March 26, 2010
Spring Break for Legislators
Lawmakers are hurrying to meet their third and final deadline set for Monday, March 29. Members of the House and Senate must act favorably on omnibus appropriation bills by the deadline. Both bodies of the legislature plan to meet early Monday morning for floor sessions and adjourn by 3:00 for the Passover and Easter break.
The House voted Wednesday to pass the General Assistance Medical Care compromise on a 121-12 vote. The program, which covers more than 30,000 of Minnesota's poorest residents, has seen lengthy negotiations between the legislature and Governor Tim Pawlenty this year. State government will provide hospitals a lump sum and ask them to coordinate with other providers instead of paying them for services provided to GAMC participants. The bill passed the Senate last week after a 50-12 vote. Governor Pawlenty said he will sign the bill after vetoing a prior version of the legislation.
Racino is Back in the Game
And they're off...this week in the House Agriculture, Rural Economies and Veterans Affairs Finance Committee, Chairman Al Juhnke (DFL-Willmar) amended his version of Racino legislation in to a biomass bill. The amendment proposes the addition of slot machines to horse racing facilities in Minnesota, including Canterbury Park in Shakopee. Juhnke took minimal testimony and acknowledged the amended bill will likely need to go through numerous other committees. Similar legislation stalled in the Senate earlier this month when the bill was tabled in the State and Local Government Committee. Juhnke said he believes the addition of racinos to Minnesota would create jobs and provide an increase of revenue for the state budget without increasing taxes. Revenue would be divided into five sections, including early childhood education and adding to the state's general fund.
Lifting the Nuclear Moratorium?
Legislation to lift a moratorium on nuclear power plants in the state was also re-introduced this week on the Senate floor. Sen. Ray Vandeveer (R-Forest Lake) attempted to add an amendment to a bill authored by Sen. Dan Sparks (DFL-Austin) relating to solar energy. After a long debate on the Senate floor, Sparks moved to progress the bill. A similar bill was introduced by Sen. Amy Koch (R-Buffalo) earlier this legislative session. Koch chose to lay the bill on the table after an amendment, introduced by Sen. John Doll (DFL-Burnsville), was added. The Doll amendment would lift the ban on new nuclear plants but would also apply conditions, including rate-payer protection, and require a federal nuclear waste repository. The current ban has been in place since 1994 when Xcel Energy received legislative permission to store radioactive waste at its Prairie Island plant near Red Wing. Supporters of the bill say the ban was a mistake and nuclear power is economical and environmentally friendly, while opponents point to the hazards of radioactive waste.
For up-to-date information about the Minnesota Legislature, tune into Almanac: At the Capitol. This lively and informative program is aired Wednesdays during the legislative session on Twin Cities Public Television at 7:00 PM on Channel 17 and at 10:00 PM on Channel 2.
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