It's now up to Gov. Jesse Ventura whether to sign into law a bill that would prohibit funeral businesses from soliciting at hospitals, nursing homes, hospices, wakes and gravesites.
The proposal was passed unanimously by the House and Senate.
''Overall, we've strengthened Minnesota laws and the protection offered to Minnesota consumers, so that they're better informed about their rights, and there is less ambiguity about what they purchased,'' said state Auditor Judi Dutcher.
Under the bill, funeral homes and cemeteries must clearly state who owns them on literature, give customers an itemized description of their purchases, tell customers whether the prices are guaranteed and give a copy of the purchase agreement to the person who will control funeral arrangements.
In addition, funeral providers cannot apply finance charges to funeral arrangements or charge increased handling fees on funeral goods that are bought elsewhere.
Gov. Jesse Ventura signed into law two bills meant to protect newborns and young adults.
One requires all Minnesota hospitals to accept unharmed newborns up to 3 days old without facing civil or criminal liability. Mothers who drop off their babies won't be held liable either.
The hospital can ask questions about the mother's medical history, but she is not compelled to answer. The law expands a program now in place across the seven-county metropolitan area, which was begun earlier this year to give mothers an option when dealing with unwanted newborns.
The other new law makes adults who give or sell alcohol to minors liable for civil damages if the person under 21 years old hurts someone or damages something.
It is the complement to a bill approved last year that dealt with criminal penalties for the same offenses. Adults now face a felony charge for providing liquor to minors if it contributes to an injury-causing or deadly accident.
Previously, the law provided a felony penalty for the sale of alcohol under those conditions -- but not if someone gave the alcohol away.
No budget breakthrough came out of a rare meeting between top House Republicans, Senate DFLers and advisers of Gov. Jesse Ventura.
But all sides characterized it as a productive discussion that could help break the logjam that's holding up key legislation and final adjournment.
''Characterize it as progress, movement and hope,'' said House Speaker Steve Sviggum, R-Kenyon.
He didn't offer specifics. Nor did Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe or Finance Commissioner Pam Wheelock, who were guarded in their remarks.
''There's a commitment on everybody's part to get this resolved,'' said Moe, DFL-Erskine, who last week sharply criticized his House counterparts for threatening to walk away without settling tax, spending and bonding matters.
The sticking point is how much is available to cut taxes or increase spending on an ongoing basis. Moe and Ventura say $549 million is a nonnegotiable figure; House leaders say more is available, which they want to use for bigger tax cuts.
Until House leaders relent, there is unlikely to be a resolution. Sviggum, who acknowledged he is the odd one out, called the afternoon discussion a good ''give and take.''
''I was doing most of the giving,'' he added.
Rep. Philip Krinkie, R-Shoreview, proposed a longer spring break for the Minnesota Legislature than what was already approved by the Senate.
Krinkie said lawmakers are wasting taxpayer money by being in St. Paul when leaders of the House and Senate and Gov. Jesse Ventura haven't agreed on an overall budget.
The Senate already has agreed not to meet Thursday, Friday or Monday. Krinkie proposed extending that date to May 1.
Under the constitution, lawmakers can meet on the floor only 11 more days. The Legislature must adjourn by May 22. Without the broad budget deal, conference committees are limited in what they can accomplish.
''There's no sense for us to look like we're busy down here when we're waiting for our leadership to reach a resolution,'' said Rep. Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia.
House Majority Leader Tim Pawlenty, R-Eagan, has said the Republican-led House and the DFL-controlled Senate are at or near an impasse. The two sides can't agree on how much is available to cut taxes or increase spending on an ongoing basis.
When the session began in February, lawmakers hoped to be done before Easter. But in recent weeks, a May finish has become more likely.
Dean Barkley resorted to ''begging and pleading'' to spare the Minnesota Planning office he heads from budget cuts, and Gov. Jesse Ventura is in his corner.
Ventura visited Barkley's department and said essential functions would be sacrificed if the Legislature follows through with a 45 percent -- or $2 million -- cut. A House bill currently in a conference committee includes the cut.
The office studies trends and recommends strategies for dealing with criminal justice, land management, telecommunications and other areas. Ventura said its activities benefit small towns most.
''If it's taken away, these small towns will be on their own,'' he said.
Barkley lamented that lawmakers always look at Minnesota Planning when discussing budget cuts. Ventura said that if legislators want to reduce the size of government, they should ''look in the mirror and start with themselves,'' referring to his plan for a single-house Legislature.
House State Government Finance Chairman Phil Krinkie, R-Shoreview, said his committee concluded the agency doesn't have a critical role. He noted Ventura's resistance to cuts conflicts with his calls for smaller government.
Ventura made a similar visit last month to the Office of Technology, which faces the loss of its entire budget.
''Everybody can always identify a program or an agency that should be reduced,'' Krinkie said. ''But there's never the real political will to get it done.''
House Speaker Steve Sviggum and Gov. Jesse Ventura traded jabs over the unicameral proposal, a day after Sviggum declared it dead.
Ventura said he was not surprised to learn it likely would die without a vote by all 201 legislators. Sviggum, R-Kenyon, said Ventura lost support with his veto of an abortion waiting period.
The governor described that as an excuse.
''Maybe it was never alive to begin with. Maybe it was strictly lip service to start with,'' he said. ''It's very clear it was never going to go to a vote on both floors.''
Sviggum replied that he believed in the unicameral issue and had been fighting for it for years.
''There was no lip service,'' he said, adding that he had asked Ventura several times to speak at a House Republican caucus on the issue.
Ventura indicated that he was disappointed the plan for a single-house Legislature got wrapped up in abortion politics.
''I treat all bills separately,'' he said. ''Apparently, others can't.''
He also responded to Sviggum's assertions that his staff can't be trusted to make deals. Ventura said he has ''complete'' confidence in his commissioners and that they have not -- nor will they ever -- commit him to sign anything.
Turkey manure got a special designation from the Senate, a day after the House classified it as a fuel Northern States Power Co. can use to meet an alternative energy requirement.
The Senate voted 50-15 to approve a bill that would stretch the definition of biomass -- power generated by burning trees and other organic sources -- to include poultry manure. It now goes to Gov. Jesse Ventura.
NSP is required to develop or buy 125 megawatts of biomass-fueled power in exchange for permission to store spent fuel from its Prairie Island nuclear plant in outdoor casks.
Fibrowatt Inc., a British company, hopes to build the manure-burning plant in an undetermined central Minnesota city. The firm has other plants in Great Britain.
''From a powerhouse standpoint, this plant works. It works very well,'' said DFL Sen. Steve Murphy, who is a technician at NSP's Red Wing plant.
Some senators argued that using turkey manure as a fuel would make it less available to farmers, who use it as a fertilizer.
''Burning this stuff is not like burning urban garbage that you're trying to get rid of,'' said Sen. John Marty, DFL-Roseville. ''This is not a waste product no one knows what to do with; farmers are paying for it.''
If Ventura agrees to the bill, the Public Utilities Commission would start reviewing Fibrowatt's proposal.
A handful of rural Minnesota lawmakers asked for an investigation into a joint venture by six major meatpacking firms to create a Web site where people can buy and sell meat.
Rep. Doug Peterson, DFL-Madison, said participants in the $20 million e-commerce venture might try to control supply by jointly marketing their products and staying away from each other's customers.
''This is another step toward concentration in the meat industry that will hurt farmers, small retail businesses and consumers alike,'' the coalition of lawmakers wrote to Minnesota Attorney General Mike Hatch and Assistant U.S. Attorney General Joel Klein.
Hatch is considering an investigation, spokeswoman Leslie Sandberg said.
Cargill spokesman Mark Klein said the still-unnamed venture would be more like a shopping mall than a cartel.
''It will be open to all buyers and sellers of meat and poultry,'' he said.
At least two other Web meat vendors, based in Kansas City, Mo., and Atlanta, exist. Partners with Cargill in the new site are IBP, Smithfield Foods, Tyson Foods, Gold Kist and Farmland Industries.
Bluesman Big Walter Smith was honored by the House for his 30 years in the music business in Minnesota.
''He's probably more well-known throughout the state of Minnesota than any of us here in this chamber,'' said Rep. Greg Gray, DFL-Minneapolis.
Smith was born in Oklahoma in 1930 and came to Minnesota by way of Kansas City in 1970. Since then, he has won many awards.
He was the first blues musician to be inducted into the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame in New Ulm.
In Duluth, Aug. 8, 1997, was proclaimed Big Walter Smith Day. And he is the only performer to have played at Duluth's popular Bayfront Blues Festival every year since it began in 1989.
Smith and his wife, Shirley, live in Minneapolis.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
''We're now approaching four hours over the last two days on animal excrement. I'm just glad that Jay Leno doesn't follow the Minnesota Senate. I think he'd have some fairly good lines about that.''
--Senate President Allan Spear, DFL-Minneapolis, on feedlot and turkey litter bills discussed on the floor.
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