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Huntley: Taverns that host smoking 'plays' are illegal

State Capitol Bureau ST. PAUL - Smoking is not acting, Tom Huntley says. The state representative from Duluth, a key lawmaker in getting a smoking ban passed last year, said he thinks bars are breaking the law when they present a "play" that invo...

State Capitol Bureau

ST. PAUL - Smoking is not acting, Tom Huntley says.

The state representative from Duluth, a key lawmaker in getting a smoking ban passed last year, said he thinks bars are breaking the law when they present a "play" that involves smoking. A provision in the 2007 smoking ban allows actors on stage to smoke as part of a play.

The Democratic lawmaker said he plans to ask the attorney general and Health Department for opinions on the action's legality. But, he added, he has no plans to revise the law.

Huntley said he "was a little nervous" when Guthrie Theater officials asked for an exception for plays. The law contains a few situations where smoking is allowed, but in general it is outlawed in all public places.

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Bars in Mille Lacs County and elsewhere decided to skirt the law by calling weekend gatherings in their facilities "plays."

Transportation week

A much-discussed transportation bill is headed for expected House and Senate votes on Thursday.

The $8.4 billion proposal has a few committee stops to make, so debates could be delayed, but leaders of both chambers say their goal is to pass the bill Thursday. It would raise gasoline taxes up to 7.5 cents a gallon, increase motor vehicle registration fees and borrow money to improve Minnesota roads, bridges and transit over the next decade.

House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis, said some House members are looking to make at least one change in the measure. As written, it calls for the gasoline tax to rise with inflation, but some lawmakers want that provision removed.

Kelliher, House Majority Leader Tony Sertich, DFL-Chisholm, and Assistant Senate Majority Leader Tarryl Clark, DFL-St. Cloud, said that if GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty vetoes the measure, as expected, lawmakers will not see another transportation funding bill this legislative session.

However, Kelliher said that if the House sustains a Pawlenty veto, there may be an attempt to override it a second time.

Vietnam vets honor

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Minnesota's Vietnam War veterans would receive an overdue welcome home under a bill promoted by Rep. Larry Howes, R-Walker.

Howes said the Minnesota Twins helped send a platoon to the war in 1967, but those and all the soldiers who went to Vietnam afterwards never have been welcomed home.

A bill to officially welcome home the veterans, sponsored by Howes, won its initial committee approval Friday.

"It's about time for Minnesota to finish the job," Howes said.

The bill sets aside March 29, anniversary date for American withdrawal from Vietnam, as Vietnam Veterans Day.

New fishing licenses?

Two northern Minnesota lawmakers - and anglers - think they have found a way to boost interest in fishing and conserve the state's fish population at the same time.

Democrats Sen. Tom Bakk of Cook and Dave Dill of Crane Lake want to create a conservation fishing license, which would cost two-thirds the price of a standard license. Anglers with the new license could keep one-half the daily and possession limits of a standard license.

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"It's a win-win for both the environment and anglers," Bakk said. "Catch-and-release is great, but a lot of people want to take a few home to eat, too; this would accommodate both. Why should anglers who voluntarily want to conserve fish populations be forced to pay for a full-priced license?"

Bakk has tried to pass a similar bill in the past.

State Capitol Bureau reporter Scott Wente contributed to this report

Davis works for Forum Communications Co., which owns The Forum. He can be reached at (651) 290-0707 or ddavis@forumcomm.com

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