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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.

Minnesota Republicans and Democrats are traveling the state telling their side of the legislative story. Gov. Tim Pawlenty explains that cuts were necessary to balance the state budget. Democrats argue the cuts were too deep. Local officials are still trying to filter the facts from the rhetoric, but many in rural Minnesota feel unfairly targeted by budget cuts. (06/03/2003)
Gov. Pawlenty and DFL legislative leaders began separate tours of the state on Monday to talk about the 2003 session. The governor achieved much of his legislative agenda, and is highlighting the accomplishments of the session. Democrats, on the other hand, believe the Republican-backed budget will erode Minnesota's quality of life. (06/02/2003)
An easing of gun laws, a new set of graduation standards and a balanced budget despite huge deficits were the some of the hallmarks of a long legislative session. ( 06/02/2003)
Minnesota lawmakers wrapped up a 10-day special session Thursday night, ending a grueling five months of debate over the largest budget deficit in Minnesota history. When it was over, the Legislature had erased a projected $4.2 billion deficit without raising state taxes. Republicans took to the road Friday to tout the session's accomplishments, while Democrats say Minnesotans will soon realize the harmful effects of a budget they don't support. At least one DFL senator is so upset about the budget, he says he may leave the caucus. (05/30/2003)
Now that the battle is over, it's time for the spin. Lawmakers hit the airwaves, airways and roadways Friday to sell their messages the day after the Legislature wrapped up the 2003 session. "We've done our job," House Speaker Steve Sviggum said. "We've held honor with our agreement." Those words were echoed late Thursday by Majority Leader John Hottinger, but he went on to say the GOP-leaning budget that had been passed would mean pain to many. ( 05/30/2003)
A nearly $12 billion spending bill for Minnesota schools is awaiting Gov. Pawlenty's signature. Kindergarten through 12th grade classrooms were largely spared from the deep cuts needed to balance the state's budget deficit. But spending was reduced significantly for several education programs. (05/30/2003)
Less than 12 hours after the Legislature brought a special session to a halt, finishing its work for the year, Republicans and Democrats hit the road Friday to recap what happened during their 2003 gathering. Before ending the session, lawmakers passed a $7.2 billion health and human services bill. Democrats voted against it, calling it "the meanest" of the Republican budget bills. (05/30/2003)
The 2003 special legislative session has gavelled to a close after the House and Senate completed work on $4.2 billion deficit reduction package. The last major budget item to pass was a tax bill that funds aids to local governments. The aid cuts proposed by Gov. Tim Pawlenty and House Republicans, however, shook Senate DFLers and may have opened a rift in that caucus. (05/30/2003)
A bill that authorizes borrowing of $237 million for capital investments was one of the final bills passed by the Legislature. The bill provides funding for statewide projects in the arts, flood relief and higher education. The bill was a top priority of Senate DFLers who said it would stimulate the economy. Opponents say the bill is inappropriate during a budget crisis. (05/30/2003)
At least 13 congregations of various faiths asked a judge on Thursday to allow them to opt out of portions of the newly-enacted concealed carry law. The churches asked for a temporary restraining order, arguing that the law infringes on their rights to ban guns on all of their property, including parking lots. (05/29/2003)
A successful Minnesota program that helps teenage mothers stay in school and not get pregnant again has been hit by state budget cuts. The program, which is run by the Minnesota Visiting Nurse Agency, is losing more than half its funds. The irony is the program has been widely recognized as a success. (05/29/2003)
Capitol leaders worked Wednesday evening to pin down an on-again, off-again deal to cut more than $1 billion in spending from health and human services programs. They were down to fighting over only a handful of minor issues in the mammoth bill they hope will be their last major vote of the special session, perhaps on Thursday. House and Senate leaders are also hoping to pass a bonding bill that borrows money for state building projects. ( 05/29/2003)
Legislative inaction has forced state lawmakers into at least one more day of budget wrangling as they struggle to erase a projected $4.2 billion deficit. But House and Senate leaders say they hope to break the impasse later today with final votes on both a health and human services package and a bonding bill that borrows money for state building projects. (05/29/2003)
Republican House Speaker Steve Sviggum says he'll continue to push for a change in a new law that would require sheriffs to issue handgun permits to almost any Minnesotan over the age of 21. The law went into effect Wednesday. Sviggum and Gov. Pawlenty say they would like to change a requirement that business owners both post signs and personally tell people that guns aren't welcome in their establishments. The proposed change would allow business owners to do one or the other. However, several lawmakers say they don't think a compromise between the House and Senate on the handgun issue can be reached this session. (05/28/2003)
Legislative negotiators are putting the finishing touches on a $7.4 billion dollar health and human services bill. They've hit a couple of snags as they wrap up the nearly 800-page bill. The bill could be the last piece of legislation passed in special session. (05/28/2003)
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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)
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