Tax cuts, kill switches, e cig regulations move ahead at the Capitol

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With the legislative session heading into the home stretch, state lawmakers are nearing final decisions on some of their unfinished business.

Here's a look at how a few issues moved forward Thursday:

Cell Phone Kill Switches

The Pioneer Press reports the House approved a bill requiring that all smartphones bought or sold in Minnesota have a "kill switch" allowing them to be disabled if they are stolen.

The Senate had already passed a similar bill but slight differences will have to be worked out by a conference committee.

Supporters say the move will slow down a surge in thefts of cell phones. The bill's author, Rep. Joe Atkins, DFL-Inver Grove Heights, tells WCCO that being able to disable a phone remotely after it's been stolen will "...turn this thing into a brick. It takes all the incentive away from stealing this thing in the first place.”
[preserve][/preserve] California's state Senate also passed a kill switch bill on Thursday. The Huffington Post notes the approval came over the objections of the wireless industry. An industry group issued a statement which read in part "State-by-state technology mandates stifle innovation to the ultimate detriment to the consumer."

Tax Cuts

DFL leaders reached an agreement on new tax breaks that will apply to nearly 1 million Minnesotans, the Star Tribune reports. More than half of it is directed to property taxes paid by homeowners, renters, and farmers. Both the House and Senate are expected to vote on the agreement next week but the DFL, which holds a majority in each chamber, announced the agreement Thursday.

FOX 9 says the average refund check to a homeowner will be for $837; for a renter it will be $643; and for farmers $410.

The new measure is in addition to a larger tax cut package Gov. Mark Dayton signed into law in March.

E-Cigarettes

The Associated Press reports the state Senate passed a bill that would ban the use of electronic cigarettes in all of the places where conventional cigarettes are prohibited.

That's a more stringent approach than the one taken by the House, meaning a conference committee will work out the differences.

Liquor

The Star Tribune reports the House passed a bill that makes several tweaks to the state's liquor laws. But what's perhaps most significant about it is what's missing. A provision to allow craft breweries to sell refillable 64 oz. growlers on Sundays was stripped from the bill. The House sponsor says it was removed so that the bill one passed by the Senate, which rejected Sunday growler sales.

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