Legislative briefs: Let them eat cheeseburgers but not sue

  • May 20, 2011 - 9:25 PM

The much-derided "cheeseburger bill" was approved by the House Friday, 76-56.

The measure, repeatedly sponsored for years by Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City, is designed to give food manufacturers and retailers such as fast-food outlets immunity from lawsuits claiming their product caused customers' obesity.

Urdahl has said the bill, which has not yet passed the Senate, is needed to deter frivolous lawsuits.

Earlier this session, he wrote to constituents, noting that 23 other states have such laws.

He wrote: "My bill is about common sense and personal responsibility because, as citizens, we ultimately must be accountable for what we consume. If you eat too many cheeseburgers and get fat, don't sue food retailers."

During Friday's debate, House DFLers ridiculed the legislation, saying it was frivolous at a time the Legislature hasn't figured a way out of the state's budget mess.


Voter ID bill stalls

Republican plans to send Gov. Mark Dayton a voter ID bill on Friday were thwarted at the last minute when DFLers claimed its authors had violated open meeting rules.

Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, said leaders of the conference committee resolving two voter ID bills did not properly notify interested parties they were meeting last Saturday.

Normally, a relevant committee will send an e-mail alerting staffers and the public that there is a conference committee scheduled. That never happened, according to DFL lawmakers and Sherri Knuth of the League of Women Voters.

Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake, the bill's author, maintained that the conference committee played by the rules. The vote was postponed until Saturday so the issue could be examined.


Governor gets 'Surly bill' ...

The "Surly bill" is headed to Gov. Mark Dayton.

The Minnesota Senate gave final approval Thursday to a bill that would let Surly Brewing Co. sell pints of its beer at a proposed $20 million "destination brewery."

The bill was approved on a unanimous vote after clearing the House on Thursday. Both bodies approved the bills last week, but they needed to be resolved before heading to the governor.

Minnesota law currently forbids breweries from selling pints of their own beer on the premises because of a "three-tier" system that strictly separates alcohol manufacturers, distributors and retailers. The state's powerful liquor lobby initially fought the bill to protect that system, but later reached a compromise with bill authors.

Dayton said Friday that he supports the Surly provision but wants to see the full bill -- which includes other policy changes -- before saying whether he will sign it.


... and the K-12 budget bill

The budget bill that funds Minnesota's public schools also arrived on the governor's desk Friday.

The so-called K-12 bill consumes about 40 percent of the state's general fund budget.

Unlike the rest of the budget, the amount of spending on education is not a major stumbling block between Dayton and Republicans. But the two sides have significant differences on education policy and how the money is spent.

The bill was one of several the governor and lawmakers discussed during closed-door meetings Friday.


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