Legislative Notebook: Permitting Bill Speeds Way To Dayton’s Desk

A bill to continue a process started last year to speed up business permits awaits Gov. Mark Dayton’s signature.

The House approved a measure 92-36 and the Senate 51-15 Thursday that sets a 150-day goal for state agencies such as the Department of Natural Resources and Pollution Control Agency to approve permits for business construction.

“This bill will again create jobs around our state,” Senate bill author Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, said.

Thursday’s bill follows one passed a year ago that started to speed permitting. The problem backers see is that long permit delays kill business expansion or delay hiring new workers.

Sen. John Marty, DFL-Roseville, complained that the bill starts the 150-day clock even if a business’ permit application is not complete. He also did not like a provision that he said will allow experts businesses hire to basically write the permits for businesses.

“The bill we passed today provides more options and different ways for project proposers to efficiently and effectively move applications through the permit process,” House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, said.

DFL bonding fails

House Republicans easily turned back a Democratic-Farmer-Laborite effort Thursday to pass a public works funding bill the size Gov. Mark Dayton wants.

The House rejected 71-59 a DFL plan to spend $775 million, financed by the state selling bonds. The House Republican plan would spend $280 million.

Democrats and Twin Cities lawmakers complain that the GOP plan has little to offer their districts.

The House probably will not vote on the bonding plan until next week, although it may consider a $221 million proposal to renovate the state Capitol building on Friday.

Senators are expected to debate their nearly $500 million bonding proposal Friday.

Contract needed

A bill Rep. Steve Drazkowski says limits “out-of-control, auto-pilot” state union contracts passed the House 68-63 Thursday.

It forbids the state from providing any pay or benefit increases after a contract expires and before a new contract is signed.

Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, said the state too often allows raises even after a contract expires.

A similar bill awaits Senate action.

Teacher bill a no-go

A Republican bill to allow school districts to base layoffs on factors other than seniority is a non-starter for Gov. Mark Dayton.

Dayton made the remarks Thursday as negotiators worked out slight differences between what the House and Senate already have passed.

Controlling crossings

Gov. Mark Dayton signed into a law Thursday a bill that requires all new school buses to have an arm that can extend from the front bumper.

The crossing control arm would extend when a bus is stopped. It is designed to prevent children from crossing in front of a school bus, a place where drivers often cannot see.

Rep. Larry Howes, R-Walker, authored the bill and as the Legislature neared adjournment last year he was upset that lawmakers were not taking up the bill. He said the delay could have killed children.

Most school buses in cities have the arms, but few in rural areas.

Howes said he knew of at least two deaths caused by bus drivers not seeing the children. A crossing control arm, he said, could have prevented the deaths.

Dayton also signed a bill that allows retired principals to temporarily fill in as a principal without the need to complete continuing education requirements.