Arts dropped from sales tax amendment

ST. PAUL -- A House committee eliminated funding for the arts from a proposed constitutional amendment, narrowing its focus to natural resources programs.

ST. PAUL -- A House committee eliminated funding for the arts from a proposed constitutional amendment, narrowing its focus to natural resources programs.

The bill, which has more committee stops before reaching a full House vote, would dedicate 0.25 percent of the existing sales tax to the outdoors. The bill by Rep. Dennis Ozment, R-Rosemount, would spend an estimated $190 million annually three ways - $80 million for fish and wildlife protection, $80 million to clean the state's waters and $30 million for parks and trails. Voters must approve the amendment in November before it can take effect.

Lance Ness of the Fish and Wildlife Legislative Alliance warned the House Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources Finance Committee that the arts, public broadcasting and other non-outdoors programs should not be in the bill.

"Anything else is unacceptable," he said.

"If politicians are serious ... now is the time to do it," Ness added. "Minnesotans have indicated they are fed up with stalemates at the Capitol."


Rep. Aaron Peterson, DFL-Madison, said it might be a good idea to keep the arts in the proposal because "there could be some backlash in the rural area" because rural residents are tired of people "hunting, fishing and leaving."

A similar Senate proposal still would fund the arts. It also would increase the current 6.5 percent sales tax to provide the funds.

Stronger exotic bill

People who own an exotic animal that injures or kills someone would be guilty of a crime under a Senate bill.

"There is no responsible way to hold a pet tiger, but if the law allows them to do so and if they do not take the proper precautions ... there should be criminal consequences," said Sen. Don Betzold, DFL-Fridley, who authored the bill.

The animal owner could be charted with a misdemeanor if it escaped and hurt a person. It would be a felony charge if the animal did serious injury or killed someone.

The bill passed the Senate Agriculture Committee Wednesday and heads to the Judiciary Committee.

Helmet use proposed


Minors who ride their bicycles while not wearing a helmet could be fined under a proposal introduced in the Legislature.

Sen. Steve Murphy is sponsoring a bill that would require anyone under the age of 18 to wear a helmet while biking. Murphy's proposal calls for a $25 fine for helmet-less riding.

Money raised from the fine would be used to fund bicycle safety education programs. Students at a St. Paul school approached Murphy with the idea.

The Red Wing DFLer cited one study that showed helmets reduced by 85 percent the risk of head injury from a bike crash.

"Bike accidents crash-land more kids in hospital emergency rooms than any other sport. Even a low-speed fall on a bicycle path can cause a serious head injury," Murphy said. "Bicycle helmets are proven to be effective in preventing head and brain injuries."

A companion bill has been introduced in the Minnesota House.

Hotline closed

The Minnesota AIDS Project is protesting closure of the "911 for AIDS" hotline, which gives information about HIV and AIDS.


The state Health Department plans to end the hotline on June 30. Gov. Tim Pawlenty says there is only so much money to go around and choices must be made about what to fund.

Two Minneapolis DFLers will introduce a bill that would keep the hotline open for $130,000.

The hotline provides answers to basic HIV questions, AIDS project Executive Director Lorraine Teel said. It also gives advice about how people can help an HIV-infected friend and tells people where they can be tested, she added.

The state eliminated the hotline after federal funds were reduced.

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