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Governor vetoes pension cuts, outdoor bill

ST. PAUL — A pension bill and parts of an outdoor-program funding bill received governor vetoes Tuesday.

The pension bill would have cut payments to retired government workers, which Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton said he found unacceptable. He said that government employers and current employees should be responsible for paying into the pension fund, something he said that he will demand during the 2017 legislative session.

Dayton also vetoed several spending proposals in the Legislative-Citizens’ Commission on Minnesota Resources, legislation funding a range of outdoor programs.

The governor said he made the vetoes because the House, in particular, ignored many of the citizen’s commission’s recommendations.

“This action seriously undermines the integrity of a process that includes citizens who volunteer hundreds of hours each year reviewing and recommending projects for funding,” Dayton wrote.

Most LCCMR spending received Dayton’s blessing.

Also Tuesday, Dayton signed 19 other bills into law. Most received little notice during the legislative session that ended last week.

Questions arise

The governor’s actions leave two major bills in question. He has yet to announce whether he will sign a tax bill that includes $280 million in tax cuts and funding increases and separate legislation increasing spending $167 million over the existing two-year, $42 billion budget.

Dayton used his line-item veto power — allowed only on spending measures — to strip some money from the LCCMR bill. He said he wished that he could have restored funding to programs the commission recommended, but he does not have that authority.

Dayton erased $1.5 million to map counties for aggregate (rock) resources, $1.5 million to study changes from forest land to cropland along the Crow Wing River, $1.1 million for the University of Minnesota to study ecological issues including reducing sulfate, $2.2 million to develop pollinator (including bee) habitat along interstate highways, $2.2 million to enhance parks and trails and $400,000 for the Douglas County Regional Park.

The governor did sign into law a bill to encourage more pharmacy and doctor use of an existing program allowing them to track a patient’s use of prescription drugs.

The bill by Rep. Dave Baker, R-Willmar, expands Minnesota’s Prescription Monitoring Program by requiring prescribers and pharmacists to register and maintain user accounts with the program.

The idea behind the requirement is to allow doctors to better know if a patient is shopping for doctors to feed a prescription addiction. Many prescription drug abusers are hooked on opioid painkillers.

“I don’t want another family to have to experience loss related to opioid abuse; that’s why I’ve worked hard this session to address mental health and chemical dependency,” said Baker, who lost a son to opioid addiction. “This bill is a strong first step that will help the medical community become partners in fighting Minnesota’s growing opioid crisis.”

Dayton signs legislation into law

The governor signed into law several bills Tuesday, including ones that:

•Require judges to provide information on alternative dispute resolution to parties in family law cases.

•Mandate drivers to stop vehicles at the direction of a school bus traffic guard and make bus drivers not subject to seat belt fines from violations by young passengers.

•Ratify state labor agreements, increase retirement agency directors’ salaries and authorize pension boards to establish statewide pension plan director salaries.

•Create a legislative task force on child care affordability.

•Strengthen penalties for interfering with a body or scene of a death.

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.