Legislative Notebook: Leaders Join Cancer Study

Prettner Solon

By Don Davis and Danielle Nordine

Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon knows more about cancer than many Minnesotans after twice surviving breast cancer and dealing with her husband’s cancer death.

“We want to celebrate less cancer and more birthdays,” the Duluth resident said Wednesday in encouraging legislators and state workers to take part in a study to help determine the impact of lifestyle, environment and genetics on the disease.

Cancer “has stolen much from us,” she said.

The American Cancer Society announced it will conduct a 20-year or longer study with up to 300,000 people to learn more about the disease that half of Minnesota men and a third of Minnesota women contract.

Legislators have formed a cancer caucus to deal with issues related to the disease.

“Cancer is a nonpartisan issue,” said Chief Executive Officer Jari Johnston-Allen of the American Cancer Society Midwest Division.

People may learn how to take part in the study by visiting www.cancer.org/cps3.

Limit arts spending?

The amount spent on art in state buildings should be limited, according to Rep. Mary Franson, R-Alexandria.

Currently, an appropriation for construction or alterations of state buildings can include up to 1 percent for works of art.

Franson wrote a bill that would limit that to the smaller of 1 percent or $100,000. It passed through a House committee Wednesday on a divided voice vote.

“I believe $100,000 is a reasonable limit,” Franson said. “With our economic problems we have to ask ourselves what is a necessity and what is a nicety.”

Franson originally proposed a bill that would repeal the law, but has since changed it to the cap. Amendments approved Wednesday also would exclude the state Capitol from the spending limit, along with artistic features that would improve the safety of a building.

Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, who has worked on the issue in the past, said the law is reasonable as it is. She emphasized that using the funds for art is optional, not mandatory. The program also helps the arts community, she added.

Former Rep. Phil Krinkie testified in favor of the bill, saying the state should “allow the private sector to develop and fund the arts.”

Krinkie, president of the Taxpayers League of Minnesota, said he was in favor of the originally proposed repeal.

Sue Gens, director of the Minnesota State Arts Board, said the funds have been used in the past at locations including a rest area in Worthington, at state parks, the History Center and a number of colleges and veterans homes.

Franson’s bill now is headed to another House committee. There is no Senate companion to the bill.

Senators surprised

Republican senators who could vote either way on a proposed right to work constitutional amendment say they surprised that unions are targeting them in broadcast commercials.

“I think everybody needs to be a little bit flexible,” Sen. John Howe, R-Red Wing, said.

Howe and Sen. Joe Gimse, R-Willmar, are two of six senators that unions have targeted with broadcast commercials.

“They haven’t talked to me about it, so I find it quite surprising,” Gimse told Carolyn Lange of West Central Tribune.

Gimse makes no secret that he is not happy that the proposal could be put on the ballot Nov. 6, but is non-committal on how he would vote on the bill if it comes to the Senate floor.

Howe also will not say how he could vote on the bill, which would remove a state requirement that employees in unionized businesses either belong to the union or pay dues.

Chris Schields, communication director for the AFL-CIO, the focus on the six senators is because they could be swayed on the bill.

“I have an open mind on the issue,” Howe said, adding that he wants to talk to union members about the issue.

Exchanges supported

AARP Minnesota says a poll it conducted show broad support for state-run health insurance exchanges.

The survey showed 74 percent of Minnesotans like the concept, which would provide a place people could compare-shop for insurance coverage. If a state does not set up an exchange, federal law provides for the federal government to do the job.

“While there has been a great deal of debate in the Capitol over whether or not to move forward with the creation of an exchange, no one has actually asked consumers what they want,” said AARP State Director Michele Kimball. “AARP did just that and found that an overwhelming number of consumers not only want an exchange, but an exchange that provides better, more affordable options for consumers.”

The group formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons reported that the poll showed 83 percent said the governor and lawmakers should work to ensure health care access for all Minnesotans.

Krinkie, Franson