House lawmakers show support for $1B-plus bill, with key funding for sex offender treatment center
ST. PAUL -- The Minnesota House kicked its public works funding proposal to more than $1 billion Monday, adding a facility for 400 sex offenders.
Representatives voted 92-37, with some Republicans joining Democrats, to fund college, trails, transportation and other construction projects. The only major change in the measure came when representatives voted 114-19 to spend $89 million to build a 400-bed addition to the Moose Lake sex offender treatment center.
Decorum broke down in the House chamber as the time ran out for debate, and Republicans objected to what they said was Democratic-Farmer-Labor leadership cutting them off.
"It's too bad we couldn't have informed each other and the people of Minnesota about what was in this bill," said Rep. Marty Seifert, R-Marshall.
Representatives debated the bill for more than four hours.
Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty insisted on the sex offender facility, and Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, offered an amendment to include it. A Senate-passed bill contains $1 million for the facility, something Sen. Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon, called a placeholder so the topic could be discussed later.
The House and Senate bills are headed to a conference committee that is to work out differences between what the two chambers passed. They each spend about $1 billion. However, Pawlenty wants to spend no more than $685 million, and on Monday said he would either veto individual projects or kill the entire bill if lawmakers send him a bill he deems as too big.
Pawlenty said he could not accept a bonding bill that funds civic centers and other things he called not essential, but did not include the sex offender facility.
The bill also includes $50 million to prevent flooding, mostly along the Red River Valley.
The overall bill funds public works projects across the state with money raised by the state selling bonds.
About a third of the bonding bill funds state-run college and university improvements, ranging from additions to classroom buildings to roof repairs. It also contains money for projects such as sewage systems, park improvements, civic centers and transportation improvements.