Legislative notebook: Talks go on, but no agreements

House Speaker Zellers

Minnesota legislative leaders met off and on Friday with Gov. Mark Dayton’s staff, with no agreement on major issues left before a self-imposed Monday adjournment deadline.

Little changed from Thursday to Friday, with three major issues left unresolved. Dayton did not meet with leaders.

House Majority Leader Matt Dean, R-Dellwood, said Friday night there has been “some movement,” but no one could point to major progress that Republican say is needed on a tax bill before other issues fall into place.

Dean said work is centered on agreements between Republicans who control the Legislature and Democrat Dayton: “We need things that the governor can sign.”

House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, said: “I think we are making very small progress.”

Republicans put as their top priority tax cuts for businesses. The GOP plan to phase out the statewide business property tax is not acceptable to Dayton, but Republicans still want some business tax relief.

The other two major issues, building a Vikings stadium and funding public works projects, are top Dayton issues.

Legislative leaders want to adjourn for the year on Monday. The House and Senate may only meet eight more days under a constitutional provision, although those days could be spread from now until May 21.

Dean said Monday still is the adjournment deadline, but appeared to leave the door open to continue after that: “Due dates are important because they inspire work. … We would like to wrap up Monday.”

Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, said Friday the Vikings stadium funding bill he authored would be tough to merge with a Senate bill by Monday because there are so many differences.

Thissen agreed that “it is getting harder and harder for them to finish on Monday.”

Still, Dean said it is possible to end Monday because “there are very few moving parts.”

The House plans to meet beginning at 3 p.m. Saturday in the hopes that tax and other issues can be resolved earlier in the day and then debated by the full House. Dean said that while Republican leaders do not want to meet Sunday, that is a possibility.

Most legislators planned to be in the Capitol Saturday, along with Vikings stadium supporters and a long-scheduled anti-tax rally, where most of those attending probably oppose stadium bills lawmakers are considering.

Synthetic drugs expanded

More chemicals will be considered synthetic drugs under a bill Gov. Mark Dayton signed into law Friday.

It also increases penalties for people who sell them.

“In a session where we haven’t been able to accomplish a lot, I’m proud we were able to get this bill signed into law,” said Sen. Roger Reinert, DFL-Duluth.

If found guilty of selling synthetic drugs, sentences could be given of up to five years and fines of up to $10,000.

Also, the state Board of Pharmacy will update the list of synthetic drugs to keep up with new ones that keep coming out.

“This law was proposed in response to the horrible effects these chemicals have on communities across the state,” Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, said. “As this legislation becomes law, we close the loopholes drug dealers have found that allow them to legally sell these mind-altering drugs in Minnesota’s Main Street businesses.”

Violations not listed

The Minnesota House approved a transportation bill late Thursday that had been awaiting a vote since last year.

The bill, approved 121-8, includes a provision keeping speed limit violations off drivers’ records if they are driving 10 mph or less over the limit in a 60 mph zone. Currently, violations are not listed on a driving record if the speed is less than 10 mph over in a 55 mph zone or 5 mph in a 60.

Rep. Frank Hornstein, DFL-Minneapolis, said he was concerned the change “decreases the consequences of speeding.”

The bill also allows those under age 18 to take the classroom portion of driver’s education online through a Department of Public Safety-approved program.

The House voted 89-38 on this year’s overall transportation bill. The bill was amended to only require license plates on the back of vehicles.

It also allows for some construction projects to continue during a state government shutdown.

Dayton vetoes

The governor vetoed a bill that would have banned giving raises to public employees after a contract ends.

Current law allows negotiators for the two sides to deliver raises even if there is no new contract, but Gov. Mark Dayton Friday called that a unilateral change to labor agreements.

In a letter to lawmakers, Dayton said that state officials could treat employees differently under the bill.

Time conflicts

House members will meet Saturday, but it would not be easy for everyone.

Rep. Bruce Vogel, R-Willmar, headed out of the Capitol Friday afternoon so he could attend his son’s Saturday wedding in Redwood Falls, Minn.

“I hope to be back,” he said.

Beer OK

University of Minnesota football fans will be able to drink alcohol at home games, if the university Board of Regents approves.

Gov. Mark Dayton signed a bill that includes a provision to allow beer sales in suites and in a beer garden. Estimates show the university could get up to $2 million more a year.

Military pay OK’d

Teachers serving in the military will be paid full salaries under a bill signed Friday by Gov. Mark Dayton.

Under current law, districts reduce teacher pay in order to save money for substitute teachers. But the new law requires full pay.

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