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Session 2003

Session 2003

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.

A bill moving through the Minnesota House revisits where ATV-ers can ride. The measure would allow riders to cross wetlands currently off-limits. And the DNR is looking at opening more hiking, snowmobile trails to all terrain vehicles. ( 03/30/2004)
Gov. Pawlenty is pushing a plan to make it easier for Minnesotans to purchase prescriptions from across the border because drugs in Canada cost less than what the same drugs cost in the U.S. Several Canadian groups, however, are voicing concern that their health system will suffer if more Americans buy their drugs from Canada. (11/12/2003)
Select teachers could earn up to $100-thousand a year in a pilot program proposed by Gov. Tim Pawlenty. They'd get it in exchange for working in some of the state's toughest schools and forfeiting some job security. The governor wants legislative approval to create "super teacher" positions in up to five schools. We discuss the proposed plan, and find out how it would work. ( 10/02/2003)
The ranks of the uninsured rose by 2.4 million last year as insurance costs kept rising and more Americans lost their jobs and health care coverage. However, the U.S. Census Bureau says Minnesota has the lowest rate of uninsured people in the country. In a live broadcast from Collegeville, we discuss short- and long-term solutions to rising health-care costs. ( 10/01/2003)
The effect of budget cuts continues to trickle down to communities across Minnesota. Public health administrators are worried about how they'll fulfill their mission with less money. They say some important prevention programs may be discarded. (08/27/2003)
It wouldn't be the Minnesota State Fair if there weren't some politicking among the cheese curds and livestock exhibits. It's not an election year for state officials, but that hasn't stopped politicians from converging on the fair. Republicans have handed out "DFL lies on a stick", and Democrats are gathering signatures asking Gov. Pawlenty to release his tax returns. (08/22/2003)
Dentists who serve lower income adults say they expect a new law to make things difficult for them. The law, which takes effect in October, will cap state-subsidized payments for dental services at $500 per patient per year. Dentists say they're worried the law will present an ethical dilemma -- and could prompt many to decide against treating lower income individuals altogether. (08/03/2003)
Funding for teen programs around Minnesota is dwindling as a result of the state budget crisis. As youth programs statewide reduce their services for things like housing and employment, there's growing concern no one's left to pick up the slack. (07/16/2003)
Minnesota's governor, auditor, and other prominent Republicans are being tied to a Minneapolis-based telephone company accused of cheating consumers in seven states. MPR's Perry Finelli talked with DFLer Steve Kelley, who serves on the Senate Commerce and Utilities Committee. He expects the Legislature will investigate the charges. (07/14/2003)
Minnesota's new two-year budget took effect Tuesday, marked by protests and dire predictions. The budget erases what was projected to be a $4.2 billion deficit with one-time money, payment shifts, fee increases and spending cuts. Some proposed welfare cuts were temporarily blocked by a Ramsey County judge, but other cuts across state government began as scheduled. (07/01/2003)
The Minnesota Health Department reports Tuesday that the number of abortions performed in 2002 was the lowest since the department started collecting comprehensive annual data in 1998. The report comes on the same day that a new law that requires women to wait 24 hours before receiving an abortion goes into effect. As of today, abortion providers and family planning clinics are also required to provide women seeking an abortion with specific information about the potential risks and complications of the procedure. (07/01/2003)
Welfare revisions scheduled to take effect Tuesday are on hold after a county judge blocked the state from cutting benefits to thousands of low-income families. Ramsey County District Judge Judith Tilsen halted the benefit cuts with a temporary restraining order Monday, saying she was concerned that some of the changes were being made without federal approval. (07/01/2003)
The state's new fiscal year begins on July 1, free of any statewide tax increases. The no-new-tax budget was a key priority for Gov. Tim Pawlenty's administration. But that doesn't mean state government will be starved for new revenues. New fees -- and increases in old ones -- will add hundreds of millions of dollars to state coffers over the next two years. (06/29/2003)
A war of words has erupted at the highest levels of state government in the wake of a newspaper article about Minnesota's sexual offender program. The article in Sunday's Star Tribune was headlined, <i>State looks to release sexual psychopaths.</i> Attorney General Mike Hatch is criticizing the Pawlenty administration for forcing early release of predators to save state money. Pawlenty chief of staff Charlie Weaver counters the article is wrong, and Hatch's claims politically motivated. (06/23/2003)
A portion of the health and human services bill passed by the Legislature changes the way the state provides grants to Minnesota counties. Instead of providing grants to counties for specific services, county officials will receive larger block grants. Supporters of the new provision say counties will be able to prioritize spending based on their unique needs. But several special interest groups say counties may deliver money to services that have the most political clout instead of services that need the help the most. (06/23/2003)

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)