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Highlights of the 2003 legislative session

St. Paul, Minn. — Significant moments in and around the 2003 legislative session:

Jan. 6 - Gov. Tim Pawlenty promises to change Minnesota government "in a hundred places and a thousand ways" as he takes the oath of office. (More)

Jan. 7 - The Legislature convenes its 83rd session with Republicans leading the House and Democrats with a narrow edge in the Senate. (More)

Jan. 14 - Pawlenty proposes $468 million budget fix to address a shortfall for the remaining six months of 2003. His plan touches colleges, after-school programs, Iron Range development funds, ethanol subsidies, the state jet and the state band. (More)

Jan. 24 - House Speaker Steve Sviggum defends his family's interest in an ethanol plant in the face of criticism that he has a conflict of interest. (More)

Jan. 29 - Pawlenty and his education commissioner, Cheri Pierson Yecke, outline process for repealing and replacing the Profile of Learning education system.

Feb. 6 - Pawlenty uses State of the State speech to gird citizens for coming budget decisions. "The crisis will be only the most recent chapter in Minnesota's history of courage," he said. (More)

Feb. 7 - After talks on the 2003 budget gap collapse, Pawlenty announces unilateral spending cuts along the same lines as his earlier proposal. (More)

Feb. 11 - Democrats win a special election for a seat previously held by Republicans. GOP hangs onto two other vacancies in other elections in February. The House balance is at 81-53.

Feb. 18 - Pawlenty outlines his $28 billion budget that also would address a $4.2 billion deficit for 2004-05 without raising state taxes. It relies on cuts, accounting shifts and increased fees. (More)

Feb. 27 - New budget forecast adds another $25 million to deficit projection, raising it to $4.23 billion. (More)

Feb. 28 - Pawlenty's Labor and Industry Commissioner Jane Volz resigns after she admits to lacking worker's compensation insurance for employees of her former law firm. (More)

March 10 - Senate hearings open into campaign donations made by a Florida insurance company that later settled with Pawlenty's commerce department. In May, the legislative auditor reports that it found no illegal link. (More)

March 10 - A controversy erupts over GOP Rep. Arlon Lindner's comments on gays, the Holocaust and AIDS. A subsequent ethics complaint is filed, but no action taken against him. (More)

March 12 - Pawlenty revises his budget to reflect slightly gloomier new forecast. (More)

March 18 - Senate holds several committee hearings on the road, reflective of a larger marketing war among all sides in the budget debate.

April 3 - House Republicans release a budget that closely mirrors Pawlenty's. Revenue from a proposal to expand gambling helps them soften cuts to local government aid, colleges and senior citizens programs. (More)

April 7 - Senate DFL releases budget plan containing $1.3 billion in new taxes on cigarettes, upper incomes and corporations. (More)

April 14 - Senate forced to vote on an abortion waiting and information period attached to a bill dealing with regulations on circuses. It passes and Pawlenty immediately signs it. (More)

April 25 - The House approves a plan to place state-operated slot machines at Canterbury Park in Shakopee. The "racino" proposal dies in end-of-session negotiations. (More)

April 28 - As with the abortion bill, the House maneuvers to force a Senate vote on a bill changing Minnesota's handgun permit laws. Pawlenty signs the bill within hours, making more citizens eligible for permits beginning May 28. (More)

May 16 - Three days after the Senate approved the tax increases on a party-line vote, the DFL backs away from the plan and concedes defeat in the budget battle. (More)

May 19 - The regular session ends with only two of nine budget bills approved. The Profile of Learning is repealed in favor of a back-to-basics set of school standards. (More)

May 20 - Pawlenty convenes a special session. (More)

May 24 - A bill allowing Xcel Energy to store more nuclear waste in the state is sent to Pawlenty. He signs it five days later. (More)

May 28 - Final accord is reached on the outstanding budget packages. Pawlenty signs several bills, including one extending the mandatory bar closing hour until 2 a.m. (More)

May 29 - The Legislature concludes its special session, passing a health and human services bill, a bonding bill and a tax bill. (More)

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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