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Minnesota Legislature

Policy bill gets big on floor

Published (5/1/2009)
By Mike Cook
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An omnibus transportation policy bill that its sponsor said was one of the smallest in memory more than doubled in size before receiving House approval April 28.

Sponsored by Rep. Frank Hornstein (DFL-Mpls), HF928*/SF1455 was approved 115-17 and sent to the Senate, where Sen. Steve Murphy (DFL-Red Wing) is the sponsor. A conference committee is expected to work out the differences.

“We’ve got a good product to go to the conference committee with some important positions and some good votes,” Hornstein said.

Just six bills were included in the original proposal:

• the prohibition of certain acts at rest stops, including improper trash disposal and consuming or possessing open containers of alcohol;

• the conforming of commercial driver’s license recordkeeping to federal standards;

• a broadening of the Metropolitan Council capability to make loans to local governments to purchase homestead property in anticipation of a trunk highway project;

• an addition of two members from labor organizations involved in freight and commuter rail lines to a Transportation Department committee that provides commuter rail advice;

• driving into an intersection unless the vehicle can move completely through without blocking cross-traffic would be prohibited; and

• tickets for going up to 10 mph over the speed limit in a 55 mph or 60 mph zone would be kept off a person’s driving record.

A dozen more bills were added by the House.

For example, Rep. Kent Eken (DFL-Twin Valley) added a provision to designate a stretch of Highway 200 near Mahnomen as “Veterans Memorial Highway,” and a portion of highways 34 and 87 as “Becker County Veterans Memorial Highway.” Local veteran’s clubs are to pay for the signage.

Based on HF571, an amendment from Rep. Brita Sailer (DFL-Park Rapids) would permit counties to allow mini-trucks on local streets, county roads and highways. Generally sold as off-road vehicles for farms and construction sites, she said some people in her area use these fuel-efficient vehicles for other everyday needs. Law enforcement is concerned that they don’t meet federal safety standards for highway use.

Highway 19 in New Prague would be closed from 5:30 p.m. Friday to 6 a.m. Sunday one weekend each September for the Dozinky Festival. Rep. Laura Brod (R-New Prague), who offered the amendment that was HF1192, said MnDOT has permitted the highway to be closed for the festival for the last 15 years, but would not permit the closing after 2010.

Other issues successfully amended onto the bill include mounting of GPS units on the bottommost portion of a windshield; clarifying a 2008 law regarding a town road extinguishment; ensuring all railroad employee rights are maintained if MnDOT takes over any passenger rail duties; and buses throughout the state can use the shoulder on an expressway or divided highway in certain conditions.

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