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Session 2003

Session 2003



SESSION UPDATE
Gov. Tim Pawlenty took office promising to drive change "in a hundred places and a thousand ways." He may have underestimated his reach. At session's end, five months into office, the young governor finds himself with much - most - of an aggressive reform agenda becoming law.

Among his victories were wins on plans to change welfare, to establish tax-free industrial zones, to rewrite classroom graduation standards and to close a yawning deficit without raising state taxes.

Under Pawlenty, gun permits will be more accessible and abortions will be somewhat less accessible. Bar hours will be later, but there will be extra troopers on the road when they let out, and schools will be required to lead most students in the Pledge of Allegiance at least once a week.

His reach stretched from southwestern Minnesota's wind-rich fields, which will see more energy-producing turbines, to the Iron Range, which has a good chance for seeing a new coal plant and new tax-free zones.

The question presents itself, though: With a reach so vast, did he overreach? As Democrats adjourned their special session on Thursday, they were convinced he did.

The Minnesota Senate on Tuesday approved more than $1 billion in new taxes to ease the state's budget crunch. The measure passed on a 35-to-31 party line vote with Democrats in support. The tax plan also contains funding provisions for K-12 education, and must now be reconciled with the no-new-taxes approach favored by Gov. Tim Pawlenty and House Republicans. (05/13/2003)
Ottertail County gives out more handgun permits than any county in the state. The sheriff says it hasn't made the county more dangerous. (05/13/2003)
The Minnesota Senate has approved a plan to increase nuclear waste storage at Xcel Energy's Prairie Island power plant. Early on Tuesday, the Senate voted 42-to-24 for a compromise plan that keeps the facility open for the next 10 years, but preserves legislative oversight of any operation beyond that horizon. The plan also increases investments in renewable energy and codifies an agreement between Xcel and the Prairie Island Indian Community situated adjacent to the facility. (05/13/2003)
There's a week left in the legislative session and House and Senate leaders acknowledged Monday that the two sides are still miles apart. "We've got a long ways to go," House Speaker Steve Sviggum said after a meeting with Senate leaders and administration officials. "We're not going to negotiate in a vacuum." ( 05/12/2003)
Minnesota's public hospitals and clinics are stuck with a large and growing bill for uncompensated care. It's the unpaid bill they're left holding when they treat the state's 272,000 uninsured residents. Most of the bill is paid by local taxpayers and other patients with health insurance. Hospital officials say Gov. Tim Pawlenty's budget proposal will cause uncompensated care costs to grow. (05/12/2003)
Next Monday Minnesota lawmakers must adjourn the 2003 legislative session. They have lots of work to do before then, including coming up with the next two-year budget in the face of a projected $4.2 billion shortfall. Legislative leaders have not yet agreed on overall spending targets, which means conference committees are still waiting to do their work. MPR <i>Morning Edition</i> host Cathy Wurzer previews the week with Capitol Bureau Chief Laura McCallum. (05/12/2003)
The cold, rainy weekend didn't dampen Gov. Tim Pawlenty's enthusiasm for fishing. The governor was in Detroit Lakes for the traditional Minnesota fishing opener. Pawlenty says it was a fun, relaxing weekend. Now it's back to work. (05/12/2003)
The Minnesota Personal Protection Act became law following a seven-year gun lobby effort led by a group called Minnesota Concealed Carry Reform NOW!. Several lawmakers say legislative maneuvering which circumvented conventional debate in the Senate resulted in legislation that should have been more closely scrutinized. Some lawmakers also say concealed carry passed because some legislators were afraid to vote no. (05/12/2003)
Minnesota House Republicans say they're growing impatient with the slow pace of budget negotiations. With just over a week left before scheduled adjournment, GOP leaders in the House and Democrats who control the Senate remain deeply divided over how to erase a projected $4.2 billion deficit. The fault line lies over the contentious issue of taxes, with Republicans saying they'll stand by Gov. Tim Pawlenty and his pledge <i>not</i> to increase state taxes. (05/09/2003)
Several city officials and local police chiefs are asking the Legislature to change the concealed carry that law that will go into effect on May 28. They're urging lawmakers to grant cities the authority to forbid guns on city property. They say they want the same rights granted to local schools and private businesses. Supporters of gun rights say the proposal would undermine their ability to create a statewide uniform law for permit holders. (05/09/2003)
Minnesota's Republicans have translated their sweeping wins in last year's election into swift victories in this year's legislative session. &quot;It certainly looks like a sea change has taken place in Minnesota politics,&quot; says one lobbyist. (05/09/2003)
Time is running out for the Minnesota Legislature to agree on several major issues, especially the state budget. And now political wags are acknowledging that a special session may be in order. What's going on behind the scenes to break the logjam? ( 05/09/2003)
Host Mike Mulcahy and guests look at a range of top news stories including the latest on the state budget and what may become the first death penalty case in Minnesota in a century. ( 05/09/2003)
The K-12 education funding bill that passed in the state House and Senate would allow schools districts to sell naming rights to corporate sponsors to raise extra revenue. Sen. David Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm, who authored the provision, says he imagines schools could raise significant amounts through deals allowing corporations like Microsoft to attach their names to school buildings. Tomassoni has been on education committee for 11 years, and he says no matter what the economic climate, schools always seem to need extra revenue. MPR's Lorna Benson talked with him about his idea. (05/08/2003)
Voicing concern that violent video games might encourage real-life violence, the Senate voted Thursday to make it illegal for children under 17 to rent or buy them. The bill applies to games rated M for Mature audiences or AO for Adults Only under the industry's own rating system. (05/08/2003)

Audio Highlights

Pawlenty's session postscript (6/4/03)
The governor discusses the budget and the session during a speech to the Society of Professional Journalists' meeting in Minneapolis
Political scientist Larry Jacobs (5/30/03)
Provides a review of the 2003 session.
Sen. John Hottinger (5/30/03)
Senate majority leader summarizes the session
Sen. Dick Day (5/30/03)
Senate minority leader summarizes the session
The human services budget
Sen. Linda Berglin, DFL-Minneapolis, chair of the Senate Health and Human Services and Corrections Budget Division; and Rep. Fran Bradley, R-Rochester, chair of the House Health and Human Services Finance Committee (5/16/03)
The view from former governors (5/13/03)
Former governors Arne Carlson, Wendell Anderson, Elmer L. Andersen and Al Quie give free advice to Gov. Pawlenty
Political scientist Larry Jacobs (5/5/03)
A look at recent polls
Pawlenty's budget message (2/18/03)
Issues budget in attempt to close deficit
Gov. Pawlenty announces "unallotment" cuts Takes action after legislators fail to make a deal (2/7/03)
Gov. Pawlenty's State of the State address (2/6/03)
Pawlenty outlines his vision for Minnesota.
Gov. Pawlenty inaugural address (1/6/03)