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Capitol, flooding, vets, disaster end session of Minnesota Legislature

ST. PAUL -- The Minnesota Legislature decided to renovate the state Capitol building, help communities fight floods, give veterans a new facility and provide disaster assistance Monday night as it ended its 2013 session.

ST. PAUL -- The Minnesota Legislature decided to renovate the state Capitol building, help communities fight floods, give veterans a new facility and provide disaster assistance Monday night as it ended its 2013 session.

Some votes were pending at press time, but legislative leaders had negotiated details to finish lawmakers' work as their constitutional midnight deadline neared.

The key to the session-ending deal is a $177 million public works bill, funded by the state selling bonds. Once House and Senate leaders from both parties agreed to the bonding bill, a daylong logjam broke, allowing other bills to pass.

The House passed the public works bill 121-10 and the Senate 57-6.

The biggest portion of the bonding bill is fixing the state Capitol, a $132 million expenditure.

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"Our Capitol is the symbol of Minnesota, let it stand solid and strong to serve generations of Minnesotans long into the future," said Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City.

The 108-year-old building's walls are crumbling and state officials say mechanical systems need to be replaced.

Also in the bill is $20 million for flood prevention projects, $19 million for a Minneapolis Veterans Home building and $8 million for various sewage projects.

Once the bonding bill passed, the door opened for spending $1.75 million to help southwestern Minnesota recover from an April ice storm.

At press time, votes were nearing on a bill funding various state agencies and a tax bill raising $2 billion. Both were expected to pass.

Rapid-fire late Monday action occurred after a day when the major bills stalled as legislative leaders negotiated them.

The final hours of the session produced a flurry of activity and the final days provided most of the session's major headlines: higher taxes, more state spending and gay marriage authorization.

As major budget bills that make up the state's $38 billion, two-year budget came up for debate, many lawmakers complained that the final versions of the bills from House-Senate negotiators arrived too late for them to know much about them.

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"I'm finding out you get these bills seconds before you have to vote on them," said first-year lawmaker Rep. Steve Green, R-Fosston, calling it "disturbing."

Lawmakers wrapped up most of Democrats' priorities as they neared their deadline. But they also left undone other priorities such as a school anti-bullying bill, a broad public works funding bill, a minimum wage increase and gun control.

Among the last bills was a $1.75 million measure to pay for damage caused by a southwestern Minnesota ice storm in April. Federal money will pay three-fourths of the public property damage repair.

The bill overwhelmingly passed the House and Senate.

Sen. Bill Weber, R-Luverne, told senators there is $6 million in public property damage, but more than $20 million in damage overall.

The bonding bill also looks to prevent future disasters. It spends $20 million for flood prevention work in Ada, Afton, Alvarado, Argyle, Austin, Borup, Breckenridge, Browntown, Climax, Crookston, Delano, Granite Falls, Inver Grove Heights, Maynard, Melrose, Minneota, Minnesota River area, Montevideo, Moorhead, Newport Nielsville, Oakport Township, Oslo, Roseau, Rushford, St. Vincent and Shelley. The bill says Moorhead should be the priority.

While the Capitol is the headline project in the bonding bill, a $22.7 million parking ramp nearby also is included.

In its final days, the Legislature passed bills to:

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  • Raise taxes $2 billion, but the Senate had yet to vote on the tax measure Monday night.
  • Fund the state budget, although late Monday one budget bill remained stalled in the House.
  • Allow same-sex couples to marry. Reporter Danielle Killey contributed to this report.

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