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Lawmakers work on minor bills

ST. PAUL -- The Minnesota House for the second time voted Wednesday to ban devices that dispense alcoholic mists, an attempt to make sure the prohibition makes it into law as time runs out for the 2006 legislative session.

The "alcohol without liquid" device ban was part of a broader public safety measure that also gave law enforcement officers more authority to notify the public when a sex offender moves in from out of state.

The debate came as legislators face a practical 7 a.m. Sunday deadline to adjourn for the year. Legislative leaders agreed not to meet on Sunday, and the state Constitution does not allow lawmakers to pass bills on Monday, the last day they can meet this year.

Negotiations continued among legislative leaders and Gov. Tim Pawlenty, but House-Senate conference committee negotiations on separate bills were scarce. The only conference committee activity on Wednesday came on stadium construction and the budget. However, there was little budget work that could be done without an overall agreement.

The public safety bill that passed 125-7 was a stripped-down version of one that had regulated illegal immigration and taken other controversial stands.

"No cash, no controversy," Rep. Steve Smith, R-Mound, said about his streamlined bill.

The alcohol without liquid prohibition provision came from Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, as part of an ongoing Fargo-Moorhead effort to combat youth alcohol use. Two college-age youths have died in alcohol-related Moorhead incidents.

In 2005, a budget-setting year, lawmakers approved a large public safety funding plan. This year's bill stuck mainly to public safety policy.

"For a nonbudget year, it's a good bill," Lanning said.

Among other provisions of the bill:

• When a serious sex offender moves near a school, day care center or other children-oriented organization, parents must be notified.

• Racing on public streets would be considered reckless driving, even if vehicles' speed does not exceed speed limits.

The House and Senate debated mostly minor bills Wednesday. On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson, DFL-Willmar, had said activity needed to pick up on Wednesday if work was to wrap up this weekend. He said conference committees needed to finish their work today and Friday.

House Speaker Steve Sviggum, R-Kenyon, said there still is time to accomplish several key issues, and he wants legislative leaders and Pawlenty to meet for most of today to work toward an overall agreement. The governor, House and Senate traded written offers Wednesday.

More conference committee members were appointed, including one to work out differences in bills to construct a University of Minnesota football stadium.

Also Wednesday, the House passed 129-2 a package of natural resources legislation. The so-called game and fish bill was modified to prohibit the use of "monster trucks" on state and county park and forest lands.

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.