Minnesota legislature: week in review
Mercury-emission reduction plan becomes law Just days before the fishing opener, Gov. Tim Pawlenty on Thursday signed into law a plan to reduce mercury emissions in Minnesota. The state's three largest coal-fired power plants will be required to ...
Mercury-emission reduction plan becomes law
Just days before the fishing opener, Gov. Tim Pawlenty on Thursday signed into law a plan to reduce mercury emissions in Minnesota.
The state's three largest coal-fired power plants will be required to reduce the amount of mercury emitted from their facilities by 90 percent. The law calls for quicker action than less-stringent federal mandates require. The toxin has been found in lakes and fish, and can be harmful to humans.
Approval of the mercury reduction plan came after a compromise was reached between the Republican governor, legislators, environmentalists, business leaders and the power industry.
Deal reached on eminent domain
Landowners worried about government seizure of their property will likely welcome a legislative proposal that would restrict such takings.
A 10-member panel of senators and representatives agreed Wednesday on a plan to nearly prohibit local governments' ability to take private property for economic development use. That is the key provision of an eminent domain reform bill unanimously approved by the House-Senate conference committee following weeks of negotiations.
"That bill is weighted heavily toward property owners," said Sen. Steve Murphy, a conference committee member.
The full House and Senate must approve the plan - which could take place early next week - before it would be sent to Pawlenty. The Republican governor has said he supports eminent domain reform.
Gas prices spur legislative action
Lawmakers want to make it a crime to overcharge for gasoline.
The Senate on Thursday tentatively approved a transportation bill that would prohibit so-called gas price gouging by fuel wholesalers, refiners and retailers.
Sen. Steve Murphy, DFL-Red Wing, who is chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, said price gouging is not prevalent among Minnesota's gas stations, but making it a misdemeanor will help prevent such action. The DFL-controlled Senate backed the measure, but the GOP-led House likely will not follow suit.
Murphy said his proposal won't lower rising fuel costs but could provide stabilization.
Earlier this week, Rep. Paul Kohls announced a plan to repeal the state's 20-cent-per-gallon gas tax for six months, beginning July 1. The Victoria Republican admitted his plan faces an uphill battle.
The proposal could pass the GOP-led House, but the DFL-controlled Senate probably won't even act on it.
Governor signs funeral protest ban
Pawlenty on Tuesday signed off on a bill that prohibits protests within 500 feet of funeral and burial services.
Pawlenty, a Republican, said the legislation strikes a balance between a protestor's right to demonstrate and the right to mourn a loved one's death in peace. Both the House and Senate passed their bills almost unanimously, with the only opposition coming from lawmakers who said it is unconstitutional because it violates free speech. Differences between the House and Senate approaches were settled in a conference committee.
Pawlenty signed the bill into law during a ceremony near a Korean War memorial on the Capitol grounds.
The law is, in part, a response to a Kansas church group's recent demonstrations at military funerals. The group claims military deaths are the result of God punishing the United States for its tolerance of homosexuality.