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Pioneer Editorial: Session ends on high note for a change

Any legislative session that does no harm is a good one, and the recently concluded 2006 session ranks among those. But we'd like to venture even further that, as a whole, much good also came out of the session.

First and foremost, it finished on time -- even a day earlier. Such as not been the case in recent years, especially in 2005 when lawmakers pushed past the 11th hour into overtime and then even into partial state government shutdown. There were some hot spots this session, but overall an atmosphere of congeniality, cooperation and consensus emerged and the people's business was done.

Perhaps the fact that this fall all 201 legislators and the governor stand for re-election did not escape them.

Lawmakers did what they set out do as the session's top priority in approving a state building projects bonding bill. In fact, they exceeded most predictions by approving nearly $1 billion, with fully a third of that to important higher education infrastructure needs. From the standpoint of the bonding bill, the session was extremely successful to the Bemidji area with higher education funding, planning and design for the regional events center and monies for the Paul Bunyan Trail. Less successful were requests for Red Lake Reservation schools and Waskish tourism.

Even though not a major state budget year, the Legislature hit a gamut of impor-tant needs all across the board, from boosting programs for veterans in light of the nearly 3,000 National Guard members who next year return from duty in Iraq to ensuring the public safety with a host of measures pertaining to sex offenders.

The Legislature also restored some early childhood program funding, provided some, meaningful health care reform, made provisions to prepare Minnesota for the advent of bird flu, protected individual property rights by reining in the use of eminent domain and provided $17.5 million for permanent supportive housing in Minnesota's effort to end homelessness.

And, oh yes, lawmakers did approve plans for two sports stadiums. The one for the Minnesota Twins most assuredly will keep the Twins here, which otherwise would have left the state after this season. For those who say there are more impor-tant needs than funding stadiums, we hope that House Speaker Steve Sviggum is true to his word when he said that fund-ing for stadiums and funding for educa-tion, transportation and health care need not be "mutually exclusive," that there is room for both in making state policy.

Another positive factor of the 2006 session is passage of nation-leading legislation to drastically reduce mercury emissions at the state's largest coal-fired power plants. And important steps were begun to start cleaning up the state's lakes and rivers.

No, legislators didn't resolve property tax reform, nor did they pass legislation to dedicate funding for wildlife and habitat.

But there's always next year. We'll take what they did this year with appreciation.