I'm Just a Bill...

In the month left before sine die, Minnesota lawmakers must decide what to do about the stadium, the budget surplus, and that nagging turtle-trafficking issue.

Daniel Ruen

INSANE UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY:

SF 2801

Upon discovering that the man who shot his neighbor was eligible for release from a state mental hospital within six months, Sen. Doug Johnson (DFL-Tower) vowed to change the Minnesota laws governing the use of insanity as a criminal defense. Johnson wants to create a new category of guilt--"mentally ill but guilty"--which would force defendants to serve out the rest of their sentences in prison should a psychiatrist deem them "cured."

Hennepin County public defender Sergio Andrade opposes the measure. "I thought they called this double jeopardy since it would punish someone twice for the same crime," says Andrade, who also calls the bill "psychologically retroactive." He maintains that once convicts "get better," that is, understand that what they did was wrong, the provision will punish them for their psychological awakenings. "This just doesn't make any sense," says Andrade. The bill has been shelved for "further study."

ANGLING 101:

SF 2469

Sen. Janet Johnson is requesting that $100,000 go to the Department of Natural Resources for her "Becoming an Outdoors Woman" program. She says the money, along with private-sector support, would be used to fund training seminars for women in "various outdoor activities such as hunting, fishing, canoeing, and orienteering." Johnson contends that the program, currently in its third year, is particularly important to single moms living in the city. "Many of these women have never had an outdoor experience and are raising kids on their own. We teach them to fish and hunt so they, in turn, can teach their own children." Men would not be barred from participating in the seminars, notes Johnson, who adds that the bill is netting plenty of support.

SAUCE FOR

THE GOOSE:

HF 2510

Rep. Dan McElroy (R-Burnsville) has it in for bill collectors. "If cops and social workers can't use aliases, why should collection agents be allowed to do so?" he asks. McElroy's bill would require bill collectors to use their real names on the job, maintaining that this will make them more "responsible for their behavior." Collection agencies insist that pseudonyms are necessary to "protect" employees. McElroy maintains that's a ploy: "Debt collectors don't want to be called at home." Despite rumors of an early death, the bill is gaining ground and is expected to make it to the House floor.

JOINING THE RANKS OF THE STATE MUFFIN:

SF 3103;

HF 3471

In addition to the state mushroom (the morel, named in 1984), the state grain (wild rice, 1977) and the state muffin (blueberry, 1988), Sen. J. B. Johnson (DFL-Bemidji) and Rep. Willard Munger (DFL-Duluth) want to designate a state amphibian and state reptile. The two lawmakers have nominated the northern leopard frog and the blanding's turtle for the honorary posts. One caveat, however: The frog selected for the official portrait has to be "undeformed." The bill is leaping forward.

EVERY PARTY HAS A POOPER:

HF 3003;

SF 3045

Thanks to Sen. Sheila Kiscaden (R-Rochester) and Rep. Ken Wolf (R-Burnsville), the Minnesota Legislature may permanently repeal the ban that has historically prohibited schools from starting before Labor Day. Although the proposal wouldn't take effect until the 2000-2001 school year, it faces strenuous opposition from the hospitality industry, which maintains that the measure will effectively kill summer's last official holiday. The provision has been folded into the K-12 education bill.

A LITTLE MOLD NEVER HURT

ANYONE:

HF 176

A proposal by Rep. Elaine Harder (R-Jackson) would limit liability for injury related to certain food donations. Harder says the impetus for the bill came from a Redwood County commissioner who doubles as a grocer. "He wanted to see the food that had expired but was unspoiled go to the county jail rather than the dumpster," she explains. Should Harder's provision pass, she says, other city, county, and regional agencies could receive these kinds of donations. The bill should land on the House floor soon.

AND JUST IN CASE:

SF 2495

Sen. Dave Kleis (R-St.Cloud) is advancing an amendment requiring autopsies in all unattended inmate deaths in state correctional facilities. Last check, the bill is still alive.

WATCH OUT,

BULLWINKLE:

HF 2375

Ten-time losers in a lottery for a Minnesota moose-hunting license will face better odds if Rep. David Tomassoni (DFL-Chisholm) has his way. His bill, which calls for 5 percent of the moose-hunting licenses issued each year to come from a pool of perennially frustrated Elmer Fudds, has been tucked into the omnibus crime bill.

IS THAT A SNAPPING TURTLE IN YOUR POCKET OR ARE

YOU JUST HAPPY TO SEE ME?:

HF 2724

This piece of legislation, sponsored by Rep. Bob Milbert (DFL-St. Paul), should lay to rest the age-old mystery of who is and isn't legally entitled to transport turtles in Minnesota. It reads, in part: "A person may not take, possess, transport, or purchase turtles for sale without a turtle-seller's license, except... when buying turtles for retail sale at a location licensed by the departments of Agriculture or Health for sale or preparation of good[s]; when buying at [a] retail outlet; or when a nonresident buys turtles from licensed turtle-sellers for export out-of-state." We'll all sleep better at night once this passes.

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