House nixes bonding bill

MARSHALL – With the 2013 legislative session’s days numbered, the prospects of a bonding bill took a hit Friday afternoon when the Minnesota House defeated an $800 million construction projects bill.

To pass, the bill required a super-majority of 81 votes; it got 76. Three Republicans, including District 16A Rep. Chris Swedzinski of Ghent, joined all Democrats in support of the bill.

The city of Marshall requested $4 million for the new regional amateur sports complex. Supporters of the $12.9 million, 80,000 square-foot sports complex that will be build regardless of the bonding outcome have twice been denied $4 million in bonding requests.

“It would be nice to see a revised bill that would include the Marshall project, but there’s no way of knowing that,” Marshall Mayor Bob Byrnes said Friday.

Swedzinski said he voted in favor of the bill because he knows all the work the city of Marshall has put into the sports complex project. Still, he wasn’t sure enough Republicans would cross over to pass it. He said the chances are slim an alternative bill will be put into play considering all the other issues facing the Legislature and criticized the DFL for spending time on proposed pay increases for legislators.

“I think there is potentially time to do something (on bonding),” he said. “I think it would’ve made a big difference if there wasn’t so much desire to make a political statement about the bill.”

Byrnes said there are three scenarios that could still play out in the limited time left in the session.

“One scenario is it’s done; the bill didn’t pass and if there’s not an alternate bill brought forward, then there’s no bill for the Senate to consider,” he said. “The second is there will be an alternative bill that would garner the votes required, a minimalistic bill that would only include Capitol renovation and some emergency response requests. The third scenario is a reduced-size bill that would still include investment projects around the state.”

The amateur sports complex was included in the House version of the Capital Investment bill earlier this session as part of what was then an $858 million capital investment bill.

The bonding bill is a true wild card in this year’s session. As in other years, there are a number of high-priced economic development projects seeking bonding, but to date, the only sure thing, the one thing legislators have agreed on paying for, is Capitol renovation, which made up a little more than one-eighth of the $800 million bill that failed Friday.

“We’re really in kind of a wait-and-see situation,” said Byrnes. “The outlook right now does not look good, but you hate to say it’s over until it’s done.”

Byrnes said freeing up bonding dollars for projects like Marshall’s would result in job creation around the state and that the cost of borrowing is currently perhaps as low as it’s ever going to be.

Byrnes was encouraged by the fact that three Republicans crossed party lines to vote in favor of the bill.

“The fact that Representative Swedzinski voted for it does mean there is some attention given to the importance of investment projects and it’s not just a partisan issue,” he said.

The Legislature, which has yet to finalize budget or tax bills, adjourns at midnight Monday.

Long fight forecast over daycare union bill

ST. PAUL (AP) – Nearly 100 amendments await Minnesota House lawmakers if they move ahead as planned on a bill that could lead to unionization of in-home day care providers and personal care attendants.

The volume foreshadows a long fight should the House brings the bill up on Saturday as planned. The Legislature has until midnight Monday to finish its session, including passage of the next state budget.

The debate on a companion Senate bill stretched 17 hours earlier in the week.

The bill is part of an effort by two service employee unions to organize in the personal care industries. It would set up a possible vote among certain providers. Supporters say it will give providers greater leverage in bargaining for state reimbursement rates. Critics see it as a grab for union dues.

Senate backs U of M, MNSCU tuition freezes

ST. PAUL (AP) – The Minnesota Senate voted to freeze tuition rates at the state’s public colleges and universities for the next two years.

The Senate passed a state higher education budget by a bipartisan, 44-22 vote on Friday that includes a $250 million spending increase. More than half the increase goes to pay for the tuition freezes at University of Minnesota and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities campuses. The bill also includes new money to increase the number of students who get state grants to help pay for college.

The bill also makes children of immigrants who are undocumented eligible for resident tuition rates at state colleges and universities.

Republicans who voted against the bill say the University of Minnesota hasn’t demonstrated responsible use of taxpayer dollars.

The bill awaits a final vote in the House.