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Parties split on habitat

ST. PAUL - With less than a week remaining in the legislative session, lawmakers moved farther from agreement Tuesday on a plan to dedicate funds to the outdoors and the arts.

Sen. Dallas Sams

ST. PAUL - With less than a week remaining in the legislative session, lawmakers moved farther from agreement Tuesday on a plan to dedicate funds to the outdoors and the arts.

A House-Senate conference committee is working on a proposed constitutional amendment committing state sales tax revenue to fish and wildlife habitat, park improvements, water cleanup efforts and arts programs.

House Republicans initially favored using a portion of the existing 6.5 percent sales tax, while Senate Democrats argued funding must come from a tax increase, which would be put before voters at the Nov. 7 election.

After House negotiators moved considerably from their position by suggesting using existing and new revenues, the Senate on Tuesday countered with an offer that appeared similar to its original bill.

Sen. Dallas Sams, DFL-Staples, said the latest offer was more a statement that the House plan didn't include enough money for parks, trails and the arts. Sams, the Senate's lead negotiator, said he knew the House wouldn't accept the proposal, but that trading offers is part of the process.


Angry House negotiators predicted that without more compromise from senators the issue won't be resolved this session.

"You brought us nothing," said Rep. Tom Hackbarth, R-Cedar, the lead House negotiator.

"You guys are not serious about getting this done."

After the contentious meeting, Sams said a final deal on the outdoors amendment will require the negotiating help of Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

Other than the outdoors amendment conference committee and another committee dealing with professional sports stadiums, negotiators did not meet Tuesday. Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson, DFL-Willmar, said that has to change today.

Johnson said work needs to kick into high gear because lawmakers must finish all of their work by 7 a.m. Sunday. Legislative leaders and Pawlenty agreed not to meet Sunday, Johnson said, and the state constitution does not allow legislators to pass bills Monday, the final day they can meet this year.

Negotiators dealing with the legislative session's top priority, funding public works projects, have not met since Friday and Sen. Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon, said he doesn't plan to call another meeting until the House indicates it is willing to compromise.

Legislative leaders and Pawlenty met briefly about outstanding issues, with no progress reported. Senate leaders are expected to return to the table today with a budget offer.


The House and Senate appointed negotiators Tuesday to settle differences on the proposed Clean Water Legacy Act that establishes guidelines for cleanup of Minnesota's polluted waters. Sen. Rod Skoe, DFL-Clearbrook, and Rep. Al Juhnke, DFL-Willmar, are among the six negotiators.

There were signs of trouble on other issues.

Johnson said he was disappointed that after parliamentary maneuvering by the House on Monday to get a University of Minnesota football stadium bill in front of negotiators, House leaders did not appoint anyone to the conference committee on Tuesday.

One issue that appears less likely to surface as time runs out is abortion. Assistant Senate Majority Leader Ann Rest, DFL-New Hope, said abortion rights senators don't want to bring up a health and human services budget bill, fearing anti-abortion provisions will be tacked on to it.

The abortion provisions would ban state funds for abortion and would allow tracking of judges who authorize abortions for girls without telling their parents.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Don Davis at (651) 290-0707

Wente is a writer for the Red Wing (Minn.) Republican Eagle, a Forum Communications newspaper

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