Lawmakers split over smoking ban details
ST. PAUL -- A statewide smoking ban could be headed for approval by the Legislature, but it won't get everyone's backing. "I highly doubt many (Iron) Rangers will be supporting the final bill," House Majority Leader Tony Sertich, DFL-Chisholm, said.
ST. PAUL -- A statewide smoking ban could be headed for approval by the Legislature, but it won't get everyone's backing.
"I highly doubt many (Iron) Rangers will be supporting the final bill," House Majority Leader Tony Sertich, DFL-Chisholm, said.
Sertich was referring to his fellow Iron Range lawmakers, who may support a smoking ban that provides exemptions, such as for bars or private clubs.
Bills being considered by the House and Senate don't include those exemptions.
Sertich said he believes a statewide ban in public places will pass this year.
Staff members from a specialized program at a Duluth clinic are hoping a message they delivered Thursday to legislators will result in changes to a system they say is shortchanging them.
The heart failure program at St. Mary's Duluth Clinic misses out on about $1.2 million a year in compensation from the state, Medicare and third-party payers, officials said.
"I would like to see support of payment for disease management," the program's manager, Linda Wick, said after testifying before a House health finance panel.
The committee's chairman, Rep. Tom Huntley, DFL-Duluth, said he'll look for ways to craft legislation so programs like Wick's see fair compensation.
Though he speculated that real health care reform might not take hold this legislative session, Huntley predicted major changes in 2008.
"I think we're going to do some important things this year," he said. "But next year is the year I think we're going to transform the Minnesota health care system."
Coming up ...
In an unusual twist, Minnesota lawmakers in the coming days will debate a cigarette smoking ban and discuss a proposal to decriminalize some marijuana use.
A plan to ban tobacco smoking in public places continues its march through the Legislature, while legalizing medical marijuana for chronic illness sufferers is scheduled for a committee hearing Monday.
The Senate could vote Monday to approve an eight-state compact protecting water in the Great Lakes basin. The House already approved the Great Lakes compact. Assistant Senate Majority Leader Tarryl Clark, DFL-St. Cloud, predicted her chamber will easily pass the compact.
A Senate education committee also might begin reviewing Gov. Tim Pawlenty's school funding proposal. In the House, representatives plan to continue discussions on new renewable energy standards. The Senate already passed a renewable energy bill.
Legislators are looking at proposals allowing military veterans to obtain hunting licenses without taking state-mandated firearms courses.
Rep. Jeremy Kalin, DFL-Lindstrom, wrote the bill after a veteran and military constituent could not get a hunting license because he had not taken a state course. He had been in the military seven years.
"If someone is trained to handle an M-16 and distinguish between friend and foe on the battlefield, they can obviously be trusted with a deer rifle and a hunting license," Kalin said.
Kids bill advances
A House committee has supported a bill greatly expanding state-funded insurance coverage of children, although many stops remain before it reaches a full House or Senate vote.
The committee action adds momentum to the proposal, according to Jim Koppel, Children's Defense Fund Minnesota director. He said there are more than 68,000 Minnesota children who are now uninsured, and thousands more have problems getting existing state aid.
"Having coverage is a key indicator of child well-being, and an investment in the future of our state," Koppel said.
A bill giving Minnesotans an easier time becoming farmers passed it first Senate test.
The bill would give tax breaks to landowners who rent land to new farmers. The new farmers also would receive tax breaks.
Among the bill's authors are DFL Sens. Gary Kubly of Granite Falls, Jim Vickerman of Tracy, Keith Langseth of Glyndon and Rod Skoe of Clearbrook.
State Capitol Bureau reporters Scott Wente, Don Davis and Mike Longaecker compiled this report. They work for Forum Communications Co., which owns the Bemidji Pioneer.