The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

May 12, 2014

Week to go, big decisions remain for lawmakers

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota lawmakers face a shrinking pile of unfinished business as they sprint this week toward the end of the legislative session and the campaign season just beyond.

Some big votes still await: a construction finance package, more tax relief, medical marijuana and some new spending on priority programs. Other big pending items would rein in the state lottery, impose regulations on electronic cigarettes and ban tanning bed use by minors.

Lawmakers have seven days left to pass legislation. Many hope they'll need fewer.

"We're in pretty good shape to adjourn the session early," said Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook.

Key lawmakers from both parties have been huddling privately to try to find agreement on an $846 million construction borrowing plan. If they succeed, it could breeze off both floors. If they don't, it could add days and political pain to a bill that requires Democratic and Republican votes to pass.

"The desire is there to find an agreement if we can get the clinkers out," said Senate Capital Investment Committee Chairman LeRoy Stumpf, DFL-Plummer. "There's a few big issues there."

Top leaders are ready to intervene if talks bog down.

Senate Minority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, senses more difficulty wrapping up the bill making marijuana a legal medicine once House and Senate negotiations begin. The level of access to marijuana and qualifying conditions for use don't line up in the two bills, and where legislators come down will have a bearing on whether Gov. Mark Dayton signs a bill.

"It is going to be maybe the hardest thing to get done. They do have major differences between the two bills. There is a lot of passion on both sides. We are running out of time," Hann said.

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