Legislature to get even busier

ST. PAUL -- If the Minnesota Legislature's first three days were busy, the next few days probably will be even busier with major bills debated by the full House.

ST. PAUL -- If the Minnesota Legislature's first three days were busy, the next few days probably will be even busier with major bills debated by the full House.

"I'm in the mode to vote," House Speaker Steve Sviggum, R-Kenyon, said Friday. "Let's vote."

Among items expected to be on the House floor next week is a bill banning protests at funerals, the bill on the fastest track to passage in light of last week's protest at soldier's funeral in Anoka. Sviggum also predicted that a bill requiring 70 percent of school budgets be spent in classrooms will be up for a full House vote, as will a measure restricting local governments' power to take property away from private landowners for resell to businesses.

A joint legislative session will hear Gov. Tim Pawlenty deliver his State of the State address at noon Thursday.

Also on Thursday, House and Senate leaders will meet with a Pawlenty representative to discuss how much to spend on public works projects. Such discussions usually are held late in a session.


Sviggum and Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson, DFL-Willmar, agreed it would be good to set the total amount early, the House and Senate will work on what specific projects to include.

Pawlenty proposes borrowing $811 million for public works construction projects, while Sen. Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon, said his Senate committee most likely will approve at least $965 million. The House is in between.

Legislators will try to pack action into what amounts to 2? days. They take off Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday morning so they can be home for Tuesday night's precinct caucuses.

The session started Wednesday of this week with much more committee action than usually occurs early on. The Legislature must adjourn by May 22.

Veterans wait

A waiting list grows for veterans to be admitted to a proposed Alzheimer's unit at the Fergus Falls Veterans Home while state and federal officials decide if they will fund the project.

Sen. Cal Larson, R-Fergus Falls, said about 75 veterans are on the list.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty proposes spending $750,000 to plan the expansion. But until federal funds are available, the state probably will not approve spending money for the joint project.


Taxing help

Rep. Paul Marquart says he has a 10-point plan to relieve property tax burdens.

The Dilworth Democrat would close corporate loopholes and lower small business property taxes 10 percent, about $60 million.

"What is happening right now is rural main street businesses are paying more because the large corporations are abusing" laws that give tax breaks to some businesses located in other counties, he said.

Marquart also calls for increasing state aid paid to cities and counties as another way to reduce local property taxes.

Nursing home money

Nursing homes get too little money, Rep. Kent Eken says, but it will be tough to help them out this year.

One of the Twin Valley Democrat's priorities is to help nursing homes. Increases state aid last year "wasn't anything more than a symbolic support," he said.


Eken proposes increases nursing home aid 5 percent so workers will get higher wages.

"I believe they are under compensated and under appreciated for the hard work they do," he said.

But don't bet on getting that money, Eken added: "My bill probably doesn't have a very great chance of passage this year."

Looking toward the future, Rep. Paul Marquart, DFL-Dilworth, said he wants to continue to look at ways for people to better afford long-term care insurance.

Premiums are not predictable enough, he said.

"We have to make sure when someone gets into long-term health care insurance, they know what they premiums will be from year to year," Marquart said.

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