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Legislative update, week 14: Dayton to unveil construction project wish list

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Gov. Mark Dayton on Monday morning is expected to reveal a list of his highest-priority construction projects as part of what is expected to be a $750 million bonding bill proposal for the Legislature.

The measure is expected to include proposals for capital projects all over the state. Lawmakers have lots on their wish lists: More than 150 requests topping $3 billion for trails, community centers, roads, bridges and other projects.

Dayton is expected to have trimmed that down dramatically to less than $1 billion.

The bonding bill would require Republican help for passage in the DFL-controlled Legislature because it takes a three-fifths vote to approve a bonding bill, and Democrats are short of that margin, the Associated Press noted.

Typically, lawmakers pursue large construction borrowing bills in even years, the Rochester Post-Bulletin reported. But the governor and others have said this is a year to act given low interest rates and a backlog of projects, the newspaper noted.

In other news, a House Health and Human Services bill is expected to be released this week, and House DFL budget targets call for a $150 million reduction in health and human services spending. One group closely watching that bill will be nursing home workers, many of whom haven't had a pay raise in six years, Forum reports. Last week, DFL leaders signaled there could be a modest pay raise for them in the bill.

Last week

Here are a few of the highlights from last week's action at the Capitol.

Gay marriage

Rep. Tim Kelly, R-Red Wing, created a new wrinkle in the debate over gay marriage when he introduced civil unions legislation that would extend some rights to same-sex couples. But gay marriage advocates said civil unions do not go far enough to protect the rights of couples. They support bills approved by House and Senate panels that would legalize gay marriage in the state.

Barber poles

A provision that would make it illegal to display a barber pole without a barber's license is part of a broader House budget bill. Barbers say only the licensed among them should be allowed to display the iconic swirling red, white and blue cylinders, although others, including beauty salon operators and cosmetologists, who have said that seems chauvinist.

Teacher evaluation

A two-year-old Minnesota law requires a new system of rigorous reviews for teachers based on classroom observations and improved student performance. But lawmakers did not say how the new reviews, expected to cost $66 million to $289 million annually based on various estimates, would be paid for. Now Dayton is proposing $10 million to launch the program, the Pioneer Press reports.

Duluth stadium

Sen. Roger Reinert of Duluth is asking the state for $5.7 million for renovations to the crumbling 72-year-old Wade Stadium, home of the minor league Huskies baseball team.

Property tax relief

Minnesota House Democrats proposed $250 million in property tax relief for homeowners, including a boost in available refunds, new credits for renters and an increase in aid to local governments they say should reduce reliance on local property taxes, the Associated Press reports.

Mayo request

State lawmakers are still pressing officials at the Mayo clinic for an alternative plan to Mayo's request for $585 million to help transform Rochester into a city befitting its world-class destination medical center. Legislators have balked at the figure's size, and Mayo's overall financing plan, MPR reported.

Immigrant student tuition

A bill that would extend in-state resident tuition rates to students without lawful immigration status was set aside for further consideration by the House Higher Education Finance and Policy Committee. A similar bill was approved by a Senate panel.

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