Legislature kicks it up a notch

ST. PAUL -- The Minnesota Legislature kicks into a higher gear early next week as its first major deadline falls on Tuesday. In theory, all bills must pass through committees in their chamber of origin by Tuesday or they die. In reality, nothing ...

ST. PAUL -- The Minnesota Legislature kicks into a higher gear early next week as its first major deadline falls on Tuesday.

In theory, all bills must pass through committees in their chamber of origin by Tuesday or they die. In reality, nothing ever dies in the Legislature until it adjourns, but many smaller bills will fall by the wayside Tuesday. The deadline means long agendas for most committees Monday and Tuesday as chairmen try to get through lists of bills awaiting hearings.

The deadline for non-finance bills to pass through committees in both chambers is April 4.

On Tuesday, the House Capital Investment Committee will take testimony on the Senate's plan to borrow $990 million for public works projects. The committee will release its own public works borrowing plan April 3.

House Speaker Steve Sviggum, R-Kenyon, said he wants the full House to approve the so-called bonding bill before April 12, when lawmakers return home for the Easter-Passover break. Scheduling that vote for just before legislators leave "might hold the conversation down," Sviggum said of floor debate over projects contained in the bill.


The eminent domain bill, which restricts government's ability to take private land, will be in the Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday, its final stop before the full House votes on it. Sviggum said that could come the first week of April.

On Monday, the Senate meets at 11 a.m. and is scheduled to hear an apology by its majority leader, Dean Johnson, about assurances he said he received from Supreme Court justices that they would not overturn a law forbidding gay marriages. Also during the session, senators are to debate their version of the eminent domain bill.

The Senate Higher Education Committee on Tuesday is to hear proposals to build a University of Minnesota football stadium

Birth certificates

Parents whose young children die could receive birth certificates celebrating their life rather than dwelling on their death under a bill by Rep. Karen Klinzing.

The Woodbury Republican is sponsoring a measure to allow the mother or father of a newborn or young child who dies to receive a birth certificate that doesn't say "deceased" on it. A parent would have up to six years from the child's death to request the copy.

Lawmakers recently heard testimony on the issue from a St. Paul woman who had difficulty obtaining such a certificate after her infant daughter died of congenital heart failure at 40 days.

Jennifer Strack told the House Health Policy and Finance Committee on Wednesday that she encountered a bureaucratic mess when, a month after her daughter's death, she tried to obtain a birth certificate that didn't say "deceased" on it. A records official even suggested she just cover up those letters on the original certificate she received, Strack said.


"A life, no matter how short, is still a life," Strack told the committee.

The panel approved the measure and forwarded it to another House committee for further review. A companion bill was introduced in the Senate.

Klinzing last year authored a bill allowing parents to receive a birth certificate when their child's birth results in a stillbirth.

Film tax aid eyed

Rep. Mike Charron said he has a plan to help the local economy and make Minnesota shine on the big screen.

Charron, R-Woodbury, is pushing a bill in the House that would provide tax breaks to film producers who shoot movies in Minnesota. Each movie project would be eligible for a 15-percent income tax credit for a movie project.

In the 1990s around 80 films were shot in Minnesota, generating $121 million for the state, Charron said. Minnesota used to offer tax breaks to film producers, but now is one of only five states without such a program. Charron said parts of the recent movie "North Country," about the Iron Range, were shot in New Mexico because it was less expensive.

In a non-budget year when there is little spare money available for legislators to spend, the bill faces an uphill battle toward passage. But Charron, a college theater professor, said the proposal was backed by conservative Republicans and liberal DFLers when it passed its first House committee hearing.


"It was a love fest," Charron said.

A companion bill has been introduced in the Senate.

Break still safe

Summer vacation from school will not get shorter - at least not yet.

The House Education Finance Committee rejected a bill to shorten the summer break, deciding more time to study the proposal is needed.

"We need to retool our factories - our schools - if we are going to change the product," Fergus Falls Superintendent Mark Bezek testified.

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