House passes union bill with clock ticking on session

State lawmakers are trying to wrap up the 2013 legislative session before a midnight deadline for adjournment.

They've already passed most of the big pieces of the next two-year budget, but several key issues remained unresolved in the closing hours.

The House concluded a debate that stretched over a couple of days over the unionization of two groups of government-subsidized workers . The bill allows in-home child care providers and personal care assistants that work with the elderly and disabled to hold elections on whether to join unions. It passed 68-66, with a few DFLers joining the GOP opposition.

Republicans accused Democrats of paying back their allies in organized labor for their help in last fall's election. Rep. Peggy Scott, R-Andover, said the union bill is unnecessary and inappropriate.

"I see this unionization of self-employed people, mostly women-owned businesses, as an assault on women-owned businesses," Scott said.

There were also claims that the bill would wrongly divert tax dollars to pay union dues. But the bill's author disagreed. Rep. Michael Nelson, DFL-Brooklyn Park, said the state reimbursement to providers is for services rendered, and at that point the money no longer belongs to the taxpayers.

"It is the day care providers' money. It is the PCA's money," Nelson said. "What they do with it is their business."

On a more bipartisan note, the House also passed an omnibus elections bill, 99-32. It includes a provision to expand the use of absentee voting in the state, by eliminating the requirement that a voter have a valid excuse for not voting in person on Election Day.

The state Senate is expected to take up the tax bill passed by the House early this morning. The measure raises $2 billion in new tax revenue through an income tax increase on the wealthiest 2 percent of Minnesotans, a $1.60 per pack cigarette tax increase, an elimination of some corporate subsidies and other tax code changes.

Both chambers must also pass a finance bill for state government operations.

Two other proposals-- a bonding bill for state Capitol renovations and a minimum wage increase-- remained unresolved.

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