Legislative Notebook: Taxes, Bonding, Stadium Are Big 3


By Don Davis and Danielle Nordine

Monday will be the end of the 2012 Minnesota legislative session. Or not.

Three major issues are hanging fire as lawmakers look to leave for the year: tax changes, public works projects and a Vikings stadium. Otherwise, the House and Senate have wrapped up most of their work.

“We are continuing to run out of bills for the floor,” Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, told colleagues Thursday. “We will continue to look.”

Legislative leaders had planned to hold Saturday sessions, but Senjem said that may not be needed. The House likely will meet Saturday.

The House and Senate met for only a few hours each Thursday, much less than usual so near adjournment.

However, even with the free time, the big three bills may not be done by Monday.

Legislative leaders and Gov. Mark Dayton met twice Thursday, reaching no agreement on the three issues. In fact, leaders said they did not talk about a stadium, one of Dayton’s top priorities.

They did talk about a public works bill, financed by the state selling bonds, and about a bill that would provide some business property tax relief and improve tax credits for investors in businesses.

For a bonding bill, House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, said the talk is to lower the overall amount from nearly $500 million the Senate wants to $420 million, especially cutting a $221 million Capitol building renovation House proposal. Democrat Dayton wants $775 million in public works projects, and another $241 million for the Capitol.

Rep. Larry Howes, R-Walker, said he thinks there is a chance that most work could be completed by Monday, but then lawmakers would take a three-day break and return to work for a day. Another three-day break also could be needed to finish things, he said.

Howes’ idea is not the official line, but others agree that finishing by Monday could be tough.

A tax bill that apparently is stalling progress on a Vikings stadium plan is a GOP priority.

While Republicans want to phase out the statewide business property tax, Dayton has balked.

Zellers said the full phase out could be eliminated so other mostly minor tax changes could pass. The speaker said he still hopes there could be at least some business property tax relief.

Clinic bill vetoed

Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed a bill Thursday that would have mandated inspections for clinics that do at least 10 abortions a month.

Supporters had said the requirement would ensure safe conditions in such clinics.

But Dayton said in a letter explaining his veto “there is no evidence of poor quality or unsafe procedures being performed in Minnesota clinics.”

He said the bill targets abortion facilities.

“No clinic or procedure should be the focus of special or unique regulatory requirements,” he wrote.

Dayton also said clinics already are subject to oversight even though they do not have to be licensed.

Executive Director Scott Fischbach of Minnesotans Concerned for Life, an anti-abortion group, said: “Abortion is one of the most common medical procedures in Minnesota, and there is no way for women to know if they are going to be in a safe or clean facility.”

Dental lab OK’d

The Minnesota Senate voted 57-8 Thursday for a proposal that would require dental laboratories to register with the state.

The House also was expected to approve the measure.

Labs that make crowns, bridges, dentures and other dental pieces also would have to disclose the materials involved and where the products were made, in whole or in part, to dental offices.

Sen. John Howe, R-Red Wing, said, “This is a bill about safety and transparency.”

If there ever were a recall of products, the information required in the bill would help protect dentists and patients, he said.

Labs would pay $50 every two years for the registration.

Legacy passes

A bill mostly funding outdoors passed the Senate 61-4 Thursday.

The House was expected to pass it late Thursday.

The bill would fund nearly $100 million in outdoors- and environment-related projects.

“Not a whole lot has changed other than some juggling of dollars,” bill author Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, said of combining House and Senate versions.

The bill includes funding for fighting invasive aquatic species, such as Asian Carp. For example, a new $1.8 million research facility at the University of Minnesota is included in the proposal. It could take about three years to set up, Ingebrigtsen, but “the money is a good start” to get the project going.

Money for the projects comes from a sales tax increase Minnesotans approved in 2008. The funds go to outdoors and arts programs.