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Legislative Updates: Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen and Rep. Torrey Westrom

Rep. Torrey Westrom and Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen

Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen: Voter ID on ballot in November

The Senate passed the final Voter ID bill on Wednesday afternoon by a vote of 35-29. Requiring photo ID to vote is an effort to modernize the election system, prevent voter fraud and inspire confidence in the integrity of our process. Voters will now have the opportunity to weigh in on the November ballot by answering the question: "Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to require all voters to present valid photo identification to vote and to require the state to provide free identification to eligible voters, effective July 1, 2013?"

Environmental permitting bill signed into law

On Tuesday, Senate File 1567 was signed into law. It builds off the work I did last year with other legislators to find efficiencies in environmental permitting. Specifically, this bill continues to streamline the permitting process, removes duplicate services, and reforms government so it moves at the speed of 21st century commerce.

This is great news for Minnesota job creators and job seekers. By getting government out of the way and streamlining the permitting process wherever possible, businesses can grow and more Minnesotans can get back to work.

Honor Guard funding addressed

Monday, a bill to give the Commissioner of Veterans Affairs the flexibility in allocating funds to local units of a congressionally chartered veterans organization, like the Honor Guard, was signed into law.

The Honor Guard program was established to reimburse veterans organizations throughout the state to assist in payment for military funeral honors, and every veteran has a congressionally-authorized benefit to have an Honor Guard at their funeral if the family requests.  Last year, it was reported that this program, in the absence of a specific appropriation, was to be discontinued. This bill is one measure legislators have taken to address the issue and ensure the program continues.

Bill to pay back schools vetoed

The legislature approved and sent Gove. Dayton House File 2083 which would have sped up the scheduled school aid payments that were delayed as part of the agreement reached between the Governor and the legislature last year. Friday, Governor Dayton announced that he vetoed the bill.

This is disappointing as school districts and charter schools strongly support reducing the shift. Had Gov. Dayton signed this bill, more timely payments would have allowed schools a better chance of avoiding short-term borrowing and related interest costs.

Rep. Torrey Westrom: Long days with engaging floor debates

There have been many long days with engaging floor debates this week. Some highlights and bills are below.

HF 657 was passed in the House last week. This bill protects the right to resell event tickets to events such as concerts, theatrical performances and sporting events that take place in Minnesota. This bill would prevent ticket issuers from prohibiting the reselling of tickets legally purchased by ticketholders. Through this bill, an issuer cannot make the buyer agree not to resell the ticket, impose a penalty on the ticket buyer for the reselling, or treat the seller any differently than someone who did not resell their ticket. The ticket issuer is also prevented from employing any technological means to prevent the reselling of tickets.

Increasing hunting and fishing license fees has been debated here at the Legislature, and I want to know how you feel about increasing those fees. Do you support your hunting or fishing fees going up? Do you think it should increase if it lowers the price of youth licenses? Would a conservation license be of interest to you? That license allows only a half walleye limit at a reduced license price. These are all issues up for serious discussion at the Capitol.

In an unexpected move, the fishing opener was changed this year to a week earlier. If kept at the current May 12 date, it would fall on Mother's Day weekend, and out of respect for the holiday we have moved it to the week prior. May 5 would now be the opener date and if this proposal survives the conference committee process and is signed by the Governor, folks will be able to begin fishing soon.

A vote on an election bill was also taken on Wednesday to move the Minnesota primary date from the month of August to the month of June.

The Agriculture Omnibus bill passed the House this week as well. It passed with bi-partisan support 102 - 20. This bill proposes a number of changes to agriculture and food safety laws. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) requested most of the provisions. This bill would affect MDA's legislative reporting responsibilities; grain buyers; firewood distributors; local governments collecting waste pesticides; food purveyors including grocery stores, bakeries, convenience stores, meat or poultry processors, egg handlers, and food product manufacturers; agricultural pesticide dealers; nursery stock growers and retailers; and others. It would also establish a new Dairy Research, Teaching, and Consumer Education Authority to identify and acquire a site for a new dairy education facility.