ST. PAUL-People who misrepresent dogs or other animals as trained service animals soon may violate state law.
Minnesota senators Thursday, April 19, unanimously approved legislation making such misrepresentation a crime.
Some well-publicized instances of people wrongly claiming animals like parrots and kangaroos were service animals brought public attention to the issue.
Sen. Justin Eichorn, R-Grand Rapids, said such incidents may get laughs, but the issue is serious to those with disabilities. He has brought to committee hearings people who say fake service animals can disrupt businesses and some have reported their legitimate service animals have been injured by animals who have not been trained.
"People may think that they're doing no harm when they pretend that their dog a service animal," Eichorn said. "The reality of the issue is that their actions carry real consequences. When people misrepresent their animals, they damage the reputation and acceptance of valid service animals, diminishing people with disabilities who truly need these animals to assist them."
Misrepresenting a service dog can result in a $100 fine under his bill.
"I think it is going to be a deterrent for people who takes their pets places that are inappropriate," Sen. Ann Rest, D-New Hope, said.
Sen. Torrey Westrom, R-Elbow Lake, said people with disabilities use service animals, such as dogs, so they "can truly live independent, function better, raise their families better."
He added: "We need to do what we can to help people with disabilities to live a normal life."
The House passed a nearly identical bill, and is expected to pass the Senate measure soon.
Gov. Mark Dayton said he needs to read the bill before knowing if he can sign it. The governor said he is concerned how people can differentiate between properly trained service dogs and fake ones.
The service animal bill was among measures senators passed without dissent Thursday, including one that would allow people with motorcycle learning permits to use interstate highways, which now is illegal. Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake, said it makes sense to allow them on interstates because they are safer than other roads.
Also passing the Senate was a measure giving diesel fuel dealers more time to transition from winter fuel to summer fuel. Soybean-based biodiesel is blended into regular diesel fuel, but at lower levels in winter than in summer.
Registrars money OK'd
The Minnesota House voted 123-1 Thursday to send $9 million to deputy registrars around the state who are losing money because of problem-filled state computer software.
Bill sponsor Rep. Dave Baker, R-Willmar, said the measure is the first step in helping the private registrar businesses recover from issues created by vehicle license, title and registration software known as MNLARS. Since the software launched in July, Minnesotans have experienced lengthy delays in getting vehicle services.
Deputy registrars would receive money based on transactions in each office. Willmar's office, for instance, would get $86,000. Annual $9 million payments tentatively are penciled in, but that decision would have to be made next year..
Funds will be split among 174 offices, which employ 3,200 people.
"It's no fault of their own that MNLARS is causing delays, slow processing times and a need to staff for overtime work," Baker said.
Baker said the money will be sent to deputy registrars as soon as possible.
House Transportation Chairman Paul Torkelson, R-Hanska, said the entire deputy registrar funding system needs to be examined. The Public Safety Department keeps putting more work on the offices, he said.
The bill now heads to the Senate.
Administration fights cuts
Dayton administration commissioners say a state government finance bill could be vetoed.
Legislation that funds a variety of state government functions from most state agencies to constitutional officers is headed for the House Ways and Means Committee.
Human Rights Commissioner Kevin Lindsey was among key Dayton aides who warned of a veto over policy Dayton does not want and lack of funding.
The bill includes $26 million to fund the state portion to build veterans' homes in Bemidji, Preston and Montevideo. Money would come from a U.S. Bank Stadium reserve fund.
The House jobs committee legislation spent the entire $15 million it received on expanding rural Minnesota's broadband internet service.
Legislators last year passed a two-year budget, complete with broadband funding, but they have $329 million in surplus funds available this year. House leaders allowed the jobs committee $15 milion of the surplus.
"This is not a budget year and yet, with a little bit of surplus money that we had, this committee was given $15 million of new money and the entirety of that money is allocated to Border-to-Border Broadband," Rep. Sandy Layman,. R-Cohasset, said.
That is half of what Dayton wanted.