Minnesota legislative session starts

Several proposed bills in the House of Representatives may affect the University community.

Mitchell Yurkowitz

Minnesota’s 2014 legislative session started Tuesday, and the Minnesota House of Representatives has already introduced several bills — including some that may affect the University of Minnesota community.

State legislators can review the proposals, make amendments and introduce new legislation until the session ends in May.

Gov. Mark Dayton and other state officials are calling this session the “unsession” — the year to update laws with confusing and redundant language.

Bonding bills are expected to dominate legislative talks this year because legislators will not pass a state budget. Dayton has requested $986 million in bonding dollars for construction projects across the state, including nearly $119 million  for areas around the University.

 The following proposals in the House may also directly affect the University community:

Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul

Hausman has introduced two bills asking for state funding for a new Bell Museum of Natural History and planetarium on the University’s St. Paul campus.                             

One bill would allow $4 million to construct outdoor classrooms that represent Minnesota biomes for teaching purposes. The other requests more than $51 million for the museum and planetarium.

Hausman has been pushing for Bell Museum funding for almost a decade but hasn’t found enough support at the Capitol to get the proposal passed. She said if the bill passes, more students would be able to attend the museum.

“This has been a very important issue to me for a number of years,” Hausman said.

Rep. Rena Moran, DFL-St. Paul

Moran proposed a bill that would establish a task force to review the endowment that pays the tuition of public school students who gain admittance to public colleges and universities in Minnesota.

Rep. Ron Erhardt, DFL-Edina

The bill would allow savings in a 529 college savings account to be subtracted from federal taxable income. The savings accounts are operated by the state, and their funds can be used only for educational purposes.

Rep. Susan Allen, DFL-Minneapolis

University students Gabe Aderhold and Alec Fischer urged state legislators to introduce the proposal to ban licensed therapists from providing sexual orientation change efforts to children.

“This [bill] is about protecting youth who often face barriers in bringing complaints against unprofessional therapists,” Allen said.

After creating a successful online petition in October, the two students collaborated with Allen and other legislators to draft the bill.

“[We] hope that word will get out that this is no longer an acceptable practice,” said Aderhold, a University political science sophomore.

Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen, R-Glencoe

Institutions recognized by the state, like churches, medical clinics and other organizations, may be exempt from obscenity laws. The bill proposes that public schools and postsecondary institutions no longer be exempt from these laws, which prevent sexually explicit material from being disseminated to minors.

Other bills introduced this session:

Rep. Andrew Falk, DFL-Murdock
Medical use of marijuana

Rep. Lyndon Carlson Sr., DFL-Crystal
Additional bonding for the Hiawatha light-rail, or Blue Line

Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis
Expanding the definition of smoking under the Clean Indoor Air Act to include e-cigarettes

Rep. Jenifer Loon, R-Eden Prairie
Allow Sunday liquor sales

Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis
Development and regulation of hemp industry