Legislature in review: What did and didn't happenA special legislative session will be needed to pass the Minnesota budget, but other work was finished during the regular 2011 legislative session with 117 bills sent to Gov. Mark Dayton for his signature or veto out of more than 3,000 that senators and representatives introduced.
By: Don Davis, State Capitol Bureau
ST. PAUL -- A special legislative session will be needed to pass the Minnesota budget, but other work was finished during the regular 2011 legislative session with 117 bills sent to Gov. Mark Dayton for his signature or veto out of more than 3,000 that senators and representatives introduced.
Many of the major issues are unresolved, pending the special session. And many of the smaller issues were embedded in the budget bills Dayton vetoed.
Bills not passed this year remain alive when legislators convene their next regular session on Jan. 24.
--Bonding: Dayton wanted $1 billion for public works projects, Republicans wanted to just fund flood-prevention projects. A flood-prevention-only bill lost in House, but could come back in special session, perhaps with more public works projects.
-- Breweries: Law allows brewers and bed and breakfasts to sell beer on site.
-- Budget: Only state agriculture programs are funded for the next two years. Dayton vetoed the rest, which must be considered in a special session.
-- Cheeseburger bill: Governor vetoed a bill that has come up often, and passed lawmakers the first time this year, to forbid lawsuits against food makers and sellers for making the customer fat.
-- Coaches: Teachers who take early retirement may continue to coach.
-- Coal power: Bill allows Minnesota electric companies to purchase electricity from coal-fired power plants. Dayton vetoed a broader bill that would have allowed more coal power.
-- Concussions: A new law requires schools and sports organizations to better train coaches, players, officials and parents about concussions and forces coaches to pull athletes suffering symptoms of a concussion.
-- CO training: Law mandates that driver’s education students learn about dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning.
-- CPR: “Hannah’s Law” requires child care center staff members to receive cardiopulmonary resuscitation training.
-- Environmental permits: Early in the session, Dayton and lawmakers agreed on a bill they said would spur job growth by speeding businesses’ applications for environmental permits.
-- Ethics: Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, was cleared of allegations that he refused to meet with a nurses’ group because it supported his opponent. Ethics charges are pending against Sen. Gretchen Hoffman, R-Vergas, on accusations that she made a colleague look bad by wrongly Tweeting what the other said.
-- Gambling: Several bills to expand gambling were discussed, but did not pass. They included allowing casinos at the state horse-racing tracks, putting slot machines in bars and authorizing a downtown Minneapolis casino. Some of them could be discussed in relation to the budget.
-- Green Acres: A law was tweaked to do a better job of keeping taxes down on farmland even if when it could be taxed at a higher rate if developed.
-- Guns: A proposal to give greater power to Minnesotans to use deadly force, such as guns, to protect themselves in places beyond just their homes passed the House but not the Senate.
-- Invasive species: Provisions passed to reduce the spread of invasive aquatic species such as Asian carp and zebra mussels.
-- Iron Range fund: A Republican-written budget bill took $60 million out of a fund for Iron Range economic development to help balance the state budget. The bill was vetoed, but the debate may resurface in budget talks.
-- Legacy fund: A measure funding outdoors and arts programs from the sales tax failed when the session ended in the middle of House debate on the bill. It could come back up in a special session.
-- Local aids: Republicans wanted to chop state payments to local governments, especially Duluth, St. Paul and Minneapolis. The plan was part of a tax bill Dayton vetoed and will be part of budget talks.
-- Marriage: The Legislature decided to ask voters to approve a proposed constitutional amendment defining a marriage as between a man and a woman. Dayton vetoed the bill, but it was symbolic since amendments go directly to the voters regardless of his action.
-- Military license: Military personnel will have a year instead of 90 days to renew driver’s licenses.
-- North Dakota: The most discussed state, other than Minnesota, this year was North Dakota because Republicans said they fear that its lower taxes will lure away business.
-- Nuclear power: House and Senate passed a bill to allow nuclear power plants to be built in Minnesota, but after Japan’s nuclear crisis it stalled in a conference committee.
-- Numbers debate: Republicans never fully accepted Dayton administration estimates for how much some of their proposals would cost, making it difficult to negotiate since the two sides used different ways of figuring costs.
-- Organ donation: There will be a new option for driver’s license applicants to donate $2 for public information and education about organ donation or anatomical gifts.
-- Police chase: A new law allows prosecutors to charge people injuring officers in a foot chase with a felony like they could if the incident happened during a vehicular chase.
-- Police dogs: Penalties were increased for harming police dogs.
-- Redistricting: Dayton vetoed Republican-written plans to draw new congressional and legislative district lines. He said he vetoed them because they did not have broad bipartisan support. The issue could arise in a special session or the courts could make the decision.
-- Regents: The House and Senate elected ex-House Speaker Steve Sviggum of Kenyon, former state Rep. Laura Brod of New Prague and David McMillan of Duluth as new University of Minnesota regents.
-- Sex offenders: Increasing sex offender penalties was discussed, but not approved.
-- Spending limits: There was discussion, but nothing passed, to require the Legislature to base its budget on money that came in the preceding two years.
-- Stadiums: No hearing was held on Minnesota Vikings football or St. Paul Saints baseball stadiums. They could come up in a special session.
-- State employees: Proposals to reduce the state workforce by up to 15 percent were in a budget bill Dayton vetoed, but the issue could come up during continuing budget talks.
-- Sunday sales: An attempt to allow liquor stores to open on Sundays failed.
-- Synthetic drugs: Law outlaws sale and possession of synthetic marijuana.
-- Tax limits: There was discussion, but nothing passed, to require a super majority of legislators to approve any tax increase, which would make raising taxes more difficult.
-- Tax reciprocity: A provision requiring Minnesota to try to work out a new deal with Wisconsin so people who live in one state and work in the other would only need to file one income tax return was in a vetoed tax bill. But it could come up in a special session.
-- Teacher licenses: Law gives mid-career professionals an easier way to obtain teacher licenses.
-- Teacher tests: Dayton vetoed a bill that would have required teacher candidates to pass a basic skills test.
-- Variances: New law allows local governments to issue variances from zoning ordinances. A Supreme Court ruling last year restricted that ability.
-- Voter ID: Dayton vetoed a bill to require Minnesotans to produce a photo ID before voting. The concept could arise as a proposed constitutional amendment next year, and would bypass Dayton.
-- Welfare fraud: Some provisions were in a health-care bill Dayton vetoed to curb welfare fraud, but discussion may continue in budget talks.
-- Wisconsin: Protesters packed the Wisconsin Capitol early this year, followed by much smaller protests in the Minnesota Capitol urging lawmakers to protect union rights.
-- Women: Females took control in the Senate. Amy Koch, R-Buffalo, became the first Minnesota woman Senate majority leader and Sen. Michelle Fischbach, R-Paynesville, its first woman president. Women also lead some key committees.
-- Walnut trees: Lawmakers chopped down a proposal to sell walnut trees growing in state parks.
Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co. newspapers.