Sen. Paul Koering, R-Fort Ripley, will serve on the House-Senate conference committee charged with the task of hammering out the differences between markedly different versions of health and human services bill.
This is the first time Koering, elected in 2002, has been appointed to a conference committee. Koering voted in favor of the Senate bill, which passed 38-29.
Koering, the sole Republican who will represent the Senate on the panel, said he objected to cuts the House bill would result in for area hospitals in Brainerd, Crosby and Little Falls. He also favored the Senate's 2 percent raises authorized for two consecutive years for nursing home employees, noting those workers haven't had a raise in four years.
He also deplored House bill provisions that would cut reimbursement rates for general assistance and medical assistance programs for outstate pharmacies.
Koering objected to House plans to cut vulnerable adults and single adults from MnCare since they likely will end up going to emergency rooms for care, costing the state even more money.
His position on the conference committee, he said, puts him in a good position to possibly direct the $7 million for methamphetamine treatment to the Brainerd Regional Treatment Center. He noted that the treatment for meth patients would be six months and not 30 days.
"We've got a fight on our hands to keep that money in there," he said.
Koering said the assignment, which could mean early mornings and late nights, will involve plenty of work.
He was recommended for the post by Sen. Linda Berglin, DFL-Minneapolis, the chair of the Health and Human Services Budget Committee and appointed by Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson, DFL-Willmar.
Koering said his work on the committee could begin as early as Monday.
Ruud opposed Senate plan that
would raise taxes by $1.3 billion
ST. PAUL -- Sen. Carrie Ruud, R-Breezy Point, voted against the Senate bill that advanced last week and calls for a $1.3 billion tax hike.
"I'm frustrated by the argument that families and small businesses have to hand over more tax dollars because some politicians refuse to spend responsibly," Ruud said.
She said Gov. Tim Pawlenty's $30 billion state budget makes investments in education and crime prevention but slows the rate of growth in subsidized health care and does not relay on increased tax rates.
The governor has vowed to veto the Senate bill if it reaches his desk, Ruud's statement said.
A joint Senate and House conference committee will be appointed to negotiate differences between the two bills. The Legislature is scheduled to adjourn on May 23.
Ethanol legislation coauthored by
Otremba approved in House
ST. PAUL -- Rep. Mary Ellen Otremba, DFL-Long Prairie, said last week that passage of the ethanol legislation will allow Minnesota to continue being a leader in ethanol production and ease the state's dependence on foreign sources of energy.
The bill calls for the minimum content requirement for ethanol in fuels sold in Minnesota to be increased from 10 to 20 percent by August of 2013.
Otremba said prices for gas will remain high until the U.S. reduces its demand for foreign oil.
Koering votes for Senate's K-12 education funding
Sen. Paul Koering, R-Fort Ripley, voted in favor of last week's Senate kindergarten-12 education funding bill. The Senate bill is a $12.6 billion measure that would increase basic student revenue allowance by 5 percent in 2006 and 4 percent in 2007.
Koering spoke in favor of an amendment, which failed, that would have prevented any Minnesota public school kindergarten-12 school teacher from striking during the school year.
"Because of the recent Crosby-Ironton strike I felt compelled to vote for this amendment -- the situation literally tore the community apart," he said.
The differences between the House and Senate education financing bills will be worked out in a joint conference committee.
Ruud backs effort to strengthen
sex offender legislation
ST. PAUL -- Praising its efforts to reduce violent crimes and strengthen sex offender laws, Sen. Carrie Ruud, R-Breezy Point, voted in favor of the Minnesota Senate's Crime Prevention and Public Safety Finance Bill.
She said that while she would have liked to see the sexual offender provisions be more severe, the bill will send a message that the state will not tolerate such heinous crimes.
Under the plan, certain first-time first- and second-degree offenders, in addition to repeat offenders, would be sentenced to "indeterminate life sentences."
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