ST. PAUL -- The Minnesota House approved a bill Thursday that would prevent the deduction of union dues or fees from state child care assistance funds.
"Child care assistance payments need to be delegated solely to child care assistance," said Rep. Kathy Lohmer, R-Lake Elmo, one of the authors of the bill.
The bill passed 74-55, mostly on Republican support.
Gov. Mark Dayton wants child care providers to be able to vote on whether they want to unionize. A court hearing on the constitutionality of his executive order is slated for Feb. 22.
Democrats urged House members Thursday to vote against the bill, saying now is not the time for this legislation.
"Once again we have before us a bill that doesn't help grow jobs and, more importantly, it's a solution to a problem that doesn't exist," Rep. Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, said.
Dayton's executive order says providers will not be required to join unions or pay dues. But that could change, Lohmer and Sen. Ted Lillie, R-Lake Elmo, cautioned.
They also pointed out the House bill does not prevent child care providers from joining unions.
"It is only making sure they are able to decide this for themselves," Lohmer said.
State Sen. Roger Reinert is throwing a fourth-down Hail Mary pass with just seconds left on the clock as he sent Gov. Mark Dayton a letter Thursday suggesting a new Minnesota Vikings football stadium be built in Duluth.
Reinert, DFL-Duluth, acknowledges his chances are about the same as the Vikings chances to win the Super Bowl anytime soon -- between slim and none -- but said the lack of consensus for any Twin Cities stadium site spurred his action.
Reinert is proposing the stadium be built at the 500-acre site of the former U.S. Steel plan in Morgan Park, along the St. Louis River at the city's western edge.
"It seems as if the stadium is going to be the biggest issue we tackle down here this year so I thought, why not throw our hat in?" Reinert said. "If all this does is enhance Duluth as a prime (tourist) destination, then I'm fine with that."
So far, Reinert said he's had no support from other Duluth officials. But he does have a way to help finance the stadium.
Reinert has included in the letter to the governor his longstanding but so-far unsuccessful plan to allow Minnesota liquor stores to open on Sundays. That would bring the state an extra $10.5 million in taxes each year that's now going to neighboring states, Reinert said, revenue that could go to help pay back stadium debt.
TB credit passes
The House agriculture committee Thursday approved restoring a property tax credit for northwestern Minnesota farmers in an area affected by bovine tuberculosis.
Rep. Dan Fabian, R-Roseau, said 22 farmers cannot raise cattle in the area, even after the federal government declared Minnesota to be TB free. Those and other farmers have been receiving a tax credit after their cattle herds were destroyed to prevent the spread of TB. Once Washington declared the emergency over, other farmers could return to cattle production.
However, State Veterinarian Dr. Bill Hartmann told the committee that the state Department of Natural Resources continues to monitor deer in the area for TB, and to make sure deer do not transmit the disease to cattle, the 22 farmers cannot repopulate their herds.
Rep. Rick Hanson, DFL-South St. Paul, opposed extending the tax break.
"You are asking for general fund dollars for private business," he said.
But Fabian said the farmers have the same problems they have had for the years that they received tax credits: government not allowing them to raise cattle on their land.
Rep. Kent Eken, DFL-Twin Valley, said that the successful effort to contain TB helped the entire state, so the farmers deserve state aid.
Hartmann said the farmers may be able to raise cattle again in a year if no deer in the area are found with TB.
Carp barrier delayed
Next winter is the soonest work could begin on a Mississippi River Asian carp electric barrier, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers official said Thursday.
"I don't foresee a barrier being built in our locks this (navigation) season," Col. Michael Price told the House environment committee.
In earlier meetings, officials had said they hoped to build one this year.
Price said the corps needs a proposal and engineering plans for a project in hand before it can begin to evaluate the feasibility, safety and other factors.
State officials have been discussing a number of potential ways to stop the Asian carp from moving north.
Some legislators were upset with the timeframe for the electric barrier.
"Unfortunately the doggone carp are at our front door," Rep. Denny McNamara, R-Hastings, said. "It is, frustrating for us because we all want to step forward."
John Myers of the Duluth News Tribune contributed to this story. Danielle Nordine and Don Davis report for Forum Communications Co.