MINNESOTA LEGISLATURE: Early voting bill ... Outdoor funds ... New driver's license ... more
Early voting legislation Minnesota voters could cast ballots in person during the weeks leading up to Election Day under a bill senators supported Friday. Minnesota would join states that offer early in-person voting. Voters could cast ballots at...
Early voting legislation
Minnesota voters could cast ballots in person during the weeks leading up to Election Day under a bill senators supported Friday.
Minnesota would join states that offer early in-person voting. Voters could cast ballots at designed polling places during a two-week window before Election Day.
The election bill, which senators preliminarily approved, also moves the state primary election from early September to the first Tuesday in June. Supporters said that would provide more time to process ballots, particularly from soldiers serving overseas, but opponents said political campaigns are long enough with a September primary.
Bill sponsor Sen. Katie Sieben, DFL-Cottage Grove, said the elections package is in part a response to problems detected during Minnesota's unresolved U.S. Senate race.
The bill modifies absentee ballot requirements and prevents the courts from allowing candidates to decide whether certain absentee ballots are counted, as was allowed in the Senate election recount.
Senate Republicans' effort to require that voters provide photo identification at the polls was rejected.
Outdoor funds OK'd
Senators gave initial approval to a nearly $70 million plan to fund conservation and habitat preservation projects.
The spending is divided among prairies ($14.2 million), forest acquisition ($36 million), wetlands ($20.5 million) and fish, game and wildlife habitat ($14 million).
The projects would be paid for with revenue from a statewide sales tax increase that voters approved in the November election.
The funding proposal includes projects located in 77 counties.
Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, who served on the Lessard Outdoor Heritage Council, said the advisory panel made its spending recommendations after it reviewed 99 proposals totaling around $240 million.
Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, said the projects were supported by nearly all advisory panel members.
New license supported
Lawmakers propose creating an enhanced driver's license to ease travel across the Canadian and Mexican borders.
A Senate transportation bill near final passage would create the special driver's license that will include an embedded radio chip identifying the license holder as a U.S. citizen.
U.S. citizens crossing the Mexican or Canadian borders will be required to prove citizenship beginning in June. The enhanced license will cost $15 more than a regular license.
The Senate bill also would allow the governor to order that the biodiesel fuel content used in Twin Cities-area public buses be lowered in cold-weather months. There are concerns the fuel, stored in large tanks, can clog engines in the cold.
Marijuana moves to vote
A House bill permitting seriously ill patients to use medical marijuana to ease pain is nearing a final vote.
The measure, sponsored by DFL Rep. Tom Rukavina of Virginia, passed the House Finance Committee on Friday.
The legislation allows doctors to authorize use of marijuana for people suffering from certain illnesses and makes it legal for patients to possess a limited amount of medical marijuana.
Senators already passed a medical marijuana bill. Gov. Tim Pawlenty opposes the legislation.
-- Scott Wente
Cocoa bean mulch notice
Legislation requiring retailers who sell cocoa bean mulch to post notices saying it is potentially dangerous to pets has run into a veto.
Gov. Tim Pawlenty struck down the bill late Friday. He says it's legislative overreach. The bill was aimed at alerting pet owners that dogs can get sick if they ingest the landscaping mulch.
Pawlenty said there are very few animal deaths each year, and it would be unreasonable to subject retailers to the requirement. He added that it could expose sellers to liability.
The bill has become a Capitol punch line because debate on it consumed an hour in the legislative session's waning days.
-- Associated Press