Two state lawmakers think Minnesota should be cashing in on a chunk of casino profits instead of letting all that money flow to the state's 19 existing casinos operated by American Indian tribes.
"As long as gambling exists in Minnesota, there should be good, open competition," said Sen. Dick Day, R-Owatonna.
Day and Rep. Tom Hackbarth, R-Cedar, are proposing that a state-owned, state-run casino with at least 2,000 slot machines be built in the Twin Cities area.
They estimate the facility would generate about $300 million annually. About half would go to the Minnesota Lottery for operating costs. The proposal would split the rest between transportation and one-time construction projects.
The House unanimously voted to waive a state waiting period on federal funds for energy assistance.
Rep. Dan McElroy's bill would immediately allow the commissioner of Economic Security to spend about $12.2 million in federal money for low-income heating assistance. Under current law, the funds would sit in a state account for 20 days, a waiting period intended to allow for legislative oversight.
McElroy, R-Burnsville, said some propane and heating oil users are not covered by a state rule that prohibits utilities from shutting off heat for nonpayment when a low-income family meets application requirements.
The winter's low temperatures and high heating fuel costs are causing a quicker-than-normal drain on public assistance accounts. McElroy said he fears that the accounts will run dry without an immediate infusion.
"We may only be eliminating a week or 10-day gap," he said, "but if you're cold that's a long time."
The Senate has yet to take action on the bill.
A one-man drive is under way to amend Minnesota's constitution to cap the number of terms lawmakers can serve.
Sen. Dave Johnson introduced a term-limit bill that has no co-sponsors, no House companion as of Monday and, by his admission, only a slim shot at a committee hearing.
"This ought to be a part-time gig," said Johnson, DFL-Bloomington. "It ought not be a career."
His bill would permit voters to enact a three-term limit on state senators, a five-term limit on state representatives and a two-term limit on governor, attorney general, secretary of state and auditor.
Right now, the Senate has 46 members serving at least their third term; the House has 52 members who are in their fifth or higher term.
But Johnson's proposed amendment would give everyone a clean slate if voters approved it in 2002. Constitutional amendments need House and Senate approval before appearing on the ballot.
Legislation seeking a three-fifths vote for any tax or fee increase survived a bumpy ride through a House committee and sits one stop from the floor.
Democrats and Republicans alike had reservations about Rep. Eric Lipman's proposed constitutional amendment to require a supermajority to pass any bill that results in higher taxes or fees.
But the House Ways and Means Committee kept alive the Lake Elmo Republican's bill on a closely divided voice vote.
Chairman Dave Bishop, R-Rochester, said the proposal would "collar the majority and empower the minority" because the party in power would have to rely on the other party's help to get bills through.
Two attorneys earned spots on the bench as Gov. Jesse Ventura filled two trial court openings in the First Judicial District.
Kevin Eide replaces retired Judge Robert Goggins and will be chambered in Chaska. Joseph Carter was appointed to a newly created judgeship and will be chambered in Hastings.
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