Legislative notebook: House sets off bigger fireworks, too

The House joined the Senate Monday in wanting to allow more powerful fireworks in Minnesota.

However, unless the Senate accepts House changes, negotiators need to work out differences.

Newly legal fireworks would include bottle rockets and other aerial displays.

One of the changes Rep. John Kriesel, R-Cottage Grove, made in his bill was to limit sale of the more powerful fireworks to June 1 to July 7.

The House approved Kriesel’s bill 77-50 after a vigorous debate about how much supervision the government should provide fireworks users.

“This namby-pamby nanny state attitude has to stop,” Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, said. “It already is happening. Let’s make sure we don’t turn citizens into criminals.”

However, Rep. Mary Murphy, DFL-Hermantown, said fireworks hurt Minnesotans.

“I know we can’t bubble-wrap the world,” Murphy said, but people can have fun without fireworks.

Rep. Joe Atkins, DFL-Inver Grove Heights, offered and later withdrew an amendment that would have banned people under the influence of drugs or alcohol from shooting off fireworks or supervising children using fireworks.

“This is one crazy idea,” Rep. Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia, said. “You have come up with some whackos, but this takes a cake.”

Atkins said a pound of fireworks is too much for many people to handle.

“If you vote ‘no,’ you are supporting drunk people supervising kids shooting off fireworks,” he said.

Republicans did not like the idea of restricting Minnesotans.

Rep. Torrey Westrom, R-Elbow Lake, said the Atkins’ proposal is really read: “Thou shall have no fun in Minnesota.”

Lawmakers still immune

It appears Minnesota lawmakers will keep their legal protection against drunken driving charges during legislative sessions.

Concordia University St. Paul students say they will not receive a full House vote on their proposal to drop the immunity.

The students, who have lobbied hard for the bill, call it “No Boozin’ and Cruzin’.”

In a news release, the students say they are not happy that the House is ignoring their bill: “As political science students, we find this downright appalling and outrageous and like you, we couldn’t believe it. So, we rolled up our sleeves and went to work to find the legislative intent and current problem that allows for this dangerous and irresponsible behavior.”

The students have turned their crusade into a class lesson.

The state Constitution gives legislators some immunity from arrest during legislative sessions. When a lawmaker is elected, he receives what many call a “get out of jail free” card that explains the provision.

June vote delayed

Senators voted 35-30 to send back to negotiators a proposal to move up the primary election to June.

“This is not time for slick … backroom deals,” Sen. Ray Vandeveer, R-Forest Lake, said.

Sen. Roger Chamberlain, R-Lino Lakes, said that the House-Senate conference committee of which he was co-chairman did not meet and did not hear from the public about whether moving the primary is a good deal.

The House amended an elections bill to move the primary from August to June, but the Senate has not discussed the issue this year.

Other Vikings ideas

Most of the discussion about a new Vikings stadium Monday came during an attempt to add stadium construction language to another bill, but other lawmakers had ideas, too.

Rep. Andrew Falk, DFL-Murdock, introduced a proposal establishing public ownership of the team.

Falk’s bill would form a nonprofit corporation to run the team, with a 45-member executive committee appointed by the committee. Money to buy the team would come from stock sold to the public.

Also, Rep. Nora Slawik, DFL-Maplewood, introduced a bill that would funnel money not needed for a stadium to an early-childhood scholarship program.

“This bill wouldn’t imperil a new stadium; it would simply take any revenue generated that is above and beyond what is needed for the stadium and put it into early childhood scholarships,” Slawik said. “That is a very worthy cause.”

The Falk and Slawik bills face long odds.

U beer OK’d

The House passed a bill allowing beer to be sold at University of Minnesota’s football stadium 115-13, sending the measure to Gov. Mark Dayton.

The governor is expected to sign it.

“After all the disagreements, we’ve finally managed to get a bipartisan compromise that both the university and the Legislature can get behind,” Rep. Joe Atkins, DFL-Inver Grove Heights, said.

The compromise would allow beer to be sold in suites as well to the general public in a beer-garden area.

University officials say they could get up to $2 million more if Dayton signs the bill into law.

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