GOP takes on government, campaign finance rules in budget

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — House Republicans are staking out their boldest budget stance yet.

The House was set to take up a bill funding state government Friday with a final vote expected hours later. It caps the number of state employees, snips away at the governor's executive authority and limits future raises for administration officials.

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Governor Mark Dayton has objected to some of those measures as legislative meddling. But the bill's author says they're necessary to keep watch on Minnesota government. Rep. Sarah Anderson says her bill will slow down bureaucratic growth.

Some House Democrats are raising a stink about proposed changes to Minnesota's campaign finance regulations. The bill would remove some limits on how much money candidates can accept from lobbyists and outside groups and would also repeal the state's campaign subsidy program.

EDUCATION FUNDING

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Republicans in the Minnesota House are firming up their stance on one of the session's biggest issues: education.

A floor session on the GOP's education budget was expected to last hours Saturday. The House would spend about $157 million more on schools and families over the next two years. The bulk of that is in money districts can use however they like.

Democrats and education advocates say such a funding increase won't cover inflation and will lead to teacher layoffs and bigger class sizes. They argue more of Minnesota's projected $1.9 billion surplus should be earmarked for education.

The DFL-led Senate would more than double the House's increased education spending. Gov. Mark Dayton is cool to both plans because they leave out his $343 million proposal for statewide preschool.

SENATE-ABORTION CLINICS

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota senators have turned back a measure that would have led to twice yearly inspections and $10,200 licensing fees for clinics that provide 10 or more abortions per month.

Friday's 32-29 vote establishes a chamber position as senators head into budget negotiations with the Republican-led House, which has abortion law changes in its health care bill. The vote saw four Democrats join a unified Republican Senate caucus in the unsuccessful effort.

Democratic Senator Tony Lourey argued against the amendment to a health budget bill, saying health clinics of all kinds are already subject to licensure rules and the change would improperly single out those that provide abortions.

Republican Senator Michelle Benson says clinics that conduct abortions should be held to a higher standard.

SENATE-MNSURE

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Governance of Minnesota's health insurance exchange could be in for a change, but MNsure won't go away entirely.

The Democratic-led Minnesota Senate defeated GOP attempts to dismantle MNsure. Several MNsure-related amendments to a budget bill debated Friday failed on party-line votes.

Republican Sen. Paul Gazelka says Democrats were "doubling down on this dead horse." Democratic Senator Tony Lourey says it's premature to make radical revisions.

The underlying bill would make some changes to the insurance marketplace that had its share of kinks in its first two years. Most significantly, it would turn MNsure into a state agency instead of continuing to operate as mostly independent entity.

Majority House Republicans are pushing for more dramatic restructuring. The House-Senate differences must be worked out ahead of the Legislature's adjournment in May.

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