By Dean Urdahl
District 18B, State Representative
With this week marking the halfway point of the 2006 legislative session I thought it would be a good time to look back on what we have done in the first half of the session and look forward at what might unfold over the next six weeks.
The Legislature passed a handful of bills that have cleared Governor Pawlenty’s desk, the most notable being a bill to have the state cover prescription drug costs incurred because of errors in the federal Medicare Part D benefit program. The state will cover costs until the middle of this month for those who unexpectedly found themselves without coverage. The other bills signed into law are relatively minor and affect only certain areas, none of which are ours.
There are a number of bills that have passed the House and Senate in different forms and are now being worked on in conference committee. The private property protection bill to prevent abuses of government’s eminent domain authority passed each body with slight differences that should be easily and quickly solved. By the time this appears in newspapers, the bonding bill and a bill for an on-campus football stadium at the University of Minnesota will likely have passed the House and been referred to their own conference committees.
The House has passed several bills that have not gotten through the Senate including bills on illegal immigration and a bill to prohibit cities from enacting special taxes to cover the costs they incur because of college students.
We also have high-profile bills that are still in the committee process. Legislative reform, veterans’ benefits, annexation, voter identification and two environmental bills still await a vote of the full House. They will receive their day after we resume the session next week.
Perhaps the most highly-publicized of all issues will also get a committee hearing next week when the House Taxes Committee considers the Twins stadium bill.
These are by no means the only issues we are addressing this year. The second half of session will be devoted to passing a small supplemental budget package which could include some form of property tax relief. We will also bring up health care reforms that our health committee has spent many weeks developing.
Overall I am pleased with the progress of the session. We are acting on the bills we said we would act on and doing so with relatively little infighting and partisan bickering. The mood here is very good, everyone is focusing on the work at hand. I see no reason why the success of the session to this point will not continue on through the holiday break and on through May. It is shaping up to be a good year.