Happenings Wednesday at the Minnesota Capitol:
Cell phone companies could barter or bargain with state officials for the right to place antennas on state towers, buildings or land.
A bill the House Government Operations and Veterans Affairs Policy Committee endorsed would allow department commissioners to either sell the access outright or trade for wireless phone access or improvements to state equipment.
The sponsor, Rep. Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said he hopes the bill would slow the need for building new towers.
Members of the committee cleared the bill despite questions about how access to the towers would be granted. The measure does not establish procedures for how access to the towers would be chosen among competitors.
"It seems to me the real question here is one of competitive advantage," said Rep. Bill Hilty, DFL-Finlayson.
HEALTH BILLS LAUNCHED
Over the objections of health maintenance organizations and business groups, a Senate committee sent along a bill designed to give patients more power over their health insurance plans.
The Senate Health and Family Security Committee voted 6-2 to back a bill by Sen. Don Samuelson, DFL-Brainerd, that would allow patients to sue their insurers.
The bill is patterned after one under consideration in Congress and a similar law in Texas that has withstood a challenge in federal court.
Among other things, the plan would require health plans to hire medical specialists licensed in Minnesota for any reviews of decisions by state physicians. Backers say under current practice, health plans can use out-of-state reviewers who are not specialists.
Health plan officials said they are worried it would drive up costs.
The committee also cleared a less-expansive bill by Sen. Linda Berglin, DFL-Minneapolis. Both bills still face several committees in the Senate and a more difficult path through the House.
Gov. Jesse Ventura signed into law a bill that concerns adult foster care license holders who provide residential and adult day care services.
The bill lowers the age threshold for adults being served from 60 to 55.
It also gives the commissioner of human services some flexibility regarding the age requirement and the number of individuals served by a single license holder with a recommendation from the county.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
"We're still in better shape than the XFL ratings."
-- Sen. Roger Moe, DFL-Erskine, on the revised revenue forecast.
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