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Racino bill shrinks, helps Vikings

ST. PAUL -- Proposals to add slot machines at Minnesota's two horse-racing tracks changed Thursday to allow slots at just one track and sending 40 percent of the state's profits to a Vikings football stadium.

There was no indication the changes would change opposition that has prevented the so-called racino proposal from advancing for years.

Dick Day, a former senator and now racino lobbyist, said the proposal would generate $101 million a year for state education, agriculture and other programs, with more than $40 million available for sports facilities such as a Vikings' stadium.

Day's announcement came Thursday, the same day a House committee defeated an attempt to amend another bill to include racino. The proposal is stalled in both legislative chambers, but Day said the new plan is ready to be offered as an amendment when the right bill comes along.

Day said the new plan should make northern American Indian tribes happy after they complained that Running Aces harness track, in the northern Twin Cities, would attract gamblers away from them. He said Canterbury Park, in the southwest Twin Cities, would not compete with southern Minnesota casinos other than nearby Mystic Lake.

Rep. Al Juhnke, DFL-Willmar, said funds from the state-authorized racino could fully fund a Vikings stadium, which is projected to cost nearly $900 million.

"If the Legislature wants to create jobs and save the Vikings, this is the way to do it," Juhnke said.

There are no bills authorizing a Vikings stadium, but team officials say they expect something to pass this year. However, Gov. Tim Pawlenty has said he will not sign any bill using taxes to fund a stadium and legislative leaders say they have higher priorities, given a budget deficit.

'Slow redesign'

Some state lawmakers want the Human Services Department to slow down its efforts to redesign some mental health and dental programs, citing the loss of jobs and the need for patients to travel miles further for help.

State facilities in Willmar and Eveleth would be among those affected, lawmakers from those areas said.

"We had no forewarning," Rep. Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia, said about a plan to shut down the Eveleth community transition mental health facility. "They are ready to lose the Eveleth facility on May 1."

While state law authorizes two treatment centers to reduce use of two facilities, those in Willmar and Eveleth are not included, Democratic lawmakers said.

"The Community-Based Health Hospital in Willmar is on the list to be converted to a psychiatric extensive recovery treatment service facility," said Rep. Al Juhnke, DFL-Willmar. "Bottom line, this change could cost the facility as many as 19 full-time jobs. The state Legislature needs to have a say in how these decisions are made."

Lawmakers said the Pawlenty administration's plan to shrink treatment centers, including dental clinics for the poor, may be needed but care needs to be taken in making sure patients have options when the state services end.

"We have no idea where they are going to go..." Rukavina said of patients. "This is frightening."

DNA notice sought

A Minnesota lawmaker wants patients to be told if a doctor plans to administer a human DNA-based vaccination.

Rep. Laura Brod, R-New Prague, said studies suggest than stem-cell-based vaccines may be linked to rising autism levels.

"The science suggests that transferring a vaccine with foreign human DNA into a child or adult could have unforeseen consequences, and because of this, patients should be aware if they're being injected with a product containing aborted fetal DNA and cellular debris," Brod said.

Brod has introduced a bill to require any DNA-based vaccine to be labeled as "derived from or manufactured using electively aborted human fetal or embryonic tissue."

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