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Mini-trucks OK, rest area drinking not

Sen. Dennis Frederickson of New Ulm discusses a water cleanup spending plan advancing in the Senate at a Tuesday Capitol news conference. Fellow Republican Sen. Steve Dille of Dassel looks on. Scott Wente/Minn. State Capitol Bureau

ST. PAUL -- Minnesota would allow mini-trucks to travel on some county roads, but prohibit drinking in state rest areas under a catch-all transportation bill representatives passed 115-17 Tuesday.

Transportation issues not requiring money were folded into the measure, including a proposal by Rep. Brita Sailer, DFL-Park Rapids, to allow farmers and others to drive small trucks on roads in counties that approve. Only county roads could be used.

"I'm a little disappointed we are not going far enough with this," Rep. Bud Nornes, R-Fergus Falls, said in calling for allowing the little trucks on all roads.

Sailer said that mini-trucks are becoming common, but since they do not meet federal safety standards they cannot be licensed and used as normal vehicles.

Under the bill, people who use rest areas would be required to properly throw out trash, would be forbidden from dumping household trash and could not drink alcoholic beverages. Also, the bill does not allow people to leave unattended vehicles or trailers.

An effort to remove the drinking ban narrowly failed.

A similar rest area bill is stalled in the Senate in a controversy about the drinking ban.

The bill also allows drivers to mount small navigation devices on the lower portion of a vehicle's windshield. Rep. Al Juhnke, DFL-Willmar, offered the successful amendment.

Cleaner water

Minnesota should spend $151 million in the next two years to clean the state's water, a Senate panel decided Tuesday.

Funds would come from a sales tax increase votes approved last November.

"This subcommittee proposal will keep the promise made to voters that we are going to clean and protect our waters for future generations of Minnesotans," Sen. Dennis Frederickson, R-New Ulm, said.

Frederickson said the clean water funding bill is the product of seven years' work.

He added that want clean water for a variety of recreational uses, but the state could face sanctions if it fails to meet federal clean-water guidelines. It will take new funding, such as through the sales tax increase, to pay for programs that will help the state meet federal guidelines, he said.

Frederickson, who long has worked on clean-water issues, said the vote is a big step toward finally complying with the 1972 federal Clean Water Act.

The bill requires the state to assess and monitor water quality.

Bisphenol opposed

Minnesota would become the first state to ban Bisphenol-A from children's products under a bill senators tentatively passed 54-11 Tuesday.

Several experts say Bisphenol-A is dangerous in food containers and other plastic products children use. But many Senate Republicans complained that no other state has banned the substance and they doubted whether it presents a danger.

Sewer change OK'd

The Central Lakes Regional Sanitary District should be dissolved, the Minnesota Senate voted Tuesday.

"It became very cost prohibitive," Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, said before senators gave his bill tentative approval. A similar House bill is pending.

The Legislature is considering the measure because the sewer district was established in law about six years ago. However, it never became operational.

The district, which was to serve six townships, incurred costs of $3.4 million in its effort to establish a sewer district in the past six years.

The bill would make it easier to sell sewer district assets, such as land, to help reduce costs townships would need to cover.

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.