lawmakers have sent the governor a bill including provisions to fight invasive aquatic species such as Asian carp and zebra mussels.

The House passed the bill 82-49 Monday over objections of Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, and others who called the bill heavy handed on people like boaters. The bill requires boaters to clean their boats so invasive species cannot be moved from one body of water to another.

“This is the one step forward, four steps backward bill,” Rep. Jean Wagenius, DFL-Minneapolis, said.

DFLers fight redistricting

Democratic-Farmer-Laborites have asked federal and state courts to join a lawsuit about Minnesota’s redrawing of political district lines.

Sixteen DFLers from around the state, including Chairman Ken Martin, want to be part of existing lawsuits following last week’s Gov. Mark Dayton veto of Republican-written legislative and congressional redistricting maps.

“To gain partisan advantage, the Republican majorities did everything they could to avoid public comment and compromise, and pushed through biased and illogical maps,” said DFL Chair Martin. “Gov. Dayton rightly vetoed the gerrymandered maps that the Republicans steamrolled through the legislature. Now the focus shifts to the courts. We’ve retained a strong, experienced legal team to seek fair districts for the next decade of Minnesota elections.”

Among lawyers who will represent Democrats is Mac Elias, who became a familiar face working for 2008 Senate candidate Al Franken and 2010 Democrat governor candidate Mark Dayton in their recount battles.

Next year set

The Minnesota Legislature will have to return to work at some point, probably this summer, but has set its next regular session to begin on noon Jan. 24, 2012.

Legislative leaders say they plan to adjourn next year by April 4.

Earlier, the plan was not to convene until March.

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