Breaking down the 2010 Legislative sessionby Brian Bakst, Associated Press,
Briana Bierschbach, Associated Press,
Martiga Lohn, Associated Press
St. Paul, Minn. (AP) — The Minnesota Legislature wrapped up for 2010 on Monday, sending lawmakers into a major election season that will determine who holds all 201 legislative seats, the governor's office and other statewide constitutional offices.
Here's an update on how things turned out issue by issue:
Rumors of a second public works bill never came true. That didn't stop talk of trying to revive an effort to get federal conservation dollars after Gov. Tim Pawlenty cut down a $1 billion construction projects bill to $686 million in March.
Pawlenty was expected to sign a bill he proposed to make more drunken drivers blow into breath-activated ignition locks before driving. But his plan to put tougher penalties on some sex offenders didn't make it over the finish line.
The late-breaking budget deal eliminated a $3 billion deficit by mirroring spending cuts and payment deferrals by Pawlenty last year. Lawmakers needed to ratify his cuts after the courts struck them down. The biggest single item delays nearly $2 billion in payments to schools. State leaders gave up on waiting for more than $400 million they had anticipated from Congress, but will have the money next year if it shows up in the meantime.
EDUCATION Minnesota took part in a federal money race, but lost. The state failed to qualify for a federal grant program rewarding school innovation, and Pawlenty tried to change laws to attempt a second application. But bills changing teacher tenure to allow less-than-full-fledged teachers into the classroom stalled. As for state money, it was a year to stand pat.
A new law requires utilities like Xcel Energy to reveal what they spend on travel, club dues and lobbyists. Separately, a move to undo Minnesota's ban on new nuclear power went to die in a conference committee after clearing the House for the first time. The bill would have prevented utility customers from paying construction costs for a new nuclear plant, which could make projects prohibitively expensive.
Lawmakers approved $60 million for projects to protect and restore grasslands, shoreline, waters and other habitat. The bill awaits Pawlenty's signature. The money comes from a constitutionally dedicated sales tax increase approved by voters two years ago.
An effort to force mortgage lenders into mediation with homeowners struggling to avoid foreclosure passed the Senate without going any further. Pawlenty vetoed the proposal last year.
Pawlenty and Democrats thought they wrapped up the health care issue early this year with a March compromise preserving state health care for more than 30,000 vulnerable adults. Then Congress passed a health care overhaul and many hospitals revolted against low reimbursements in the state's plan. Lawmakers and the governor became ensnared in a fight over whether to use federal money to expand Medicaid health care for poor adults. They settled for a compromise that could let Pawlenty's successor go that route if he or she chooses.
One of the few fights on social issues was over rights for surviving same-sex partners. Pawlenty vetoed a bill granting partners control over the remains of their deceased partners and the right to recover funeral and hospital costs in wrongful death cases. He said it duplicated existing laws.
The clash over a late-arriving bill to boost income taxes for high-income Minnesotans was over in a flash. Democrats introduced the $435 million plan one day, and Pawlenty vetoed it the next.
Backers of a Vikings stadium waited until May to float a proposal. Within days, all the buildup had crashed down. Two options in a bill - one involving hotel, memorabilia and car rental taxes - died in the second House committee that heard the bill. The team will certainly be back at the Capitol in 2011, the final year of the Vikings' Metrodome lease.
As the legislative session ends, the political season kicks in. And this year the voting comes early. A new law puts the state primary in mid-August rather than September. Other laws revised procedures for absentee voting and elections administration.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)