Sponsored By
An organization or individual has paid for the creation of this work but did not approve or review it.

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

MINNESOTA LEGISLATURE: Deal eludes Pawlenty, lawmakers

ST. PAUL -- It was a week before they must go home for the year, but Minnesota legislators Monday debated an obscure constitutional amendment, routine pension provisions and whether to allow dogs on cafe patios.

ST. PAUL -- It was a week before they must go home for the year, but Minnesota legislators Monday debated an obscure constitutional amendment, routine pension provisions and whether to allow dogs on cafe patios.

On-and-off high-level discussions behind the scenes continued Monday as the clock ticked toward the mandatory adjournment date. But an overall agreement on the major open issue -- how to fill a $935 million budget deficit -- eluded Gov. Tim Pawlenty and legislative leaders.

Legislators have finished most of the work they need to do this year, with just the budget-balancing action and deciding whether to pass property tax relief measures as their main tasks left.

Those issues are what have held up the session.

Without progress toward a budget deal, Democrats who control the Legislature said they might vote on their own budget-balancing bills, sending them to Pawlenty.

ADVERTISEMENT

But after Pawlenty met Monday with Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller and House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, both Minneapolis Democrats, the lawmakers said they temporarily would hold off on advancing their own bills.

"This should be taken as a positive signal that things are going well," Pogemiller said of the decision to hold off on the budget bills.

But lawmakers were poised Monday night to vote on a health-care reform bill and an education finance package not directly related to the budget talks.

Pawlenty, a Republican, said a budget-balancing deal still could be reached.

But Pawlenty said he was aware of the Legislature's alternative plan to send bills he does not support. That would make the end of this legislative session similar to the 2007 Legislature, he said.

"I hope that we can continue to negotiate, but if they choose to pull the trigger and move those bills forward, then it will end a lot like last year, which for me was a pretty good ending," he said.

Amendment moving

The House voted Monday on a plan that would prevent legislators from setting their own salaries and daily expense payments.

ADVERTISEMENT

Representatives voted 91-43 to put before voters this November a constitutional amendment to create a 16-member citizen council that would determine lawmakers' salaries and per diem. Bill sponsor Rep. Kent Eken, DFL-Twin Valley, said it is a conflict of interest for legislators to decide their pay. Lawmakers earn $31,140, but also receive per diem and other benefits.

Opponents said lawmakers should vote on their salary because it is an expense of taxpayer dollars. They also challenged the timing of the vote, which came with a week remaining in the session.

"Here we are arguing about our pay," said Rep. Rod Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake. "I think we should be balancing the budget."

A similar bill awaits a vote in the Senate. Constitutional amendments only must pass the Legislature; governors cannot sign or veto them.

Senators voted 59-0 to let cities pass ordinances allowing dogs in restaurants' outdoor areas.

Representatives accepted the bill 110-23, over objections that allowing dogs onto cafe patios would be unsanitary.

The vote came on a compromise House-Senate agreement that, in general, provided stricter rules dealing with dangerous dogs.

The cafe patio provision allows cities to adopt permissive ordinances, but they do not have to adopt them. And no restaurant would be forced to allow dogs.

ADVERTISEMENT

The bill "puts in place extra strong protections that dog owners were held accountable to dangerous activities by their dogs," said Sen. Ellen Anderson, DFL-St. Paul.

Pool rules pass

Representatives followed the lead of senators earlier and unanimously approved tighter rules governing public swimming pool drains.

Owners of pools shallower than four feet would have to install safer drains by next year; deep pools would not need new drains until 2011.

House and Senate negotiators must work out minor differences between bills passed by the two bodies.

"Minnesota families will soon be heading out to the pool with their children for the summer -- a time to relax and create great memories," Rep. Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, said. "This is common sense legislation that allows parents to watch their children swim and play without worrying whether the pool is safe and properly maintained."

Flood bill OK'd

Gov. Tim Pawlenty on Monday signed a bill into law requiring insurance companies to annually tell their policy holders if their policies include flood coverage.

The issue of whether floods are covered often arises during flooding, such as in southeastern Minnesota last summer.

Standard homeowner policies for homes within flood plains do not cover flood damage.

Chemical bill veto

Gov. Tim Pawlenty rejected a bill Monday that would have banned from Minnesota the sale or use of a flame retardant and another chemical found in some children's products.

The Legislature sought to ban the chemicals, but Pawlenty said the prohibitions are not "based on established science."

What To Read Next
Josh Sipes was watching an in-flight movie when he became aware the flight crew were asking for help assisting a woman who was experiencing a medical problem.
Nonprofit hospitals are required to provide free or discounted care, also known as charity care; yet eligibility and application requirements vary across hospitals. Could you qualify? We found out.
Crisis pregnancy centers received almost $3 million in taxpayer funds in 2022. Soon, sharing only medically accurate information could be a prerequisite for funding.
The Grand Forks Blue Zones Project, which hopes to make Grand Forks not just a healthier city but a closer community, is hosting an event on Saturday, Jan. 21, at the Empire Arts Center from 3-5 p.m.