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Dayton signs, vetoes a variety of bills

ST. PAUL -- Gov. Mark Dayton signed bills Friday to require more information about young athletes' potential for concussions and allowing Minnesota utilities to buy electricity from a North Dakota power plant, but vetoed a measure changing game and fish laws and a perennial effort to relieve food makers and sellers from legal responsibility if a person gains weight.

Most of the 117 bills lawmakers passed before Monday's midnight adjournment deadline are landing on Dayton's desk this week, and he is signing most bills with broad bipartisan support, but is rejected a few.

One bill he accepted could save Minnesota money by avoiding a lawsuit. It would allow state utilities to buy electricity from a Spiritwood, N.D., power plant about to go on line.

Opponents of the plant said that since it will use coal, it will pollute the air -- in North Dakota as well as Minnesota.

However, North Dakota has set aside $500,000 to sue Minnesota if the plant is not allowed to sell its electricity to its western neighbor. North Dakota officials claim current Minnesota law that restricts use of new electricity from coal-fired plants violates a federal Constitution trade provision.

Dayton spokeswoman Katharine Tinucci said that Dayton and North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple, childhood friends, have talked about the issue.

But while Dayton accepted the Spiritwood electricity, he vetoed a bill that would have allow more coal-produced power.

He also signed a measure to allow the proposed Excelsior Energy power plant on the Iron Range to use natural gas instead of coal.

Dayton signed a bill that requires sports organizations to teach players, coaches and parents about the dangers of concussions and requires coaches to bench young athletes who show signs of concussions.

He also signed a bill that clamps down on boaters and others who may spread invasive aquatic species such as zebra mussels and Asian carp. The law increases penalties for boaters who do not adequately clean their boats to remove the species.

Dayton vetoed the game and fish bill in part, he said, because he fears it could hurt northern Minnesota's Polaris and Arctic Cat, which make all-terrain vehicles.

The bill would have changed the ATV definition, which Dayton said would hurt the two companies. The bill called for limiting ATV use of some trails.

Some lawmakers said many ATV trails designed for narrow machines are being hurt by people riding wider ATVs. But Dayton said the provision "unnecessarily restricts ATV riding on designated trails."

Also in the game and fish bill, the governor said he did not like a provision that regulated livestock pasturing and feedlots. He said such a measure does not belong in a game and fish bill and the provision could increase farmers' fines.

Another veto came on Rep. Dean Urdahl's "cheeseburger bill." The Grove City Republican tried for years to enact what he called Personal Responsibility in Food Consumption Act. It would prevent people from suing food makers and sellers if the purchaser gained weight to due to eating or drinking food or nonalcoholic beverages.

"I support the bill's expressed intent to hold individuals responsible for their own dietary choices," Dayton wrote to lawmakers, but the bill would provide food companies "too broad an exemption from liability."

Among other bills Dayton signed:

-- Assaulting a reserve law enforcement officer, postal worker and utility worker will bring a stronger penalty.

-- Churches, school concession stand and disaster food-service facilities will be exempt from licensing and inspections. However, church food workers will need to follow new educational requirements.

-- The third week of September in every year will be Mitochondrial Disease Awareness Week. The week was established after 1-year-old Leo Chapman-Nesseth dies of the rare disease. The disease saps energy from cells.

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.