New legislative session will review capital bonding bill

The death penalty, same-sex marriages and drunk driving will also be key focuses of the new legislative session.

Stephanie Kudrle

The 2003-04 legislative session will reconvene at the State Capitol in St. Paul on Monday after being on break for more than a month.

The death penalty, same-sex marriage and drunk driving limits are a few of the issues expected to be discussed this session, legislators said.

The University’s main focus will be the capital bonding bill, which will include funding to renovate old buildings on campus, said Donna Peterson, associate vice president for University Relations.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty has already laid out his $76.6 million bonding proposal following the University’s $155.5 million request, but legislative committees will also make funding recommendations.

Peterson said it will be important to meet with legislators and bring them onto campus to see the buildings needing renovation.

She said the University will also discuss stadium proposals with the Legislature, but an on-campus stadium was not included in University President Bob Bruininks’ budget request this year.

The governor’s chief of staff, Dan McElroy, said Pawlenty’s capital bonding bill will be at the top of the list this session. However, he said he is not aware of any plans by the governor to change his proposal.

Assistant Senate Majority Leader Ann Rest, DFL-New Hope, said the Senate will devote a lot of time to the bonding bill. She said she supports increasing the University’s budget.

“I was very disappointed with the governor’s proposal,” Rest said. “The governor only made his own recommendations.”

Death penalty

Pawlenty will also push his death penalty legislation in the House and Senate, McElroy said.

Under Pawlenty’s plan, Minnesota would use the death penalty to punish first-degree murder.

But House Speaker Steve Sviggum, R-Kenyon, said capital punishment does not have much support in the Legislature and will not be a major issue discussed in the House this session.

“There may be a hearing,” he said. “Most members don’t support the issue, so we won’t spend a great deal of legislative time on it.”

Same-sex marriage

Sviggum said a new constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in Minnesota will also be introduced this session.

Although Minnesota already has a law against same-sex marriage, Sviggum said the new amendment would be in response to a recent Massachusetts Supreme Court decision that ruled that a ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.

“We want to clarify that marriage is between a man and a woman,” Sviggum said.

Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, said she does not agree with Sviggum or Pawlenty’s agendas.

“I am much more concerned about proposals I want to stop, like banning gay marriage and the death penalty,” the Minneapolis-campus representative said. “It’s a problem when you have a part-time pro-life governor.”

Health care

The House will also look at health-care practices in Minnesota, Sviggum said.

He said the House will focus on reducing medical malpractice and reducing health-care taxes.

In addition, the House will vote on whether to lower the legal blood-alcohol intoxication level from 0.10 percent to 0.08 percent, Sviggum said.

He said Minnesota must lower the legal intoxication level to comply with new federal regulations. Federal highway funds could be revoked if the level remains at 0.10 percent, he said.

The Minnesota Senate will look at similar issues this session, along with job creation, business retention and re-evaluating prison time for sexual predators.

McElroy said Pawlenty will outline his agenda in more detail during the annual State of the State address Thursday.