Legislative Notebook: Sunday Sales Fail

By Don Davis

Another year, another defeat for Sunday liquor sales.

The Minnesota House voted 106-21 Wednesday to retain state law forbidding Sunday liquor store hours. The issue arises regularly in the Legislature, always failing by a large amount.

The vote came on an amendment to a broader liquor bill that generally authorizes liquor sales at specific stadiums, bars and other local sites. The overall bill passed 103-24.

Most debate centered on the Sunday provision, which also would have allowed liquor store sales on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Eve.

“Minnesotans want this amendment,” said Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa. “Let’s vote on behalf of the people.”

Others, including Rep. Bob Barrett, R-Lindstrom, said because liquor stores essentially would be forced to be open seven days a week, consumers would absorb higher costs the stores would incur.

Drazkowski said three bridges in or near his district that go to Wisconsin provide routes for Minnesotans to buy liquor in stores there. He said up to 40 percent of Wisconsin border stores’ Sunday sales come from Minnesotans.

Author of the Sunday sales amendment, Rep. Tina Liebling, DFL-Rochester, said the state tells only car dealers and liquor store owners they must be closed on Sundays.

“We believe that competition is a good thing,” Liebling said. “That is what we do for most retail and most services.”

All have needs

Democratic House and Senate leaders sat down Wednesday with Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton, then the governor visited rank and file Democratic legislators as they look at how to end the legislative session by May 20.

“Like any negotiations, even negotiations back in your family, they work best when everybody gets a little something that they want, and I think that will be the final outcome of this session, too,” said Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook. “Both the House, the Senate and the governor will get the things that are really important to them, but there’s going to be serious reinvestment back into our educational system and property tax relief at the conclusion of this session.”

House-Senate conference committees began dealing with a variety of budget issues Wednesday, but decisions can’t be made until Dayton and legislative leaders agree on how much to spend in areas such as health care, public safety and education.

While the conference committees work to merge spending plans by the House, Senate and governor, legislators are expected to deal with nonbudget issues.

On Friday, the House is expected to debate a bill that would raise the state’s minimum wage. The bill then would head to the Senate, which has a smaller raise planned.

No vote on a bill allowing gay marriage is expected this week. There are questions about whether any bill to change gun laws will come in front of the full House and Senate.

A Senate committee on Wednesday discussed some public works projects, but it remained unclear whether senators will debate a so-called bonding bill this session.

Kriesel urges marriage vote

Former state Rep. John Kriesel, R-Cottage Grove, is featured on a television commercial supporting gay marriage.

The advertisement came out this week as the Minnesota Legislature apparently prepares to vote on overturning existing state law banning same-sex marriage. The Kriesel spot urges Minnesotans to contact their legislators and ask them to vote for the repeal.

“Like many Minnesotans, Rep. Kriesel’s personal experiences are what brought him to the conclusion that loving and committed same-sex couples deserve the freedom to marry,” said Richard Carlbom, Minnesotans United campaign manager. “In the next three weeks, the Minnesota Legislature has the historic opportunity to make Minnesota a more fair and free state by including same-sex couples and their families in marriage.”

‘Mind-numbing’ taxes

The president of the Minnesota Family Council calls Democratic-proposed tax increases “mind-numbing.”

“It’s incredible what is being proposed,” Tom Prichard said. “The tax increase proposals are the equivalent of a $1,400 to $2,000 tax increase on the family of four. While the proposals target higher income earners, these figures point out the immensity of the proposed tax increases.”

All three proposals call for raising about $2 billion in new taxes.

No sand mining ban

A bill regulating sand mining in southeastern Minnesota will not ban the activity from near trout streams when it reaches the full Senate.

While the issue still could arise during Senate debate on the bill, the Finance Committee turned down a proposal that would have kept sand mining away from trout streams. Republicans and Iron Range Democrats joined to defeat the plan in the committee.

Pot bill coming

A bill is to be introduced today allowing medical marijuana in Minnesota.

Rep. Carly Melin, DFL-Hibbing, and Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, are prime sponsors of the measure, which has co-sponsors from both parties.

Supporters say marijuana should be used to help seriously ill people ease pain or help treat their conditions.

Radon info required

The House passed a bill 79-47 Thursday that, among other things, requires real estate agents to provide information about radon to new homeowners.

At least a third of Minnesota homes have radon levels that put residents at risk, said Rep. Carolyn Laine, DFL-Columbia Heights. Radon can cause cancer.

Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, said he worries that government would make more home-selling requirements. He suggested next might be warnings about bats because they may carry rabies.

The bill also makes it a misdemeanor for body artists, such as those who apply tattoos, to practice without a license.