The session#039;s still all about cuts

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 10, 2003

Things are heating up at the State Capitol. It's about time.

After two months of doing nothing, the Legislature is apparently getting serious about finishing up its work in the allotted time. It's not a wonder the state faces the budget problems it does when its leaders demonstrate such a high level of efficiency.

As bills are finally being presented and voted on, several have made headlines and have caught the attention of the masses.

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Chief among the approved legislation is the new concealed handgun law. Let's just call it the "guess who is packing law." The new law doesn't change the individual's existing right to seek a permit to carry a concealed weapon. What it does do is change the process by which one acquires a permit. It also reportedly adds more regulations businesses must follow.

The question that keeps popping up is why the need for this new legislation. According to national crime statistics, Minnesota already has one of the lowest violent crime rates in the country. True, in other states concealed weapon laws have helped reduced crime and that certainly could happen here.

However, the new legislation seems to add unnecessary burdens to private businesses and through the publicity the new law is receiving, it stands to increase the number of permitted concealed weapon holders. Some estimates have the number of permitted concealed weapon holders rising from 12,000 to 90,000 in the next three years. From this vantage, a change to the existing law wasn't necessary.

Another hot issue is extending hours bars may stay open to 2 a.m. Currently Minnesota bars must close at 1 a.m., while some surrounding states' bars stay open to 2 a.m.

Some proponents of the new legislation suggest the safety hazard created by Minnesota bar patrons flocking to Wisconsin to catch the 2 a.m. close is a reason for the new legislation. That's a bunch of hooey. That isn't to say this legislation isn't a good idea.

In fact, Minnesota should make a bold move and remove all time restrictions from bars and establishments that serve liquor. Why the heck we legislate when someone can operate a business is stupid. A bar owner who wants to be open 24 hours per day, seven days per week, 365 days per year should have that right. Our state lawmakers need to show more faith that the residents of Minnesota can make sound judgments regarding their own behavior.

The new legislation should help stimulate the economy. It will mean more revenue for bar owners and bar employees and more collectible taxes for the state.

Finally, Minnesota remains an overtaxed state. Any discussion of fixing the budget crisis by increasing taxes is government trying to mask the real problem.

Minnesota's problem is not a revenue problem. Minnesota has a spending problem. Like a permitted concealed weapon carrying crank junky, Minnesota lawmakers and bureaucrats continue to binge spend.

Lawmakers have a responsibility to voters to make government more efficient. That doesn't mean rolling back services, it means working smarter and doing more with less -- that's something every business in Minnesota understands.

Until lawmakers make personnel reductions, demand better quality work from state employees and eliminate unnecessary programs, they shouldn't come looking to Minnesota taxpayers to pony up more money to support their habit.

Neal Ronquist can be reached at 434-2201 or by e-mail at