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Current legislative leaders rebut old guard on redistricting

Roger Moe, long-time Minnesota Senate majority leader, says the current Legislature and governor are not likely to agree on how to draw new political district lines. In the back is former House Speaker Steve Sviggum. Pioneer Photo/Don Davis

ST. PAUL -- Minnesota's new legislative leaders wasted no time in shooting down an idea from the state's old political guard.

Led by former Vice President Walter Mondale, a Democrat, the group of five well-known politicians said on Tuesday that current politicians should not draw new legislative and congressional districts. They suggested turning the duty over to a panel of five retired judges.

Those in politics have so much self-interest that they should not do the basic redistricting work required once a decade, the five said.

This year, with a big divide between Democrat Gov. Mark Dayton and the Republican-controlled Legislature, is a prime example of problems with politicians doing the work, long-time Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe said.

"All the signs are that the Legislature and governor will not agree on a plan," Moe said.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the 1960s that districts must contain the same number of people, Minnesota's policymakers usually have failed to agree and sent the redistricting plan to the courts.

The plan offered Tuesday by Moe, Mondale, former House Speaker Steve Sviggum, ex-U.S. Rep. Tim Penny and former Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz (who also was a legislator) would establish a panel of five retired judges to draw up the maps.

Still, the Legislature would need to approve the plan and the governor would sign it.

The top House Democrat on a redistricting committee, Rep. Mary Murphy of Hermantown said she and Republicans agree "that the Legislature can produce a fair, representative plan and map for the entire state."

Deputy Senate Majority Leader Geoff Michel, R-Edina, added: "We owe it to the citizens that elected us to perform the duty that we're constitutionally obligated to do."

Animals the topic

Dozens involved in animal-protection groups lobbied for legislation that would ban public animal shelters from turning over pets for research and testing.

"Minnesotans don't want their lost pets to be used in research and testing," Howard Goldman said. "We are urging state legislators to give shelter pets a fair chance and not subject these animals to a prolonged lifetime of suffering inside a research laboratory."

They also asked lawmakers to oppose bills to establish bounties for coyotes.

Mayors to meet

Minnesota mayors meet with Gov. Mark Dayton today to discuss issues such as local aids.

Mayors from Minneapolis and St. Paul will join colleagues from around the state in discussing budget issues such as property taxes.

Concussion help

A new bill is meant to protect young athletes who suffer concussions.

As many as 40 percent of young athletes suffering concussions and return to play too soon, the Centers for Disease Control reports. The bill establishes standards that do not allow them to return to sports too soon.

"With adequate rest, most concussions will heal without complication," said Rep. Rod Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake. "But if an athlete returns to play too soon - before they have a chance to heal - they run an increased risk of suffering additional concussions, which could lead to prolonged or permanent brain injury, and even death. Our legislation would protect youth athletes who suffer a concussion by removing them from play until their injury heals."

Hundreds rally

A couple hundred mental health supporters rallied at the Capitol Tuesday.

Gov. Mark Dayton, who had admitted to depression, received a standing ovation from those gathered to protect mental health services in the next state budget.

The Mental Health Legislative Network supports Dayton's budget proposal that would save mental health grants for crisis services, housing and other programs.

"They are cost-effective services and programs tnat have a positive impact on children and adults with mental illnesses," said Sue Adberholden of the National Alliance of Mental Illness.

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