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Lawmakers' work to pick up

ST. PAUL - Minnesota legislators may need to cancel some evening appointments - work is beginning to ratchet up now that they know how much they should have to spend for the next two years.

ST. PAUL - Minnesota legislators may need to cancel some evening appointments - work is beginning to ratchet up now that they know how much they should have to spend for the next two years.

House leaders promise more night committee meetings in order to meet deadlines coming up later this month. Senators, meanwhile, may need to meet on the floor three days a week instead of two. And Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller, DFL-Minneapolis, warned that Saturday sessions soon will be on the agenda.

With last week's state budget forecast out of the way - it showed that lawmakers have about the same amount to spend that they expected back in November - serious decisions can be made. Money committees soon can pass budget bills.

On Tuesday, the Senate Health and Human Services Budget Division will consider a bill funding a wide variety of health programs that spend a third of the state's budget.

The full Senate on Monday is to consider a bill restricting bullying over the Internet and one forbidding youths from getting body parts pierced without parental approval. The House plans to spend most of its time in committees next week.


Regent Johnson?

Some legislators believe their colleagues won't forget former Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson on Thursday when they select new University of Minnesota regents.

A joint session of the House and Senate is expected Thursday night to pick four regents, the university's governing body.

Johnson, a Willmar Democrat, is seeking an at-large post. A legislative advisory panel advanced three of Gov. Tim Pawlenty's four picks without recommendation, spurring speculation Johnson's name will resurface.

Assistant Senate Majority Leader Tarryl Clark, DFL-St. Cloud, said Pawlenty's regent selections will be considered, but she declined to say whether they will be approved or if Johnson could get the nod.

"It could be interesting," she said of the decision.

Given that Johnson just finished 28 years in the Legislature, it's too early for him to be selected a regent, Senate Minority Leader David Senjem said.

Senjem, R-Rochester, said GOP lawmakers are concerned the selection process is being politicized. With Democrats controlling the House and Senate, Johnson has a good chance of being selected, Senjem said.


"I expect him to be confirmed," he said.

Rules approvedThat's 10 hours state representatives will never get back.

The House spent that much time, over two days, debating their internal rules. Democrats rejected dozens of amendments Republicans proposed before the House approved the rules 85-42.

Many of the amendments still may be considered by the House Rules Committee.

Lawmakers decided the full House did not need to vote on per-day payments they receive on top of their salaries. They also kept housing expense checks coming to rural lawmakers, despite attempts from some in the Twin Cities to cut them.

"Reasonable people realize we need to be reimbursed for what we do," said Rep. Al Juhnke, DFL-Willmar.

Duluth aid passesSenators approved a bill to help Duluth get out of a retirement benefits problem.

On a 59-0 vote, the Senate backed the plan to allow Duluth to use a state board to invest retirement funds. The state can receive a much higher rate of return on investments than the city.


House committees still are considering the proposal, and some representatives say they don't want to pass the Duluth proposal without giving the same help to other cities with similar problems.

Duluth officials told lawmakers they face a $300 million shortfall in funding benefits such as full health coverage.

"I'm proud that the city has found a way to meet this projected $300 million shortfall without asking the state to bail them out," said Sen. Yvonne Prettner Solon, DFL-Duluth.

The bill would cost the state nothing.

Jail bill passesA bill that changes the terms of withdrawal for counties involved in regional jail systems sailed through the Senate 59-0 on Thursday.

The legislation, authored by Sen. Rod Skoe, DFL-Clearbrook, makes a joint powers agreement the basis for withdrawal from a regional jail system. Existing law leaves the decision up to county boards.

The state's only regional jail system - combining Polk, Red Lake and Norman counties - falls within Skoe's district.

Red Lake aid soughtNorthern Minnesota legislators want to secure more state funding to help Red Lake High School repair damage and bolster security after the March 2005 school shootings on the Indian reservation.


Sen. Rod Skoe, DFL-Clearbrook, is sponsoring the Senate bill seeking $132,000 in security reimbursement funds for the school next year. DFL Reps. Brita Sailer of Park Rapids and Frank Moe of Bemidji are carrying the proposal in the House.

The Legislature previously directed state aid to the school the shooting.

State Capitol Bureau reporters Scott Wente and Mike Longaecker contributed to this report. They and Davis work for Forum Communications Co., which owns the Herald.

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