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Wrapup of the legislative session

  • May 23, 2008 - 9:27 AM

Bridges will be built. Cities will be putting more cops on the streets. A train is one step closer to rumbling down the middle of University Avenue. A polar bear home will get help on its makeover. All this and more is the result of legislation passed during the just-concluded 2008 session. And as for the big picture question -- "What's in it for me?" That depends. ...

If you are ... a lunch room lady, your school district gets an extra 6-cent subsidy for that half-pint of milk you're handing out with the Tater Tot hot dish. It's up to 20 cents.

 If you are ...working but uninsured, you might have an easier time getting health coverage from the state's MinnesotaCare program or from private health care providers. Over time, coverage is expected to be provided for an additional 12,000 people.

 If you are ... A Como  Zoo polar bear, chill out. The session kicked in $300,000 to help complete your new exhibit digs.

If you are ... someone who thinks Minnesota is no country for old men, or just a place for Grumpier Old Men, there's new funding for the Minnesota Film Board to lure Hollywood to Hallock.

 If you are ... planning to get or renew your vehicle registration, driver's license, or state ID, there's a $1.75 surcharge. Fees for motor vehicle titles are also increased by $1.75.

 If you are ... a shirtless guy  who is regularly  dragged out of his apartment by the cops, be aware that the state is recommending that court surcharges for criminal and traffic offenders go from $72 to $75. And go quietly: it's now a felony to take a cop's gun, tear gas, Taser or baton.

If you are ... deaf or have another disability, there are grants to local TV stations to provide such things as real-time captioning of local news programming. Now if only they could do that for fans of Eastenders.

If you are ... a Vietnam vet, March 29 will be recognized as a day for you. On that date in 1973, the last remaining U.S. combat troops were withdrawn.

If you are ... worried that we've forgotten the Forgotten War, there's a day for Korean War veterans, too. July 27 is now designated Korean War Armistice Day.

If you are ... a company hoping to hit up the state for tax breaks, the governor's JOBZ program is still doling them out. While a bid by Gov. Tim Pawlenty to expand JOBZ failed, so did attempts by DFLers to curtail it.

If you are ... a frat boy looking to sell the keg from last weekend's party, think again. A new law prohibits scrap dealers from accepting a refillable beer keg from anyone other than a brewer or a manufacturer.

If you are ... a homeowner, you can expect small property tax refunds and a cap on property tax hikes.

If you are ... a fan of the JoBros (and, hey, who isn't?), you won't have to be the sixth caller to the local radio station to have a chance of going to their concert. A new law makes it a gross misdemeanor to sell, distribute or use software to move to the front of an Internet ticket buyer line.

If you are ... the owner of a Weimaraner who will resist its own DNA and not try to steal someone else's food, feel free to bring your best friend along to your neighborhood outdoor cafe. (Assuming your city has approved.)

If you are ... an athlete and some things about your school's volunteer coach don't add up, background checks are now required for all coaches and directors of extra curricular activities.

If you are ... fretting about Big Brother invading your privacy, you've got one more thing to worry about: new federal standards for state identification cards. The governor vetoed legislation that would have barred Minnesota from adopting the new standards under the Real ID program, but ordered compliance delayed until privacy concerns could be sorted out.

If you are ... the governor's veto pen, get some rest. You've been applied to 26 bills, the most in Pawlenty's tenure. And a couple of candidates are still out there.

If you are ... a Republican with too many toasts to offer, or too many sorrows to drown, you'll have two additional hours to imbibe during the National Convention in September. Bars will be allowed to stay open until 4 a.m. during that period if their metro-area city gives them the OK.

If you are ... tinting your car windows, you'll need a doctor's prescription to show that you need to reduce light coming in for medical reasons, part of an effort to make traffic stops safer for police.

If you are ... a fan of J. Bodewalt Lampe (and, hey, who isn't?), the Chatfield Brass Band and Music Lending Library is still there for you. The brunt of many jokes and a Tim Pawlenty radio tirade, the little music library lost out on $400,000 for improvements when the money was vetoed from the state bonding bill. But the library, which has collected and cataloged more than 5,000 pieces of sheet music, has gone back to doing what it does best. It is still open Monday through Wednesday.

If you are ... the owner of a Chevy Tahoe, or anything else that gulps gas, you need to hire a better lobbyist. The first increase in the state gas tax in 20 years will add 5 1/2 cents to a gallon of gas by fall.

If you are ... Carol Molnau, be thankful you have another job to fall back on. The Senate removed Molnau as state transportation commissioner following widespread criticism of her department. She remains the state's lieutenant governor.

If you are ... the owner of a public swimming pool or spa, you have to inspect your drain covers daily. The safety inspections are in response to the death of young Abigail Taylor, who had part of her intestinal tract ripped out by the suction from an uncovered drain.

If you are ... a survivor of the Interstate 35W bridge collapse, the state has set aside $38 million to compensate you. But individual awards, except for the most severe cases, are capped at $400,000.

If you are ... feeling sorry for the Mall of America (and hey, who isn't?), put that thought on hold. A revised proposal still gives the mall a large public subsidy package for its second phase, but forces shoppers, diners, drinkers and motel guests in Bloomington to pay for it.

If you are ... wondering when surrogate mothers will face tougher state regulations, you'll have more time to wonder. A proposal to require that surrogate mothers be at least 21, be the parent of at least one child and have a mental health evaluation failed.

If you are ... tired of "problem properties" in Brooklyn Center, so is the state. Properties in the city with a high number of police calls have to participate in a crime-free multi-housing program in order to get tax benefits.

If you are ... a moped driver and feeling a lack of respect, you'll be exempt from having to pay a wheelage tax -- just as motorcyclists are.

If you are ... still confused over what state fiscal disparities money is (and, hey, who isn't?), you can pay attention to a new study that examines the 1970s-era program and whether it's meeting its goals.

If you are ... a worker who feels guilty about calling in sick to care for your ailing parents, better see a shrink. A move to let employees use their sick days to look after an ill or injured relative (other than their children) was vetoed.

If you are ... a high school sophomore feeling like it's time to blow this popcorn stand, grab your backpack and get going. You can still drop out of school at 16, since a provision to raise the compulsory school age to 18 was in a vetoed education policy bill.

If you are ... a governor who loves ice hockey, steer clear of Mariucci Arena for a while. The State's Biggest Hockey Fan vetoed an education bill that, among other things, would have made hockey the state sport.

If you are ... under 18 and the eager holder of a brand-new Minnesota driver's license, keep your mind on your driving (good advice for anyone, come to think of it). If the governor signs the transportation policy bill passed Friday, you'll have to wait six months before you can drive from midnight to 5 a.m. and a full year before you can take more than three of your teenage pals in your car.

If you are ... a proud Minnesotan who can say "sesquicentennial" three times fast, you'll be able to celebrate the state's 150th birthday with a special commemorative license plate (once the governor signs the transportation policy bill).

If you are ... a patrol cop, you'll have time to squeeze in that extra donut. An effort to allow you to stop and ticket motorists simply for not wearing their seat belts didn't make the final cut in the transportation policy bill.

If you are ... a school administrator, you may not need another bake sale to meet your budget. A finance bill promising $51 more per pupil for Minnesota schools was vetoed, but the money was restored in the final budget agreement.

MARK BRUNSWICK, MIKE KASZUBA, PAT DOYLE, KEVIN DUCHSCHERE, D.J. TICE, JIM KERN

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