Child safety seat bill moving

ST. PAUL - Minnesota children younger than 8 must be buckled in a booster seat or other restraint if a preliminarily Senate-passed bill becomes law. Senators initially approved the proposal on a voice vote Monday, with final approval expected Thu...

ST. PAUL - Minnesota children younger than 8 must be buckled in a booster seat or other restraint if a preliminarily Senate-passed bill becomes law.

Senators initially approved the proposal on a voice vote Monday, with final approval expected Thursday.

Current law requires children younger than 4 to be in a child's seat. Booster and other safety seats save injuries and money, supporters said.

"The No. 1 killer of children over the age of 3 is automobile crashes," Rep. Jim Carlson, DFL-Eagan, said.

Rep. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, spoke to the full Senate for the first time since taking office last month. Drawing from years as Douglas County sheriff, he said the seats are vital for safety, but he would not say much.


"We don't have enough time to talk about all the maim and dismemberment I have seen over the years," he said.

Added Sen. Steve Murphy, DFL-Red Wing: "If you don't have them (children) buckled into the appropriate booster seat and you get into a crash, the results will be disastrous for your family."

Loggers look to state

A House committee backed measures that would provide relief to the state's struggling timber industry.

The bill, authored by Rep. David Dill, DFL-Crane Lake, allows for timber permits issued by the state to be terminated. Under the legislation, those permits could be repurchased at substantially lower prices as a means to revitalize the industry in Minnesota, which proponents of the bill said is on shaky ground due to a slipping housing market.

Despite concerns over the bill's long-term gains from Rep. Frank Moe, DFL-Bemidji, the bill passed through a House outdoors committee and was referred to a finance panel. Moe said timber leaders in his area said the measure "picks winners and losers" and another solution to the industry's financial problems is needed.

Safety center sought

Minnesota needs a permanent school safety center to help prevent school violence, public safety officials and others told legislators Monday.


During the school shootings at Red Lake High School in March 2005, local, state and federal law enforcement officers worked well together, recalled former U.S. Attorney Tom Heffelfinger. However, the incident showed more training in school safety is necessary, he said.

"Those of us who have personally experienced the horror of a school shooting will never forget it," said Heffelfinger, who served on a school safety task force created last year by the Legislature.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty proposed in his 2007-09 budget plan that $200,000 be used to create a Minnesota School Safety Center.

Funding wanted

A large majority of Minnesotans are happy with the work of school instructors and staff, but believe more state funding is needed to maintain that level of quality, a teacher-funded poll found.

Education Minnesota, the state's largest teachers union, commissioned the phone survey last November. It also revealed that 62 percent of respondents believe school spending should be increased. One-third of those polled said funding should remain flat.

Education Minnesota President Judy Schaubach of Red Wing said poll results reinforce public comments made at listening sessions across the state. More than 600 people completed the poll.

"We cannot afford to lose our best and brightest to more lucrative careers," Schaubach said, "and we have the public's support."


National Democratic pollster Alan Secrest said his firm's survey was random and not skewed to produce a favorable outcome for Education Minnesota.

Money missed

Minnesotans, many in rural areas, missed out on $172 million in federal food stamp funds last year because they lack knowledge about the program and face a complicated application process, a new report claims.

"The worst participation is in our rural areas and rural counties," said Jessica Webster of the Legal Services Advocacy Project. "We need to increase awareness of the program."

In light of the Legal Aid report released Tuesday, a group of Democratic lawmakers proposed shortening the food stamp application and preventing the state from freezing food stamp users from the program if they don't use it for three months.

Lawmakers also want the Legislature to increase funding for Minnesota food shelves, which they said have seen a 45 percent increase in visits. That is in part a result of Minnesotans not signing up for the federal food stamp program.

Trappers supported

Trappers would be eligible for lifetime small game hunting licenses under a bill that cleared a House outdoors committee.


The legislation may be included in a larger game and fish bill. One opponent said the legislation endorses activities that "puts us back to the medieval ages."

"There's nothing more barbaric, more vicious or cruel," than leg traps, said the Earth Protector Group's Leslie Davis.

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

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