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Funding for government lapses as short-term spending bill stalls in the Senate

Legislative notebook: DNR plans land purchases through 2035

ST. PAUL -- The Department of Natural Resources wants to do more to connect Minnesotans to the outdoors in the next 25 years.

The department also wants to buy more land to expand its parks and trails services and to do more to take care of what it already has, according to a plan released Monday.

Reaching other Minnesotans is important, the document says, to make them better natural resources stewards, the report adds.

The report to legislators outlined, in general, how the department would like to spend $1.3 billion it should receive in the next 25 years via a three-eighths of a percent sales tax that voters approved in November of 2008. Known as the Clean Water Land and Legacy Act, the tax splits money among various outdoors-related programs and the arts.

Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Landwehr made the announcement at the Capitol, with natural resources chairmen Rep. Denny McNamara, R-Hastings, and Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria.

The report did not spell out particular parks, trails or other facilities that could be affected by the fiscal infusion.

New deadlines

Unusual deadlines for bills illustrate the priority legislators place on fixing a $6.2 billion budget deficit.

In the past, policy bills that did not affect the state budget were the first for committees to pass, but this year legislative leaders require finance bills to pass out of all but their final committees by March 25. Policy bill deadlines are late April and early May.

The Legislature must adjourn by May 23, although some in the Capitol openly wonder if the Republican-controlled lawmaker and Democrat Gov. Mark Dayton can solve differences by then. If they do not, Dayton could call a special legislative session to continue budget work.

The new two-year state budget begins July 1.

"We have established these committee deadlines for a very clear purpose: to attack the budget deficit," said Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, R-Buffalo. "This schedule enables us to prioritize the state budget deficit and then gives us a chance to adopt policy reforms that will change the way we do business in St. Paul."

Dayton releases his budget proposal Tuesday, with legislators planned to offer their own plan soon.

Sorel nomination OK'd

Transportation Commissioner Tom Sorel is awaiting confirmation by the full Senate.

The Senate Transportation Committee has approved his nomination.

"I have had the pleasure of working with Commissioner Sorel in the past and firmly believe in his dedication to bettering transportation in Minnesota," Senate Transportation Chairman Joe Gimse, R-Willmar said.

Dayton nominated Sorel to continue as transportation commissioner. He served in the job since April 2008, when then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty appointed him.

No date has been set for the full Senate vote.

Safe valentines

A group of parents and children made valentines Monday for legislators, an attempt to educate them on the need to get toxic chemicals out of children's products.

The Healthy Legacy organization organized the event after the state Health Department released a list of nine chemicals that are harmful to children's health.

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