The 2005 legislative session has ended, and the special session has begun. Lawmakers failed to reach agreement on several major spending bills before the constitutional deadline to adjourn. Gov. Pawlenty called them back into session immediately, despite the lack of a budget deal.
Gov. Pawlenty is proposing the state collect an additional 75 cents a pack on cigarettes. He's calling the new money a "health impact fee," and says the money would be used to pay for state health-care costs. Pawlenty insists his proposal is a fee, not a tax. The distinction is critical because a budget deal could hinge on Pawlenty's ability to come away from negotiations saying he's standing by his pledge to not raise taxes.
The Minnesota Senate has overwhelmingly passed a bill that would overhaul the state's child support guidelines for the first time in two decades. The guidelines affect about 300,000 children in the state. The House could pass a similar measure this week. And although it contains some differences from the Senate version, the sponsors of the two bills say they think they can find common ground before the Legislature adjourns next week.
For the first time in more than a decade, the Minnesota House has voted to raise the state's gas tax. Ten Republicans joined with most Democrats on Thursday to pass a $7.7 billion transportation package. It's also the first time the House has passed a tax increase since Gov. Pawlenty was elected, which could put his "no new taxes" stance to the test.
With less than two weeks left in the legislative session, Gov. Pawlenty is urging legislative leaders to reach a budget deal. The call came as the House was passing a vastly different tax bill than the one that passed the Senate last week. And taxes aren't the only issue on which the House and Senate are far apart.
Minnesota is the first state with a law mandating 20-percent ethanol use by the year 2013.
Gov. Tim Pawlenty on Thursday blasted a Senate DFL plan to raise taxes on upper-income Minnesotans. The Senate tax bill would create a temporary 11-percent top income-tax rate. Senate Democrats who support the plan say it asks Minnesotans who benefitted from the economic boom of the '90s to help balance the budget. But not all Senate Democrats back the plan.
The worst sex crimes wouldn't be punished with
the state's toughest penalties under a crime bill approved Tuesday
by the Senate, where lawmakers argued that mandatory life sentences
without parole could hamper prosecutors.
A revised version of Minnesota's handgun permit law survived a key committee vote at the Capitol Monday. The Senate Crime Prevention Committee kept the bill alive by sending it to its next stop without recommendation. The committee also made significant changes to the bill.
A bill subjecting violent sex predators to life
behind bars got even tougher Thursday when the House voted to make
castration a possible penalty for pedophiles and to create special
license plates identifying sex offenders.
Bills in both the House and Senate would increase the amount of state money that school districts get for each student. While legislators agree on the need to put more money into K-12 education, they disagree on how to pay for it.
Senate DFL leaders Wednesday outlined a plan for about $1 billion in new state spending. Most of the money would go to public schools. Senate Democrats did not say where the money would come from, however, and Republican leaders promptly blasted the plan.
In the wake of an audit showing lax Internet
security, a top state official said Tuesday he can't guarantee
users of a state vehicle registration Web site that credit card
data and other personal information was safe from hackers.
The Minnesota Legislature appears close to overhauling the state's child support system, which affects about 300,000 children in the state. Bills that would base child support on the combined income of both parents are picking up momentum. While nearly everyone involved in the debate agrees that the current system needs reform, there's little consensus on the best way to do that.
Groups opposed to tax increases say they will stifle job growth in the state. Advocates for a tax increase say scrimping on education and other state priorities will do far more harm to Minnesota's economy. The issue is ready to boil over at the Capitol.