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Transportation bill

The House passed a transportation finance plan 101-30 late Wednesday, although its author acknowledged it is not enough to meet state needs.

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"We really wanted to have a bill that would move the state significantly forward for our commerce, for our businesses, for our job creation, for mobility, for jobs," said Rep. Frank Hornstein, DFL-Minneapolis. "And we don't quite have that bill here before us. But I'm optimistic and hopeful we're going to get there."

Transportation proposals in the House and Senate were scaled back after Gov. Mark Dayton said he would not support a gas tax.

The proposal does allow all Minnesota counties to establish a wheelage tax, charging up to $10 each year per vehicle to fund road and bridge projects, and authorizes greater Minnesota counties to set up optional sales taxes and put funds toward transit projects.

The bill would spend about $1.7 billion on road and bridge construction over the next two years and increase greater Minnesota transit spending by $11.6 million.

It also increases the driver's license filing fee from $5 to $8.

Sick leave changed

Workers would be able to use their sick leave to care for a child, spouse, sibling, parent or grandparent under a bill the House approved 100-31 Thursday.

The AARP praised the proposed change.

"Without access to paid sick leave, too many caregivers have been forced to choose between the care of their loved one and the economic security of their family," state director Michele Kimball of AARP said. "Today's bipartisan House vote will change that once and for all."

The Senate has approved a similar bill, and the differences must be ironed out before final approval.

American Indian memorial

A plaque honoring Minnesota American Indian veterans will be installed in the Capitol grounds' court of honor.

A law allowing the plaque, sponsored by Rep. John Persell, DFL-Bemidji, and Sen. Rod Skoe, DFL-Clearbrook, was signed Wednesday by Gov. Mark Dayton.

Power of attorney form

Gov. Mark Dayton signed a law Wednesday aimed at more clearly explaining the role of a power of attorney on paperwork.

The document is often used to set out financial responsibilities in preparation for future possible incapacitation or inability to make such decisions.

The law also prohibits the person taking over power of attorney from giving himself or herself money unless authorized to do so and caps gifts to others.

False 911 penalties

Rep. Steve Simon, DFL-Hopkins, and Sen. Susan Kent, DFL-Woodbury, sponsored the bill that also labels a second offense as a gross misdemeanor and three or more as a felony.

Nursing home fights

One of the strongest legislative debates this year has been over nursing home funding.

Rural legislators, in particular, have fought for more nursing home money, especially for the workers who have not received raises in four years.

Freshman Rep. Jay McNamar, DFL-Elbow Lake, is an example. "The major concern I had throughout this session with health and human services was the need to get nursing home and long-term care workers a pay increase," he said. "The work these people do is honorable and it requires a lot of sacrifice."

The House does better than the Senate when it comes to giving nursing home workers raises. The debate will be a prime concern as negotiators merge House, Senate and governor health funding plans.

Minimum wage vote

House leaders say they plan to vote on a bill raising the state minimum wage in the next week, but no decision has been made as to when a vote will come on allowing gay marriages.

The House and Senate have passed a series of spending bills, leaving the only money bills without votes as a measure funding public works projects and another that would fund a variety of arts and outdoors projects with sales tax proceeds.

Democratic legislative leaders, who control the House and Senate, said they would not take up policy issues such as gay marriage and minimum wage until after budget bills passed.

Goodbye, Capitol

Capitol reporters have been told they will be booted from their hot, stuffy and moldy basement offices this summer if lawmakers approve a $109 million Capitol renovation request in May.

They will be gone at least two years as renovators work their way through the Capitol.

Their temporary location, "swing space" is what state officials call it, will be in the Centennial Building, a block away from the Capitol.

-- Compiled by Don Davis and Danielle Killey, Forum News Service

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