ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota lawmakers are rushing to put policy changes big and small in place before turning their attention to assembling a new state budget.
The first of several legislative deadlines on Friday has put hundreds of bills on the fast track at the Republican-controlled Legislature, from measures that would levy higher penalties on protesters who take to the highways to the recently signed law lifting Minnesota’s 158-year-old ban on Sunday liquor sales.
Some will become law, while others will be used as bargaining chips with Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton. Here’s a look at some major legislation lawmakers are pursuing:
After years of falling far short, Minnesota lawmakers finally voted to repeal the statewide ban on liquor stores opening on Sundays. Gov. Mark Dayton signed the bill this week, meaning liquor stores can choose to open on Sundays beginning in July.
An overwhelming January vote to overturn the ban in the House made clear the tide was turning, and even major critics of legalizing Sunday sales made clear they were ready to simply put the perennial issue behind them. A grass-roots effort from citizen advocates, extra support from House Speaker Kurt Daudt and an influx of new, more supportive lawmakers helped push it over the finish line.
Plans to upgrade Minnesota driver’s licenses to meet tougher standards for boarding plans starting next year have hit a snag.
Legislators aimed to get a Real ID bill wrapped up early this year, but failed vote in the Senate — over Democrats’ concern that the legislation would reinforce an existing state rule banning Minnesota driver’s licenses from being issued to immigrants living in the U.S. illegally — has slowed down that timeline. And the path to compromise with the House, which approved legislation with an outright ban to expanding licenses to those immigrants, is rocky at best.
A pair of bills heard in a House panel Wednesday would eliminate the need for a concealed carry permit and would create a “stand your ground” law in Minnesota. In instances of self-defense, Minnesota residents would no longer be required to attempt to retreat before using deadly force.
Police organizations, gun-control advocates and concerned residents packed the room to express their fears, while the National Rifle Association and other prominent gun rights groups supported the bill.
VIKINGS STADIUM OVERSIGHT
Change is inevitable for the Minnesota Vikings’ stadium oversight board after ethical questions surrounding its use of luxury suites for friends and family.
The House overwhelmingly passed a bill giving the Legislature more authority to appoint members of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, and the Senate is expected to follow suit. Authority chairwoman Michele Kelm-Helgen and executive director Ted Mondale already resigned from that board.
Republican state Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer, Minnesota’s former top elections official, is leading the charge to bring provisional balloting to the state.
Kiffmeyer says it’s necessary to ensure voters are eligible to vote before slipping their ballot in the box. The provisional balloting would check information for newly registered voters or those flagged for potential discrepancies.
It could test Dayton’s long-standing commitment to sign election-related legislation only if it passes with clear bipartisan support.
Like other Republicans in statehouses around the U.S., Minnesota lawmakers have offered up a number of bills that would increase the penalties for protesting on the freeway and allow local governments sue protesters for response costs.
A favorite foil for Republicans who now control the Legislature, the transportation authority that serves the Twin Cities could see cuts and changes to its governance.
Republicans are advancing bills that would ban the Metropolitan Council from expanding beyond the seven-county Twin Cities area, remove some of the governor’s ability to appoint members and requiring more legislative approval for projects such as the Southwest Light Rail between Minneapolis and its southwestern suburbs.
Republicans in both the House and Senate are moving to undercut local sick leave policies and a looming minimum wage increase in Minneapolis and other cities.
Their legislation would leave those decisions to the state, and few issues have divided the Legislature this year on more clearly partisan lines. Republicans say it’s necessary to clear up confusion for businesses with footprints across the state, but Democrats say the bill betrays the GOP’s commitment to “local control.”
The future of health care in Minnesota and across the U.S. is in flux.
As congressional Republicans chart massive changes to Affordable Care Act, Minnesota’s GOP state lawmakers are aiming to create a reinsurance program — insurance for the insurers themselves to help cover heavy and unexpected losses and meant to limit premium increases for consumers.
Meanwhile, the House GOP is advancing a bill that would dismantle Minnesota’s health insurance exchange and push shoppers to the federal hub, HealthCare.gov.
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