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Legislative notebook: Hunting, fishing licenses could be sold in shutdown

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ST. PAUL -- Senators voted 41-24 to keep hunting and fishing license sales going if state government shuts down like last summer.

"I saw firsthand how people were hurt by not allowing them to buy a fishing license," Sen. Paul Gazelka, R-Brainerd, said Tuesday about why he brought the bill.

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The state lost $3 million in revenue during the 2011 shutdown, Gazelka said, but "the tourism industry lost far, far, far more than that."

Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, said some people plan hunting and fishing trips more than a half-year in advance. "To lose that kind of revenue is totally irresponsible."

Democrats who blame Republicans for last year's budget impasse that led to the shutdown said bills like Gazelka's send the wrong message.

"This is another one of those bills where we expect the Legislature to not gets its work done," Sen. Mary Jo McGuire, DFL-Falcon Heights, said.

The bill would require on-line license sales only.

A similar bill by Rep. Larry Howes, R-Walker, awaits a House vote.

Several bills making their way through the Legislature exempt a variety of programs from being affected by shutdowns.

Panel OKs Capitol fix

The full House is the next stop for a $221 million state Capitol building repair plan.

The House Ways and Means Committee overwhelmingly approved the project Tuesday after bill sponsor Rep. Larry Howes, R-Walker, said he talked to Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton Monday night.

"The governor is on record of fully supporting this plan," Howes said.

The plan is to renovate the building's exterior, heating and air conditioning system, lighting and other parts of the domed facility.

Much of the work in the next year would be planning and most construction work would be wrapped up in 2016. Capitol occupants would be forced out of the building during construction, although state leaders hope to keep the House and Senate chambers available during legislative sessions.

Rep. Lyndon Carlson, DFL-Crystal, said he is reluctant to tie up state money for that long when other public works projects also need money. He suggested the Legislature approve renovation spending over a period of years.

"It crowds out other needed projects across the state of Minnesota," Carlson said.

However, Wayne Waslaski of the Administration Department said that phasing in the project could drive up costs because companies would be less willing to give their best prices without the assurance of on-going funding.

Bonding bill coming

Senate Republicans plan to release their public works funding proposal Wednesday morning.

Senate spokesman Steve Sviggum said final touches were being put on the bill Tuesday, and the Senate Capital Investment Committee planned to discuss it first thing Wednesday.

Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem, also capital investment chairman, has said he expects the bill to propose spending about $500 million.

The Senate is expected to fold projects such as fixing college buildings in with funds to restore the state Capitol Building. The House proposes funding those projects, financed by the state selling bonds, in separate bills that total about $500 million.

Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton proposes $776 million in public works projects, a level Republicans say is too high. Dayton does not include Capitol work in his plan.

No end set

Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem says rumors about the Legislature adjourning before Easter are not true, yet.

"There is no plan for adjournment at this point," the Rochester Republican said. "We are on a glide path. We are not sure when the wheels will touch the ground."

However, he added, the Senate "is working on a more accelerated basis right now."

Talk about adjourning on April 5 has accelerated in recent days. Otherwise, that will be the last day before the traditional Easter-Passover recess that would last until April 16.

"There is no specific commitment to an April 5 adjournment date," Senjem said.

Earlier, lawmakers were working toward an April 30 adjournment for the year.

House Tax Chairman Greg Davids, R-Preston, said it is "practically impossible" to adjourn by Easter, citing the need to vote on jobs, Capitol restoration, public works, stadium and school funding bills.

Ethics meeting delayed

No meeting date has been set to resume an ethics inquiry into Sen. Geoff Michel, R-Edina.

Chairwoman Michelle Fischbach, R-Paynesville, said on Tuesday that a Senate attorney suggests that the ethics committee may be dealing with issues that could hurt in a probable lawsuit.

Fischbach said: "The situation is unprecedented."

Sen. Sandy Pappas, DFL-St. Paul, brought ethics charges against Michel, claiming he did not properly handle the fallout of an affair between then-Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, R-Buffalo, and Senate aide Michael Brodkorb.

A lawsuit is threatened by Brodkorb, and an attorney the Senate has hired fears ethics committee testimony could affect the court case.

"We have a situation before us that needs to be handled gently and fairly," Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, said.

Ticket transfer OK'd

The House Tuesday approved a bill 83-50 allowing Minnesotans to transfer electronic tickets.

As it is, some ticket sellers restrict whether buyers may resell or transfer electronic tickets. Many sports, concert and other ticket sellers oppose the bill.

Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.

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Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.
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