Minnesota Senate sends abortion bills to governor who plans to veto them

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ST. PAUL—Minnesota senators are sending a pair of abortion restriction bills to the governor, who promises to veto them.

A mostly Republican Senate majority voted Thursday, May 4, to require many abortion clinics to be licensed and to ban state funding for abortions. The House earlier passed the bills.

"I oppose both of them," Gov. Mark Dayton said as the Senate began its debate, promising to veto both.

Republicans have passed similar bills in the past, always meeting Democratic resistance.

"What we are doing here is to prohibit taking the life of an unborn child," Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake, said about the bill she authored to stop Medical Assistance from funding abortions for low-income women who get health insurance under the program.

Sen. Dan Hall, R-Burnsville, said that before he was married and his future wife became pregnant, he was advised she should get an abortion. But, he said, she did not and now he cannot imagine life without their son and four grandchildren.

However, Sen. Scott Dibble, D-Minneapolis, said that the bill "is blatantly on its face unconstitutional."

The bill passed 35-29.

The licensing bill passed by the same tally, with a requirement that any clinic that conducts at least 10 abortions a month be licensed.

Sen. Michelle Fischbach, R-Paynesville, said her bill could prevent health problems that have been seen at clinics in other states.

But Sen. John Marty, D-Roseville, said the common colonoscopy is a "much higher risk" than abortions.

Also Thursday, legislative leaders and Gov. Mark Dayton began negotiations to draw up a $46 billion, two-year budget.

With legislators facing a mandatory May 22 adjournment, negotiations began on higher education and agriculture funding bills.

After talks broke up, Dayton said he and leaders no longer would discuss individual bills until they decide how much to spend in each of the 10 budget areas. Talks are planned for Friday, May 5, and Saturday, May 6.

Once the overall budget deal is reached, key lawmakers will begin working to decide specifically how to spend the money.

"I think we can resolve those differences," Dayton said, as long as lawmakers drop most of the 609 policy provisions included in budget bills.

The governor said he and leaders took more than an hour discussing two relatively minor agriculture policy items, which signals that if policy remains in bills they may not be able to complete work on time.

House Agriculture Finance Chairman Rod Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake, said talks with the governor and legislative leaders went well and if the bill gets a little more money it should not take long to finish.

Other legislative developments include:

• The leader of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities is upset with the level of funding the Republican-controlled Legislature proposes for state aid to cities. Alexandria Mayor Sara Carlson, the coalition president, said Local Government Aid in the plan falls short of needs. "LGA is essential to keeping our communities healthy and our property taxes down," she said. "With just over two weeks left in session, now is the time to speak up and let our legislators know that LGA is too important to be ignored."

• Sen. Carla Nelson, R-Rochester, has introduced a bill to set the state's minimum age for smoking at 21. Nelson said her bill will not move forward this year, but she hopes discussion about it gives the proposal a chance in 2018. "Smoking costs Minnesota about $7 billion annually in excess health care costs and lost productivity from smoking," Nelson said.

• An environment-labor organization reported that a lack of transit money in the Legislature's bills would hurt manufactures throughout the state. The BlueGreen Alliance said more than 70 facilities around the state make or supply parts for transit vehicles.