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Library News

Screen Reader Software

By Elizabeth Lincoln & Tracey Van Haaften

JAWS software logoVisitors to the Capitol who experience vision or reading comprehension issues are now able to use computers in the Legislative Reference Library.  JAWS and NVDA screen reader software is installed on select public computers in the Legislative Reference Library (645 State Office Building.) 

Visitors may use the computers to access current legislative information as well as the Library's large collection of electronic information and reports.  JAWS and NVDA software read the text on the screen in a computerized voice.  Guides are available in print and Braille and headphones are provided.

The Library purchased two copies of JAWS using a Technology Accessibility grant administered by the Legislative Coordinating Commission from Telecommunications Access Minnesota Fund appropriations.  Another copy is being used by legislative programmers to improve accessibility of the Legislature's website.

Topics: Legislature  

Fishing Regulations

By Elizabeth Lincoln

Governor Mark Dayton asked the Legislature to make the 2014 session an "Unsession."  The Governor proposed "more than 1,000 reforms that will improve state government services, eliminate unnecessary and outdated laws, and simplify the language of our state statutes." 

Dayton proposed a number of broad Unsession initiatives on taxes, permitting, rulemaking, and unnecessary laws.  The Governor's plain language initiative specifically identifies the annual fishing regulations as being too complex and need to be made more concise.  Legislative staff Colbey Sullivan (House Research), David Schmidtke (Legislative Reference Library), and Brad Hagemeier (House Fiscal Analysis Department) went ice fishing recently to test the complexity of the 2014 Fishing Regulations.  They plan on testing the 2015 Fishing Regulations next year too.

Topics: State Government  

15,000 Days

By Elizabeth Lincoln

On Sunday, Representative Lyndon Carlson and Representative Phyllis Kahn will achieve 15,000 days of service in the Minnesota House of Representatives.  They still have over 500 days to go to beat Representative Willard Munger's record in the House.  And three legislators have even longer service when their House and Senate service is combined.

Representative Carlson could claim seniority over Representative Kahn if we were tracking their service by minutes--he was sworn in before she was!

Topics: Legislators   Legislature  

Beverage Container Deposit Laws

By Carol Blackburn

Photo by Carol BlackburnAnyone who follows the actions of the Minnesota Legislature for a few years quickly discovers that some issues recycle through the legislature on a regular basis.  One of those topics is… recycling - and specifically, “bottle bills”, or beverage container deposit-return legislation. Various forms of such legislation have been introduced in Minnesota back to at least 1969 when bills were introduced to prohibit sales of beverages in nonreturnable bottles.

Beverage container deposit programs require that a fee be added to the cost of each container; the fee is refunded when the container is returned for recycling. Oregon was the first state to pass such a law in 1971. Currently 10 states have these programs including neighboring Iowa.

Proponents say the programs increase recycling rates, decrease litter, save energy, and result in a net increase in jobs. Opponents cite the costs of establishing and operating such a program, loss of jobs in the existing recycling system, inconvenience to consumers, and financial impacts on retailers, especially near bordering states.

In 2013, the Minnesota Legislature requested that the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (PCA) examine and report on issues surrounding the development of such a program in Minnesota.  That report, Recycling Refund System Cost Benefit Analysis, was released in January 2014.  Another PCA publication, the annual “SCORE” report,  provides information and data on Minnesota’s solid waste management system, including recycling.

It is likely that bottle bills will make a return appearance during the 2014 legislative session. The Legislative Library has a variety of materials documenting past efforts to pass such a law including reports and news clippings. Contact the library to learn about these materials or to find information on how these laws have worked in other states.

Topics: MN History  

Rod Searle and the 67-67 House

By Elizabeth Lincoln

Former House Speaker Rod Searle died at age 93 earlier this week.  First elected to the House in 1956, he served as House Speaker in 1979 after the November 7, 1978 election resulted in an equal number of representatives on each side of the political aisle.  (Check out this chart showing partisan control of the House, Senate, and Governor's office back to 1901.) 

With no precedent and no rules a group of negotiators worked out a compromise that made Independent Republican Rod Searle the Speaker.  In addition to the speakership, "the Republicans . . . got [the] chairs of subdivisions of the powerful money committees, on which they had a one-vote majority.  DFLers chaired the full money committees, on which they had a one-vote majority, and the rules committee."  (Star Tribune, January 7, 2014)

The final agreement was signed 35 years ago today--several days after the 1979 session convened.  Searle's book, Minnesota Standoff: the Politics of Deadlock, tells the story of the negotiations between the November election and January 8th.  It's well worth reading. 

Topics: Books & Reports   Legislators   Legislature   MN History  


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