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A to Z: What Minnesota legislators did in 2009

ST. PAUL -- Minnesota lawmakers ended their work for the year Monday. Some bills were signed into law, others await action by Gov. Tim Pawlenty and those that did not make the cut this year could be considered in the 2010 legislative session.

ST. PAUL -- Minnesota lawmakers ended their work for the year Monday. Some bills were signed into law, others await action by Gov. Tim Pawlenty and those that did not make the cut this year could be considered in the 2010 legislative session.

Here is how issues fared during the 2009 legislative session:

- Anderson highway: A stretch of Highway 53 in far northern Minnesota will be named after the late House Speaker Irv Anderson of International Falls, who died last November.

- Anti-bullying: Lawmakers passed a bill requiring schools to establish an anti-bullying policy. It awaits action by Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

- Bisphenol-A: The state is banning the sale of children's products containing a plastic chemical that can be harmful to humans.


- Booster seats: A new law requires that children up to 8 years old and 4-foot-9 tall use a proper vehicle safety restraint, such as a booster seat. Current law requires such restraints for children younger than 4.

- Bovine tuberculosis: Lawmakers learned this year there was little they needed to do to fight tuberculosis in cattle herds, after intensive state and federal efforts in 2008 succeeded.

- Brandon's law: A new law requires law enforcement agencies to take reports about missing young adults and launch searches quicker than under the old law. The law is named after Brandon Swanson, a missing young adult.

- Budget: The Legislature and Gov. Tim Pawlenty failed to reach agreement on a two-year state budget -- the main job of the session -- so Pawlenty will unilaterally cut spending by $2.7 billion.

- Clean-car standard: An effort to require tougher vehicle emission standards in Minnesota faltered.

- Commissioners: Senate Democratic leaders said Pawlenty administration Commissioners Steve Sviggum and Dan McElroy would not survive confirmation votes, but those votes were not taken.

- Courts funding: Pawlenty signed a public safety funding bill that cuts money for court functions and raises court fees. Top court officials were unusually vocal this year in warning of the effects of budget cuts to their area.

- Dedicated outdoors funding: Lawmakers passed a package of outdoors, parks and arts projects totaling $397 million over two years. Pawlenty said he must review the package before deciding whether to sign it.


- Drunken driving: A statewide pilot project for drunken driving offenders will use a device to test their blood-alcohol level before they can operate a motor vehicle.

- Education funding: After Pawlenty, the House and Senate offered differing education funding plans, schools likely will see flat state aid over the next two years but some delayed payments.

- Elections: Lawmakers propose changing some absentee voting provisions, following ballot problems exposed in the 2008 U.S. Senate race. Pawlenty has not said whether he will sign the bill.

- Environment: It was a mixed year for environmental programs. General state funding was reduced, but for the first time dedicated sales tax revenue could bolster some environmental programs.

- Ethanol: Some payments to corn-based ethanol producers were delayed, totaling $6 million, to help balance the state budget.

- Flood funding: Flood-damaged communities, mainly in the Red River Valley, will benefit from $71 for flood relief and flood-prevention projects. The funding was part of a public works borrowing package.

- Green acres: Lawmakers fixed the Green Acres program after a 2008 change made it tougher for farmers to keep lower property tax rates and caused some to consider selling land for non-farm use.

- Health-care programs: A budget bill Pawlenty signed into law protected state-subsidized health insurance programs for low-income Minnesotans, but a Pawlenty veto stripped health-care funding in 2011 for 30,000 of the poorest Minnesotans. More health-care spending cuts are expected.


- Higher education funding: Federal funding helped soften budget cuts to the University of Minnesota and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities systems, but officials say student tuition will increase over the next two years.

- Income taxes: Democrats in the House and Senate offered competing income tax increases as a way to balance the state budget. Pawlenty opposed them. The DFL twice sent to Pawlenty income tax hikes on wealthy Minnesotans, which he rejected.

- Indian language: Lawmakers propose using sales tax revenue dedicated to cultural programs to fund Ojibwe (Chippewa) and Dakota (Sioux) language preservation programs. The funding is part of a bill sent to Pawlenty's desk.

- Interstate 35W victims: The state used a $36 million compensation fund to settle claims with 179 victims and survivors of the deadly 2007 Minneapolis bridge collapse.

- Little trucks: Trucks about half the size of normal ones would be allowed on county roads under a bill lawmakers approved. The trucks often are used in farm operations.

- Medical marijuana: On the session's final day, lawmakers passed a bill allowing terminally ill patients to use medical marijuana for pain relief. Pawlenty promises a veto.

- Memorial highways: Lawmakers approved a bill that names highways in Mahnomen, Becker and Clearwater County as "Veterans Memorial" highways.

- Mobile phones: A new law protects mobile phone owners from charges incurred after a phone is stolen.


- Nuclear energy: The Legislature considered removing the state's ban on new nuclear energy plants, but ultimately voted to retain the 15-year-old moratorium.

- Nursing homes: A health bill Pawlenty signed into law does not make direct funding cuts to nursing homes, but delays increases some facilities anticipated.

- Override: House Democrats unsuccessfully attempted to override Pawlenty vetoes of spending cuts for a health-care program for the poorest Minnesotans and of a $1 billion tax bill.

- Photo ID: An effort by Republicans to require that voters provide photo identification at the polls failed.

- Property taxes: No major property tax package passed the Legislature. Democratic lawmakers and local government officials say property taxes will increase as Pawlenty unilaterally cuts state spending, including to cities and counties.

- Public works projects: The Legislature passed a $361 million public works package, but Pawlenty cut $85 million in projects to reduce the bill's size. Projects to be paid for with state-borrowed funds include higher education building repairs and airport upgrades.

- Seat belts: Pawlenty says he supports a bill lawmakers sent to him that allows law enforcement officers to stop a motorist for a seat belt violation. Current law mandates seat belt use, but a motorist cannot be stopped for the violation.

- Shaken baby syndrome: A new law expands shaken baby syndrome training requirements for people who work with children.


- Taxes: Democrats said tax increases should be part of the budget-balancing solution, and proposed raising income, alcohol, interest and other taxes. Pawlenty insisted that no state taxes would be raised to balance the budget.

- Tickets: A new law prohibits event ticket brokers from diverting tickets to another seller charging a higher rate.

- Unemployment: Lawmakers extended unemployment benefits to Minnesotans who exhausted their state assistance but did not qualify for federal aid.

- Veterans' cemeteries: Pawlenty's plan to build a new veterans cemetery at a state park south of Duluth fell apart, but he and lawmakers agreed to fund efforts to find sites for new state veterans' cemeteries in northeastern and southwestern Minnesota.

- Vietnam veterans: A new law makes June 13, 2009 "Honoring All Vietnam Era Veterans Day in Minnesota."

- Unusual: Pawlenty vetoed a bill requiring that stores selling cocoa bean mulch post a note warning that the mulch is dangerous to pets. He called it "an example of legislative overreach."

Wente writes for Forum Communications Co., which owns the Herald.

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