Week To Go, Big Decisions Remain For Lawmakers
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota lawmakers face a shrinking pile of unfinished business as they sprint this week toward the end of the legislative session and the campaign season just beyond.
Some big votes still await: a construction finance package, more tax relief, medical marijuana and some new spending on priority programs. Other big pending items would rein in the state lottery, impose regulations on electronic cigarettes and ban tanning bed use by minors.
Lawmakers have seven days left to pass legislation. Many hope they’ll need fewer.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk says legislators are on pace to finish ahead of the May 19 deadline.
A status check of some unfinished items in front of Minnesota lawmakers as they enter their final week:
CONSTRUCTION BILL: They agree on how big it should be: $846 million in state borrowing. But the composition of projects — college buildings, water pipelines, civic centers, theaters — are still being sorted out. There is also likely to be a cash bill of $100 million to $200 million to pay for additional construction projects.
SUPPLEMENTAL BUDGET: Legislators have $300 million to work with. A large chunk is likely to go for 5 percent rate increases to certain caregivers, broadband development in rural Minnesota and education. One big question is whether Gov. Mark Dayton uses his line-item veto to scale it back.
TAX RELIEF: After one tax break bill earlier in the session, another one is primed for a vote. The $103 million plan includes modest increases in property tax refunds for homeowners and renters and a new tax credit for farmers.
MEDICAL MARIJUANA: Minnesota could join the ranks of states permitting marijuana as a legal medicine. There are critical details yet to be negotiated before a final vote. Among them, how many sites where the drug would be available and what conditions would enable use. No smoking would be allowed, but other delivery forms would.
LOTTERY CURBS: Lawmakers could strip the Minnesota Lottery of the ability to sell tickets online and at gas pumps. Lottery leaders are hoping for a compromise but time is short and powerful lawmakers are on the side of greater restrictions.
E-CIGARETTES: Sellers and users of the fast-spreading devices could encounter new regulations. Restrictions on sales to minors and use on school property are almost certain. Less clear is whether lawmakers will outlaw their use in public places, just as regular cigarettes are.
LAWMAKER CRIMINAL IMMUNITY: A move to make clearer that lawmakers can’t avoid arrest for drunken driving or other crimes during a legislative session seems unlikely. The House passed a bill making that change but the measure has stalled in the Senate. Key senators say there is no criminal immunity and the issue has been overblown.
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