The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

May 17, 2014

What did 2014 Legislature do for you? Here's what

ST. PAUL — As Minnesota lawmakers break from the Capitol for the campaign, they leave behind a tale of two sessions.

Last year: tax increases to fix a broken budget. This year: tax breaks from a budget surplus.

Last year: A new gay marriage law grabbed tons of attention. This year: medical marijuana.

It didn't take long for ruling Democrats and minority party Republicans to shift into full campaign mode.

"I think Minnesotans are going to be happy with the results they've seen come out of these last two years of progress for Minnesota," said House Majority Leader Erin Murphy.

Not so, said House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt: "Unfortunately Minnesotans have seen this session and last session that single party control with Democrats controlling all of state government hasn't served Minnesotans well."

BOOZE SALES

Just give up, Minnesota — or stock up. Lawmakers gave the bounce to yet another attempt to liberalize liquor laws to allow the purchase of alcohol from stores on Sundays. They brushed aside even small changes like letting taprooms sell takeaway growlers on the seventh day.

BROADBAND

A top issue for Greater Minnesota was getting state support to expand high-speed Internet, with many communities calling it a key to their vitality. They aimed high, shooting for the same $100 million recommended by a governor's task force, and claimed a win in getting a mere $20 million. Boosters say it's a down payment on addressing the half-million Minnesotans who can't get a fast connection right now.

BULLYING

Minnesota went into the session with an anti-bullying law that some regarded as one of the weakest in the nation, with little guidance to schools on policies to prevent bullying. Legislators toughened the law to require schools to track and investigate cases of bullying, and to better train teachers and staff on how to prevent it. But passage didn't come without a fight that had echoes of Minnesota's gay marriage dispute over the past two years, with familiar opponents lining up on either side. Many Republicans questioned whether changing the law would have much effect, worried about loss of local control and raised free speech concerns. Some schools also worried about costs of the mandate.

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