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Buried bills will see light of day at Capitol
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Gov.-elect Tim Pawlenty addressed the Minnesota Meeting on Thursday, his first policy speech since being elected. Pawlenty advocated a "pay for performance" plan for Minnesota teachers. He also criticized spending on light-rail transit and stressed an emphasis on solving the state's transportation problems by building more roads and bridges. Listen to his remarks. (MPR Photo/William Wilcoxen)
For the first time in Minnesota history, Republicans will control the governor's office and one house of the Legislature when the 2003 session convenes. Republicans also picked up some seats in the state Senate. The Republican dominance will affect debate over the hot-button issues of guns, abortion and the Profile of Learning graduation standards.

St. Paul, Minn. — The changes at the Capitol mean several bills that have been narrowly defeated are likely to be signed into law this year. At the top of the list is the so-called women's right to know bill that requires a 24-hour waiting period before a woman could get an abortion. The bill has twice passed the Legislature, but was vetoed both times by Gov. Jesse Ventura. Gov.-elect Tim Pawlenty has said he'll sign the bill.

Marice Rosenberg of Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life says Tuesday's election was "a pro-life mandate."

"I think that the voters really, really turned out, and we've been sitting here for 12 years with some pretty extreme positions on abortion policy, and the voters were really clear about it," she said.

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Image Gov.-elect Tim Pawlenty

Groups that support legalized abortion say they don't have the votes to defeat abortion restrictions. Tim Stanley of Minnesota NARAL says two-thirds of the Minnesota House is opposed to legalized abortion, and more than half of the Senate.

"Tim Pawlenty and the anti-choice activists who worked on his campaign will be able to pretty much have their way with whatever agenda they choose, whether that is the 24-hour waiting period on a woman's right to choose, the bans on so-called partial birth abortion, implementing gag rules on family planning funding," he said.

Stanley says NARAL and other groups may challenge bills in court.

Another contentious bill likely to be signed into law would loosen Minnesota's concealed weapons law. The "concealed carry" bill would make it easier for Minnesotans who qualify to get a permit to carry a concealed weapon.

John Kaile of the group Concealed Carry Reform NOW says gun owners were mobilized to vote this year. "We saw that in the last month before the election, our Web site got thousands of hits from people asking about candidates, what their stand on gun owners' rights were, and how they could either contribute to the candidates or how they could get information and participate in the process of getting out the vote and that sort of thing."

The concealed carry bill failed on a tie vote in the Senate last session, and Kaile says he thinks it will easily pass next year. Gov.-elect Pawlenty supports the legislation.

Opponents of the bill say they'll try to fight it by appealing to moderate Republicans. Rebecca Thoman, executive director of Citizens for a Safer Minnesota, says lawmakers will hear from their constituents who don't want more guns on the streets.

"We're not giving up; it's not over 'til it's over, and now that they have the authority, some of the folks who have promised to do this, we need to see now if they're really willing to do it and take the heat that comes from the public if they do try to pass a law like this which is unpopular by any measure," according to Thoman.

Another divisive issue certain to be back next session is the Profile of Learning graduation standards. An effort to repeal the Profile has been gaining ground at the Capitol, and has Pawlenty's support. Pawlenty says outside groups give the Profile failing grades.

"And so if you're going to be a nation-leading education state, you better have nation-leading curriculum and standards. We don't any more. That needs to change," Pawlenty says.

Profile opponents have the votes to repeal it, but the bigger debate will be what to put in its place, according to Morgan Brown, senior fellor for education policy at the Center of the American Experiment. Brown says Pawlenty has said he wants to replace the Profile with other standards.

"He seemed to indicate he wanted to focus on the core curriculum areas, things like reading and math and science, rather than do like the Profile did and try to cover the entire curriculum, and really focus more on academic content and laying out what we expect students to know and be able to do," says Brown.

Conservative groups say they believe Minnesotans gave Republicans a mandate on Tuesday; now the pressure's on to deliver results.

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