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Minnesota Legislature: House keeps nuclear moratorium

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news Bemidji, 56619
Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

ST. PAUL -- An attempt to lift a nuclear power plant construction moratorium fizzled Thursday in the Minnesota House.

On a 72-60 vote, representatives voted to keep the 15-year-old moratorium in place. Earlier this year, senators opted to end the moratorium, so the subject remains alive at the Capitol.

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All northern Democratic House members voted to keep the moratorium; Rep. Larry Howes, R-Walker, supported lifting it.

"Our future lies with renewable resources," Rep. Bill Hilty, DFL-Finlayson, said. "Renewable energy is a resource that we have in this state."

But Rep. Tim Faust, DFL-Hinckley, brought up the amendment to an overall energy bill because, he said, the state needs reliable electric power.

"Some days the wind doesn't blow, some days the sun doesn't shine ..." he said. "We can build only so many dams."

Faust said there are just three ways to provide basic electricity all day - hydroelectric, coal and nuclear. Of those, he said, nuclear has the fewest downsides.

"Who's power going to be turned off?" Faust asked. "Your schools or your town?"

But Hilty said no utility has proposed a new Minnesota nuclear plant and under current law new plants could be considered. However, he added, if the moratorium were lifted customers could be charged expenses related to planning nuclear plants.

Hilty and others said that nuclear should not be considered until the problem of waste fuel is solved. Now, nuclear plants near Red Wing and Monticello store waste products on their property.

Brandon law OK'd

Senators added their approval to changing the state's missing persons law to provide quicker law enforcement organization response when young adults disappear.

"This is about speeding up filing missing persons reports," Sen. Dennis Frederickson, R-New Ulm, said.

Several 18- to 21-year-old Minnesotans have gone missing, but law enforcement agencies often rely on a state law that does not require immediate investigation in missing adult cases.

Senators approved the measure 62-0 with a minor amendment to a House-passed version. Gov. Tim Pawlenty is expected to sign the measure.

The law is named after Brandon Swanson, who disappeared in southwestern Minnesota.

Mini-trucks backed

Trucks about half the size of regular ones soon may be traveling on local roads.

Senators tentatively passed a bill on a voice vote Thursday to allow counties to permit the little trucks, which carry about 1,000 pounds. Sen. Dan Skogen, DFL-Hewitt, said more of the vehicles are being used by farmers and businessmen as an easy and economical way to carry small items from site to site.

Drivers would need to be licensed and follow most laws, but could drive on nothing other than local roads. However, they could cross highways.

Anderson honored

Minnesota representatives honored long-time lawmaker Irv Anderson as they began Thursday's session with his family watching.

"Irv was a fighter, an advocate, a person who had strong beliefs and values and never wavered from his unique definition of what was right and what was wrong," said his replacement, Rep. Tom Anzelc, DFL-Balsam Township.

Anderson died last November at age 85. He was House speaker 1993-97, following years as a DFL Party leader in the House. The International Falls politician served his northern Minnesota district in two stints for almost 25 years.

His widow, Phyllis, and two children and other family members were on the House floor to watch a tribute offered by Democrats and Republicans.

"He had a big heart," Rep. Larry Howes, R-Walker, said of the man with a gruff exterior. "He was a pussycat."

Added fellow World War II veteran Rep. Bernie Lieder, DFL-Crookston: "He was a mentor for many of us."

Rep. Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia, echoed that idea: "He had such an ingrained love for the working men and women of this state."

"He was always thinking politics and always thinking of our area," Rep. Loren Solberg, DFL-Grand Rapids, said.

Don Davis works for Forum Communications Co., which owns the Bemidji Pioneer.

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