Legislative Notebook: Both Parties Look For Legislative Wins

DNR's Tim Ohmann holds Asian carp

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 staying that if they do not happen the GOP would thwart Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton priorities such as building a Vikings stadium and funding public works projects.

House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maplewood, and Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, met with Dayton Tuesday afternoon. Then Zellers went behind closed doors to meet with fellow House Republicans.

With a potential of five days for the full House and Senate to meet, assuming they would not gather on Sunday, time is running out on complex issues.

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 Minnesota.

“This latest discovery, the third in the last year, underscores the urgency surrounding Asian carp,” DNR’s Steve Hirsch said. “These invaders have huge potential to wreak havoc on Minnesota’s fisheries and aquatic ecosystems, so we need to do everything we can to stop them from spreading, and we need to do it now.”

Care pay improved

The House wants to reverse a 20 percent personal care attendant wage cut enacted last year as part of a budget-balancing act.

The House passed the overall health and human services bill 128-2, with the Senate expected to agree.

“It took last year’s work and took up a few loose ends,” Rep. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, said.

One of the problems most mentioned after last year’s budget cuts was personal care attendant cuts. Attendants who care for homebound Minnesotans will see their pay on par with what they were receiving before the budget cuts.

Also, the bill requires a study to look into personal care attendant services.

Rep.  Bruce Vogel, R-Willmar, said the bill save about 40 jobs at Willmar Intensive Rehabilitation Treatment facility. The bill keeps operations going for another year.

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.

No contract, no raise

Government workers could not receive raises after contracts expire under a bill the House repassed 68-63 Monday, with senators later agreeing on a 37-30 vote.

The bill came from negotiators who reconciled differences between earlier bills the House and Senate passed. Gov. Mark Dayton might not sign it when it reaches his desk.

Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, said the action is needed to stop automatic raises.

But some Democrats objected.

“You are going to see communities torn apart, especially small rural communities where everyone knows everyone,” Rep. Tom Anzelc, DFL-Balsam Township, said.

Clinic inspection wanted

Republican sponsors of a bill requiring inspection of abortion clinics ask Democratic Gov. Mark 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 Gov. Mark Dayton.

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

The Senate 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.