ST. PAUL -- In a session where lawmakers must be misers, a little levity can go a long way.
This week they'll get a chance to chuckle, thanks to Rep. Marty Seifert, a Marshall Republican on a mission to purge statute books of outdated, trivial and downright goofy laws.
Seifert's latest find is a 1933 law that bans circuses from being held near any Minnesota city during or up to 18 days before the State Fair. Back then, traveling to the fair was a major trip to people living in the outreaches of the state, so circuses would pop up to keep them close to home.
The repeal effort begins Wednesday in the House Agriculture Committee. It's a signal that a Legislature, which has had a laser-like focus on balancing the budget, is ready to delve into a broader basket of issues:
* On Monday, the House Governmental Operations and Veterans Affairs Policy Committee will consider a bill to change absentee ballot procedures -- a topic of heightened concern after Sen. Paul Wellstone's death late in the 2002 campaign.
* On Monday and Wednesday, the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee will talk about ways to reduce environmental damage by all-terrain vehicles.
* On Tuesday, the House Judicial Policy and Finance Committee will review a bill that would have drivers licenses of some immigrants expire at the same time as their visas. The bill is the top item on the GOP's policy agenda and could be ready for a floor vote before the month ends.
* On Wednesday, the House Civil Law Committee will take up a bill that would change liability laws to give greater protection in civil lawsuits to those with deep pockets but relatively small levels of fault.
But even with these diversions, the deficit is unquestionably the primary focus.
As soon as Monday, the full House is poised to vote on its bill to plug a $356 million hole for the next five months. The $468 million package also puts money in reserve in case tax collections continue to lag behind expectations.
The Senate already passed a $384 million package of spending cuts and accounting shifts.
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