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Minnesota Legislature: 'Live check' bills advance

ST. PAUL -- People who receive checks unexpectedly from companies they don't know could be in for a surprise if they cash the checks, something a legislative bill is written to avoid.

The mailings often are "live checks," documents that once endorsed obligate the mail recipient to buy goods or services. Often, they think they just are cashing a $10 or $15 check, not realizing they are promising future spending.

Rep. Andrew Falk, DFL-Murdock, and Sen. Kathy Saltzman, DFL-Woodbury, have offered bills that limit "live check" use. The bills await action by the House and Senate.

"By cashing that live check, you're actually buying some service which you had no intention of purchasing in the first place," Falk said.

"In many cases, people don't know they've been tricked until it's already too late," Falk said. "Unknown charges and fees start showing up on their credit card statement for high-cost, low-value products or services they don't want. Soon what looked like a quick 10 bucks turns into a hundred-dollar headache."

Small steps

A series of bills designed to improve the Minnesota small business climate awaits legislative action.

A newly formed small business caucus has talked to business leaders and others to develop an agenda that includes bills such as those streamlining Minnesota Pollution Control Agency regulations and mandates, speeding up business registration, creating a one-stop on line service for businesses, comparing Minnesota and Wisconsin small business start-up and creating some business tas credits.

"Minnesota will recover from this recession," said state Rep. Denise Dittrich, DFL-Champlin. "When we do, small businesses and entrepreneurs must have access to the resources necessary to rebound and compete in a fast-changing 21st century economy."

Vickerman praised

Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a Republican, went out of his way to honor retiring Sen. Jim Vickerman, a Democrat, Wednesday.

Before he signed a bill moving the state's primary election a month earlier, to August, he called Vickerman "my ally and friend."

A teary-eyed Vickerman took to the podium and thanked the governor for signing the bill because it will allow military personnel overseas enough time to vote in the November general election. With the law, the Tracy senator said, votes will "not get lost somewhere on the way."

Vickerman is chairman of the Senate committee dealing with veterans' issues, and is a veteran himself. He announced last month that he will not seek re-election.

Anti-abuse law

School districts would be required to report student abuse under a bill making its way through the Legislature.

"This is something no parent should have to go through," Rep. Torrey Westrom, R-Elbow Lake, said. "This bill can't undo damage that has already been done, but it can at least keep parents in the loop when something so horrible has happened."

Westrom, a bill co-sponsor, worked with St. Paul Concordia University students who are fighting for the measure. A political science class originally presented its request for the law to Rep. Tim Mahoney, DFL-St. Paul, in reaction to a 6-year-old's abuse at the hands of a teacher.

Under current law, school districts do not need to tell parents about abuse if they are investigating. The bill would require a report to parents within 10 days.

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