Legislative Notebook: Looking For Lottery Winners

A Minnesotan is a $1 million winner in a Powerball lottery game, but at 5 p.m. today will lose his or her ability to claim the prize.

Last week, a $100,000 lottery winner lost out, too. Last year, $9.4 million Minnesota Lottery winnings went unclaimed.

State Rep. Joe Atkins, D-Inver Grove Heights, said on Wednesday that he plans to introduce a bill that would help track down winners before the winnings are forfeited.

He said that his legislation would require the Minnesota Lottery to publicize the location where a winning ticket is sold when its value is at least $100,000. If a winning ticket is unclaimed for 10 months, the lottery would be required to review video security footage and other information from the store that sold the ticket in an effort to identify the winner.

“It breaks my heart to see a $1 million prize be forfeited to the state,” Atkins said. “Like the Minnesota Lottery ads say over and over, ‘This is an amount that could change someone’s life.’ But not if the winner never gets their money.”

Oil training suggested

Firefighters and other emergency personnel could be trained to deal with oil spills and fires by expanding an existing Lake Superior College program, state Sen. Roger Reinert, D-Duluth, said Wednesday.

He submitted a bill to spend $1.13 million to equip the college with simulators and otherwise expand the program to deal with rail and pipeline safety education.

“Lake Superior College already has an excellent fire response training program, and this money will help Minnesota first responders get the training they need to deal with this very specific, and highly dangerous, risk,” Reinert said. “Local responders are at their best when they can train with simulators that resemble specific hazards that may occur in the line of duty.”

The senator said 1,500 first responders a year could receive training under his proposal.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation last week announced that 326,170 Minnesotans live within a half mile of railroad tracks that carry oil trains, an area known as a “danger zone” that would be evacuated in case of a derailment.

Volkswagen plant invite renewed

Minnesota state officials sent a second invitation for Volkswagen to move a Tennessee plant to Minnesota.

State Sen. David Tomassoni, D-Chisholm, was joined by Rep. Carly Melin, D-Hibbing, Commissioner Katie Clark Sieben of the Department of Employment and Economic Development and Commissioner Mark Phillips of the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board. The letter reacts to a Tennessee lawmaker’s comments against unions while discussing VW’s plans to expand its American production.

“When I hear state lawmakers voicing serious concerns about a company that is bringing jobs to an area, simply because they do not like union labor, I feel the need to speak up,” Tomassoni said.

Tomassoni said that Minnesota “has proved itself as a great home for businesses, with a current unemployment rate of 3.7 percent, a budget surplus of $1.89 billion, and is home to 20 Fortune 500 companies.”

Nashville Public Radio last week reported: “Tennessee lawmakers look like they’re going to sign off on $180 million to subsidize Volkswagen’s expansion in Chattanooga. While they’re willing to write the check, they’re still taking shots at the automaker for its welcoming attitude toward unions.”

U worries about freeze

The University of Minnesota president says a House Republican budget proposal endangers extending a tuition freeze.

“Our top priority this (legislative) session has been tuition affordability for our students and their families,” President Eric Kaler said, “In order to accomplish that shared goal, we need strong partnership from the Legislature. Funding is limited, but I will continue to advocate strongly for University of Minnesota students and their families.”

House Republicans announced a budget outline on Tuesday, saying their higher education proposal could fund a tuition freeze at the U or the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, but not both.

Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton includes funds for both systems to keep tuitions static. Democrats who control the Senate plan to announce their budget outline Friday.

No Sunday sales

The Minnesota Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday approved a liquor bill that does not allow liquor stores to open on Sundays.

On what appeared to be a unanimous voice vote, the committee sent to the full Senate legislation that would allow beer growler refills to be sold on Sundays and for bloody Mary drinks to be sold at 8 a.m. Sundays, instead of the current 10 a.m. start time.
“Not everything that everyone wanted is in it,” Committee Chairman James Metzen, D-South St. Paul, said. “But it is a balanced bill.”

A bill written by Sen. Roger Reinert, D-Duluth, to allow liquor stores to open on Sundays was not discussed by Metzen’s committee. However, attempts are expected to amend the Sunday sales provision onto Metzen’s bill when it reaches the full Senate.