Senator Michelle Fischbach

This article submitted by Linda Stelling on 1/6/98.

According to Senator Michelle Fischbach, R-Paynesville, the Legislature needs to deal with the revenue surplus properly. ďWe need to do something so we donít have a surplus every year. This is the third or fourth year with a surplus and another is already being projected for next year.Ē

Fischbach is ready to introduce her bill which asks legislators to eliminate the car license tax. ďThe bill is generating more support all the time. I have the authors and exact wording of the bill together to introduce the bill in the House and Senate when the session opens,Ē she said.

Another issue which will be revisited during the upcoming session will be the new Twins stadium, she indicated. ďI think community ownership will come up again, but in what form, Iím not sure,Ē Fischbach explained.

The Legislature is also considering a bonding bill this year and Fischbach fears that if the stadium issue is added, the bill could be defeated.

ďNo matter how we handle the stadium issue, the nation is watching us to see what we decide,Ē Fischbach said. ďMinnesota will be setting a precedent for other states to follow. Once the Twins stadium issue is settled, it wonít end there. Hockey, basketball, and football will also come knocking at our door.Ē

The bonding bill Fischbach made reference to is in the neighborhood of $550 to $600 million. A bill of this size would allow the state to remain beneath its self-imposed three percent of revenue limit on spending for debt service. At the current time, there are over $1.1 billion in agency requests for projects. The state bonds every two years for major projects, she added.

ďSome legislators have talked about borrowing from the surplus to lower the amount of the bonding bill,Ē Fischbach said.

Among the major projects to be covered by the bonding bill include the St. Paul Hockey Arena, $51 to $65 million; Minneapolis Convention Center, $193 million; higher education projects (new libraries and heating plants), $170 million; rehabilitation to various government buildings, $163 million; and bridge replacement, $52 million.

Under crime prevention, an issue to come before the Legislature is the need to carry concealed firearms. Under current law, persons who want to carry a pistol in public must obtain a permit to carry from the local police chief or sheriff.

During the 1997 session, Senator Pat Pariseau and Rep. Hilda Betterman introduced legislation which would require permits to carry concealed handguns be issued to ďresponsible, competent adultsĒ 21 years of age or older. This bill did not receive a hearing during last yearís session.

ďThe bill for concealed weapons is building public support,Ē Fischbach said. ďLawmakers want to make the bill more consistent from county to county. We need more consistency in the laws whether it affects gun ownership or drinking and driving laws.Ē

Electric utility deregulation is another issue which might come before the Legislature this year. ďIt will be a big topic when the task force is through with their research. The basic paradigm shift in this issue is moving away from highly regulated and more monopolistic electric energy service to a less regulated and competitive form of consumer service.

ďI feel the deregulation will hurt smaller companies. In theory, it should bring down electric prices, but Minnesota already has one of the lowest rates in the United States,Ē Fischbach said.

Fischbach said another area of discussion this year will be firefighter training. The 1997 Omnibus crime bill established a firefighter training study committee to study firefighter training needs and options. Among other issues being discussed are sources of funding for firefighter training and availability of training throughout Minnesota.

ďSome fire departments donít have the same access to training facilities as other departments due to their locations in the state,Ē Fischbach said.

ďOur concern is that the opportunities be consistent throughout the state. The Legislature would also set up a board to provide fire departments with lists of trained instructors who are certified whom they can call upon for assistance,Ē she added.

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