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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.

Senate Democrats began discussions Thursday on proposals for more than $1 billion in new taxes over the next two years. DFLers say the extra revenue is necessary to blunt the spending reductions outlined in proposals favored by Gov. Tim Pawlenty and House Republicans. But Pawlenty says he'll stand by his pledge to reject any new tax increases, and a key DFL lawmaker says it's likely the governor will carry the day. (05/01/2003)
The Minnesota House has passed its largest budget bill, a nearly $12 billion education funding package. House Republican leaders say the bill aims to hold education harmless in the face of a projected $4.2 billion deficit. DFL lawmakers voted against the bill, calling it a "leave every child behind" education plan. As the House was debating the bill, the issue took an unusual turn in the Senate, where DFL leaders moved $12.5 billion in education spending into the Senate tax bill. (05/01/2003)
Gov. Tim Pawlenty has released new guidelines for distributing aid payments to cities across Minnesota. Administration officials say the new local government aid formula eliminates historical inequities in state assistance and focuses exclusively on a city's needs and resources. But city representatives say the formula isn't the point. While the distribution of aid may change, they argue the governor is also slashing the total amount of aid across the board, leaving municipal officials with few options. (05/01/2003)
The Minnesota House has given its approval to Governor Tim Pawlenty's transportation package. The proposal would borrow $500 million for new road projects. It also requests that an addition $500 million in future federal payments be used now. DFLers -- and some Republicans -- unsuccessfully attempted to broaden the bill by raising the gas tax and license tab fees. Minority Leader Matt Entenza of St. Paul says the Republican plan is actually a step backward. ( 04/30/2003)
Leaders in the Minnesota House and Senate plan to pass all of their budget bills by the end of the week. That gives them less than three weeks to work out their differences -- including a key issue that separates the two chambers. The House bills don't raise state taxes, while the Senate bills do, to restore funding for some of the budget cuts proposed by House Republicans and Gov. Pawlenty. (04/29/2003)
The Senate Finance Committee has approved a health and human services bill that would restore $500 million in cuts that Gov. Pawlenty and House Republicans proposed for nursing homes, daycare and health insurance for the low income. The governor and House Republicans say the Senate plan is unacceptable since it raises taxes to offset the proposed cuts. But Senate DFLers say their plan would help the state's most vulnerable during an economic downturn. (04/29/2003)
The Minnesota Personal Protection Act, as its backers call it, would make it much easier for thousands of Minnesotas to carry handguns in public. The bill establishes a "shall issue" policy for permits to carry a pistol in public. Under previous law, a person had to demonstrate an occupational or personal safety hazard to get a permit. Under the new law, a sheriff must issue a permit unless the applicant is disqualified for a specific reason. The Senate approved the bill 37-30 on Monday. It was signed without comment by Gov. Tim Pawlenty and goes into effect in 30 days. ( 04/29/2003)
Discussions of proposed deep cuts in the Minnesota state budget have sparked talk about raising taxes. The question remains whether the political climate has soured on the no-taxes pledge. ( 04/29/2003)
The Minnesota House has approved a transportation funding bill that injects more than $1 billion in new money for road projects over the next five years. The plan closely mirrors the proposal favored by Gov. Tim Pawlenty. But critics say it offers too little new cash. The body also approved spending reductions in the courts and criminal justice system. The two budget bills are the first to pass the House this year. (04/29/2003)
The Minnesota Legislature is talking about picking up the pace on state highways. Rural lawmakers are pushing a bill that would increase the daytime speed limit to 65 mph on many two-lane highways. (04/29/2003)
Gov. Pawlenty signed the concealed handgun measure into law Monday, just hours after the Senate passed it. The law requires county sheriffs to issue a handgun permit to almost any law abiding Minnesotan over the age of 21. The bill passed 37-30 after what several observers say was the longest Senate floor debate in recent memory. Supporters say current law is unfair because local law enforcement has too much discretion when it comes to issuing permits. Opponents say the law will make the state more dangerous. They also said the Minnesota House was dictating the Senate's agenda by forcing the Senate to vote up or down on the issue. (04/28/2003)
The Minnesota Senate is expected to take action this week on a $12 billion funding measure for elementary and secondary schools. (04/28/2003)
A busy week is ahead for lawmakers, who will vote on a concealed weapons bill, consider medical spending and hear a new formula for sending aid to local governments. The Senate will vote as soon as Monday on a bill that would make it tougher for sheriffs and police chiefs to turn down requests for permits to carry concealed handguns. Minnesota would become the 35th state with such a law. The measure has cleared the House, and a test vote last week shows that it's likely to pass the Senate, too. Governor Pawlenty says he would sign it. We look at the administration of Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty, after the first 100 days. ( 04/28/2003)
Watching and feeding birds is one of the fastest growing hobbies in Minnesota and the nation. Yet birders, as birdwatchers prefer to be known, have little political influence. (04/28/2003)
As the Legislature heads into the closing days of the debate over how to eliminate the budget deficit, a Minneapolis couple has entered the fray. They've started a Web site and a lawn-sign campaign and are calling on lawmakers to keep tax increases on the negotiating table. (04/28/2003)

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)