Minnesota hasn't had a parole board since 1982, when it was replaced by sentencing guidelines. The Legislature is considering changing that. Supporters say some inmates deserve a second chance through early release. Critics say inmates should serve their time.
Tuesday marks the first committee deadline of the 2005 legislative session. Bills had to clear all the necessary policy committees in either the House or the Senate by the end of the day. Those that don't face much tougher odds of survival, and that includes two stadium proposals that haven't even had a hearing.
The Minnesota Senate has voted to lift a cap on state-subsdized health care benefits for some low-income Minnesotans. Currently, MinnesotaCare health coverage is limited to $5,000 for adults who have no children. Opponents of the bill say the state needs to trim health care costs, rather than expanding benefits.
Gov. Pawlenty and legislative leaders have reached a deal on a package of public works projects. If the agreement holds up, it would mark the most significant breakthrough at the Capitol in more than a year. The Legislature failed to pass a bonding bill last session, in the midst of partisan gridlock.
In the the first major debate of the session on whether to raise taxes, the Minnesota House of Representatives voted to cap state spending at $29.8 billion over the next two years, while rejecting an attempt to raise the limit to provide more money for schools.
Minnesota's political leaders are expressing their sorrow and condolences over the shooting rampage in Red Lake. Ten people are dead in the nation's worst school shooting since Columbine nearly six years ago. Many lawmakers attended a ceremony on the state Capitol steps to mourn the Red Lake deaths.
About 200 ethanol supporters rallied at the state Capitol in support of doubling the state's ethanol mandate on Wednesday. Gov. Pawlenty urged the crowd to persuade wavering lawmakers to vote for the plan. The bill has bipartisan support in the Legislature, but it's about to face its toughest test in a key House committee, which holds a hearing on the bill on Thursday.
Gov. Tim Pawlenty is proposing the state hire a coordinator to work with faith-based groups seeking state grants to provide social services. Twenty governors have established similar offices, but the Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation says the initiatives violate the constitutional separation of church and state.
A bill designed to help pregnant women, once
seen as possible common ground in the bitter abortion debate, ended
up highlighting the divisions Thursday in a House committee
Last November, with much fanfare, Gov. Tim Pawlenty invited Minnesotans to suggest ways to balance the state budget without raising taxes by logging on to a new Web site. The governor's office has just released the results. More than 17,000 people responded, and most wanted the state to spend more money on education, both K-12 and higher ed. Democrats question whether Pawlenty is paying attention to the results of his own Web site.
Gov. Pawlenty's plan for a new state-tribal casino could spark several legal challenges. Pawlenty and leaders of three northern Minnesota Indian tribes have agreed to build a 4,000-slot-machine casino in the metropolitan area. Other Minnesota tribes that aren't involved in the deal aren't ruling out suing the state.
State finance officials say Minnesota's budget deficit has shrunk to a projected $466 million for the next two years. That's about a third smaller than the number predicted in December. Gov. Pawlenty and Republican leaders hailed the news, while DFLers said the forecast shows the state's budget woes persist.
A bill that would legalize Texas Hold'em tournaments cleared its first legislative hurdle on Wednesday. It's one of the smaller gambling proposals lawmakers are likely to consider this session.
The Minnesota House has overwhelmingly passed an $816 million package of public works projects. And as part of the legislation the House has, for the first time, approved some seed money for the proposed Northstar commuter rail line between Minneapolis and Big Lake.
Some lawmakers say legislation to double the amount of ethanol in gasoline is moving so quickly that legitimate concerns are being brushed aside.