Negotiations go through weekend

ST. PAUL -- Legislative negotiations on two levels were set to continue through the weekend after the Minnesota House passed its tax bill. It appeared top legislative leaders would miss a midnight deadline Friday to agree with GOP Gov. Tim Pawlen...

ST. PAUL -- Legislative negotiations on two levels were set to continue through the weekend after the Minnesota House passed its tax bill.

It appeared top legislative leaders would miss a midnight deadline Friday to agree with GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty on spending limits for each area of the next two-year state budget. Top lawmakers said they will continue to work with Pawlenty's office to reach spending agreements.

Meanwhile, House-Senate conference committees planned to meet over the weekend to work toward their own compromises, but lawmakers said it could still take days, or longer, to complete the biggest budget bills. The Legislature must adjourn by May 21.

House Minority Leader Marty Seifert, R-Marshall, said Pawlenty may need a "bucket of red barn paint" to veto all of the unpalatable DFL spending bills.

"If they want to bring veto pens to the table, we will bring an olive branch," responded House Majority Leader Tony Sertich, DFL-Chisholm.


Also on Friday, Pawlenty sent letters to the budget conference committee chairmen urging support for his proposals and warning them not to include items he opposes.

Rally for E-85

Minnesota needs to expand its use of ethanol fuel, a coalition of farm, health and trade groups heard Friday.

The Minnesota E-85 Team rallied in the Capitol Rotunda to push for more funding to expand the number of service station pumps dispensing fuel containing 85 percent ethanol - mostly made from corn - and 15 percent gasoline.

Pawlenty told rally participants that auto manufacturers have said they don't produce more alternative-fuel vehicles because there is a lack of E-85 pumps.

Minnesota has been a leader in renewable energy, said Pawlenty, who wants to boost the number of E-85 pumps from 300 to 1,800.

"We need to raise the bar on ourself," he said.

Seifert said renewable energy is not a partisan issue. He predicted the DFL-led Legislature and Pawlenty will agree on a "nation-leading" E-85 proposal this year.


Supporters are trying to secure $12 million this year to add E-85 pumps.

Smoke ban panel set

The Legislature's attention is on the next two-year state budget, but work continues on a statewide smoking ban.

The House approved its version of a smoking ban Thursday after the Senate passed a similar bill last month.

A 10-member conference committee could begin working out differences between the two versions within days, said Assistant Senate Majority Leader Tarryl Clark, DFL-St. Cloud.

The committee was named Friday. It includes DFL Rep. Tom Huntley of Duluth and Sen. Steve Dille, R-Dassel.

Bonding bill delayed

Lawmakers planning to send Pawlenty a bill funding nearly $300 million in construction projects must wait at least a few more days.


A panel of senators and representatives agreed on a $299 million public works plan paid for with borrowed funds and cash, but there was a problem with language in the bill, said House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis.

The conference committee will fix the problem and both chambers could vote on the compromise bill as early as Monday, legislative leaders said.

Pawlenty said Friday he hasn't decided whether to veto the entire bill or to veto specific projects. He proposed a $71 million bonding bill.

Firewood limit OK'd

Minnesotans could only use certain firewood at state campgrounds under a bill the House approved Friday.

The measure aims to limit the spread of emerald ash borer, a small beetle that has killed millions of ash trees in other states.

People can't have firewood on those state grounds unless it has been approved by the Department of Natural Resources or purchased from an approved firewood dealer, the bill states. They could use firewood obtained from a distribution facility on DNR land.

The bill's 115-13 passage is urgent because people are beginning to register at state parks, forests and campgrounds, said bill author Rep. Rick Hansen, DFL-South St. Paul. The Senate approved a similar measure earlier this month.

"There will be some inconvenience," Hanson acknowledged.

Assistant House Majority Leader Frank Moe, DFL-Bemidji, also pushed for the bill's passage.

"We don't want emerald ash borer ... to be imported into the state of Minnesota," he said.

E-waste bill passes

Senators on Friday gave preliminary approval to a bill calling for electronics manufacturers to subsidize recycling efforts in Minnesota.

A 2006 law requires electronics to be recycled; the Senate bill calls on manufacturers to be responsible for recycling old devices - known as "e-waste" - by requiring them to finance recycling efforts.

Similar measures passed the House earlier this week. However, the Senate bill allows for manufacturers to receive rebates if they overpay.

State Capitol Bureau reporter Mike Longaecker contributed to this report. Longaecker and Scott Wente work for Forum Communications Co., which owns the Bemidji Pioneer.

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