Capitol notebook: Student athletes says coaches need to understand concussionsMinnesota Legislature
-- Chris Heffele was under more pressure than many Minnesota House meeting witnesses.
By: Don Davis , Pierce County Herald
ST. PAUL -- Chris Heffele was under more pressure than many Minnesota House meeting witnesses.
First, the high school student was talking to high-powered state representatives. Second, he faces problems because of two concussions that occurred in sports events. Third, he was sitting next to the author of the bill being discussed who also is father of the girl he is dating.
Heffele told a House committee Wednesday that he supports a bill by Rep. Rod Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake, to require coaches and parents to get more information about concussions.
“The coaches should be able to know the minor signs of concussions...” Heffele told committee members. “If they don’t know what is going on, they could put the athlete back into the game and affect the athlete long term.”
Heffele suffered a concussion during football season, then a second one in a basketball game.
“Almost every day since my basketball concussion in December, I have had headaches and my learning capabilities haven’t gone up at all and it is hard to read,” he said.
The athlete also said he finds it harder to speak since his concussions.
The committee approved the bill, sending it to a future House vote.
Dayton sees problems
The Dayton administration says it has big problems with the Republican-led Legislature’s two major spending bills.
Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton’s education and health and human services commissioners wrote to legislative negotiators Wednesday outlining problems they see in the budget bills as lawmakers look toward a mandatory May 23 adjournment date. Before then, they are supposed to craft a state budget of at least $34 billion for the next two years.
Health and Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson listed 41 objections she has to a bill that primarily funds welfare and health programs for the poor, disabled and elderly.
“My greatest concern is that a budget reduction target of $1.6 billion for HHS is simply too large,” Jesson wrote to negotiators. “Budget reductions of this magnitude will put vulnerable people at risk.”
Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius wrote to legislative negotiators that House and Senate bills “ignore the governor’s education proposals.”
“I do not consider these bills a starting point for serious negotiations,” she wrote.
On Tuesday, Dayton said he wants legislators to send him spending bills by May 6, but GOP leaders said they will not pay attention to the arbitrary deadline.
The House and Senate have passed eight spending bills and a tax bill that are in negotiations to resolve differences between the two bodies. Dayton complained that those negotiations are not moving quickly enough.
Photo ID votes
Bills requiring voters to present photo identifications before casting ballots are moving in two ways.
On Wednesday, 34 House Republicans introduced a constitutional amendment proposal. Senators are to vote on a separate proposed law as early as today.
While Republicans who control the Legislature support voter photo ID, Gov. Mark Dayton does not and he likely would not sign a bill.
A constitutional amendment, however, bypasses the governor and once the Legislature approves it the measure goes directly to the voters. In this case, the public would vote on the issue in November of 2012.
Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake, is chief author of the constitutional amendment proposal. She is a former secretary of state, where she was in charge of the state’s elections.
House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, is a co-author of the bill.
Legislators will consider a bill establishing a state next-of-kin registry that law enforcement officers could use after a serious accident or other emergency.
“Sometimes law enforcement spends many hours trying to locate a loved one, and time is critical in saving lives,” Sen. Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, said. “The program is entirely voluntary and, under Minnesota’s data privacy laws, only law enforcement and emergency personnel would have access to the information.”
If the bill does not pass out of a committee before Friday’s deadline, it still could be considered next year.
Newspaper notices remain
A bill written to reduce mandates on local governments was amended Wednesday to require most legal notices still to be printed in local newspapers.
Rep. Roger Crawford, R-Mora, wrote the bill to help governments save money, but on a split voice vote a House committee opted to keep legal notice requirements pretty much as is.
Crawford’s bill would have allowed governments to put more legal notices on the Internet instead of printing in a local newspaper.
“There may be time when we don’t use paper for anything, but that time has not come,” Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City, said, adding that some small newspapers depend on legal notices for quite a bit of their revenue.
But Anoka County Commissioner Rhonda Sivarajah shot back that newspapers “will adapt. ... It is not local government’s job to subsidize businesses.”
Older Minnesotans would especially be hurt by putting legal notices on line, Rep. Frank Hornstein, DFL-Minneapolis, said, because fewer in that age bracket use computers.
Sandra Neren, representing Minnesota’s 370 newspapers, said newspaper Web sites such as the West Central Tribune in Willmar attract more than a million page views a month, while government Web sites generally receive far less traffic.
The House voted 93-35 Wednesday to increase penalties for crime suspects who flee law enforcement officers, resulting in death or injury.
The bill covers people who begin to flee in a motor vehicle, then continue to run from police by foot or other means.
Under current law, the state requires a more severe penalty for people who flee in a vehicle, and injury or death occurs. The bill written by Rep. John Kriesel, R-Cottage Grove, would extend that penalty.
“We are going way wild on this bill,” Rep. Joe Mullery, DFL-Minneapolis, said in arguing against it.
But Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Good Thunder, counted: “The law enforcement officers I talk to want this bill bad.” He is a police chief.
Longer DL renewal
Minnesota military members and their spouses would have a year to renew their driver’s licenses under a bill the House passed 123-3 Wednesday.
Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City, said a constituent encountered a problem because when discharged from the military following an overseas assignment, he remained overseas. When he returned to Minnesota, his driver’s license had expired.
Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.