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Inspections during shutdown

Published (3/23/2012)
By Nick Busse
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Electrical inspections could continue unimpeded in the event of another state government shutdown, under a bill that won committee approval.

Rep. Carolyn McElfatrick (R-Deer River) sponsors HF2548/ SF1551* that would tap into an existing special revenue fund to allow electrical inspections to continue in the event that their biennial funding runs out.

The House Jobs and Economic Development Finance Committee approved the bill March 15 and sent it to the House Ways and Means Committee. Sen. Al DeKruif (R-Madison Lake) is the Senate sponsor. The Senate passed it 37-28 March 12.

The bill is one in a series of proposals following the 2011 state government shutdown that seek to ensure key government operations are able to continue in the absence of a biennial appropriation. McElfatrick said that because electrical inspections involve matters of public safety, they should not be allowed to stop.

“I feel like a large portion of our responsibility here is to protect the public,” she said.

Bill Strusinski, representing the Minnesota Electrical Association, said last summer’s shutdown halted a wide variety of public and private building projects and created a number of safety concerns. As an example, he said 20 carnivals and fairs opened last summer without proper electrical inspections.

Rep. Tim Mahoney (DFL-St. Paul) questioned why electrical inspectors are being singled out among all the other trades impacted by the shutdown. He noted that Ramsey District Court Chief Judge Kathleen Gearin did not deem the inspections an essential state service.

“This is a way to get around the fact that we didn’t get our work done,” Mahoney said.

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