Published on Wednesday, 30 November -0001 00:00
April 28-May 2 In addition to a fix for the nearly $1 billion budget shortfall, the Senate and House are working on comprehensive policy bills in every policy area. The Legislature set the deadline for joint conference committees to wrap up work on these omnibus bills, and with the deadline to end session about two weeks away, a lot must be done in a short amount of time. Budget discussions took place throughout the weekend with the Governor and legislative leaders. Airline commitment Senate and House lawmakers held separate hearings this week to discuss with Northwest and Delta airline officials concerns for the loss of jobs in Minnesota and enforcement of NWA agreements following the companies' planned merger. Committees will return attention to the issue next week, including hearing from the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) and discussing bills dealing with the enforcement of employment and financial agreements between Northwest and the MAC. Immigration in Minnesota Lawmakers heard from state and federal law officers, fraud investigators and corrections officials during the first official capitol hearing of the Minnesota Legislative Caucus on Immigration (MLCI). Leaders of the group hope the hearings will bring to light the effect and cost of illegal immigrants in the state, especially in the areas of identity theft, public assistance fraud and criminal investigations. Last summer and fall, some lawmakers had informal hearings around Minnesota on the issue, and agreed that more attention to the issue was needed. Bills to governor Background checks - School coaches, volunteers and paid activity staff for extracurricular activities will have to submit to criminal background checks under a plan that passed the Senate unanimously and is on its way to the governor. Fine expanded to teens - A $30 license reinstatement fee will be expanded to juveniles whose driver's license was revoked for a moving violation in conjunction with the use of a controlled substance. The fee was inadvertently removed in 1993. It was approved unanimously in the Senate last week.
Last week was an interesting one also for what didn't happen. During debate over several wide-ranging bills, Senate Republicans offered a number of amendments that reflect Minnesotans' concern for the unbalanced state budget and the problems facing our families' checkbooks. The amendments included a plan for temporary relief from a portion of Minnesota's gas taxes and cuts to the Legislature's own budget, both small requests that were voted down by the majority. Let's not forget that last year the Legislature used a $2 billion budget surplus to increase the spending by 10 percent, including an almost 20 percent jump for the Legislature itself. The opportunity to lead by example in tough economic times was refused by the majority party. I will continue to keep you updated as the session progresses. Please feel free to contact me with your questions and comments. Sen. Michelle Fischbach is serving in her fifth term in the Minnesota Senate. She encourages and appreciates constituent input and can be reached at (651) 296-2084, by mail to 153 State Office Building/St. Paul, Minn. 55155 or via e-mail at