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Brandon's Law passes House

ST. PAUL - Brandon Swanson disappeared May 14, but his presence was felt Monday in the Minnesota Capitol.

The House voted 134-0 for a bill named after Swanson. It was written to speed up searches for missing young adults.

"It will mean big changes for anguished family members," said Rep. Marty Seifert, R-Marshall, who wrote the bill and negotiated agreements with law enforcement officials.

The measure requires police to quickly launch searches for young adults and for older adults in some cases.

Swanson's car was found in a ditch near Taunton, in southwestern Minnesota, after he disappeared on May 14. Seifert said the search was delayed because he is an adult and because of confusion over which county was responsible.

The bill requires law enforcement officers to accept missing persons report without delay. Officers then need to determine if the person could be considered "endangered," and if they find that they must begin a search right away.

The Senate is expected to debate the bill in coming days.

Rep. Tony Sertich, DFL-Chisholm, said that one family that could have benefited from the so-called Brandon's Law was that of Dan Zamlen. His parents, Sally and Dale, testified to a House committee last week that the search for their son began too late.

He went missing in St. Paul April 5 and has not been found, even though more than 1,000 fellow Iron Range residents have hunted for him along the Mississippi River near St. Thomas University, where he is a student.

No shaking

Representatives voted 122-12 to require child-care workers to be trained about sudden infant death and shaken baby syndromes, including that such problem can affect children up to age 5.

"This bill simply helps make sure child-care providers have accurate information about the risks of shaking a small child up to the age of 5, which in turn may help avert a tragedy," Rep Phillip Sterner, DFL-Rosemount, said.

Shaken baby syndrome can result in serious injury or even death.

Minnesota law now has different training standards for child-care workers. Sterner's bill would clarify the law so all such workers get adequate training.

Less to spend

The Legislature takes a $6.8 million budget cut in a bill senators approved 59-6 Monday.

Other state government entities face a similar cut, such as $370,000 taken from the governor's office and $2.4 million less for the attorney general's office.

In debating spending money on various state agencies, senators defeated a Sen. Dick Day, R-Owatonna, amendment that would have allowed a casino to be placed at Canterbury Park horse racing track.

"If you are looking for a billion dollars, this is your amendment," Day said. "This is something we can do today on the floor of the Senate to give Minnesotans a $1 billion, a $1 billion, break."

But Sen. Don Betzold, DFL-Fridley, said gambling is not the way to balance the state budget.

"You don't use gambling to solve your personal problems; we don't use gambling to solve our state problems," Betzold said.

Sen. Steve Murphy, DFL-Red Wing, warned that a casino providing the state money would hurt existing tribal casinos. "They are people who work hard and pay their taxes in my district."

Public safety cut

The state's public safety budget would drop $48 million, to $1.3 billion, under a bill senators passed 34-31.

The public safety budget would help save money by requiring the Public Safety and Corrections departments to reduce its vehicular fleets by 20 percent. It also requires the correction commissioner to consolidate staff for facilities near each other and it eliminates $1.2 million of dental services.

Also, the bill reduces the per-bed amount it pays to a private Appleton prison to save $2.4 million.

Among the non-fiscal parts of the bill, it would repeal some mandatory minimum sentences now on the books. Among the changes would be elimination of a requirement that judges impose a three-year sentence on felony drunken driving convictions.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.