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Lawmakers split over smoking ban details

A statewide smoking ban could be headed for approval by the Legislature, but it won't get everyone's backing.

"I highly doubt many (Iron) Rangers will be supporting the final bill," House Majority Leader Tony Sertich, DFL-Chisholm, said.

Sertich was referring to his fellow Iron Range lawmakers, who may support a smoking ban that provides exemptions, such as for bars or private clubs.

Bills being considered by the House and Senate don't include those exemptions.

Sertich said he believes a statewide ban in public places will pass this year.

Changes sought

Staff members from a specialized program at a Duluth clinic are hoping a message they delivered Thursday to legislators will result in changes to a system they say is shortchanging them.

The heart failure program at St. Mary's Duluth Clinic misses out on about $1.2 million a year in compensation from the state, Medicare and third-party payers, officials said.

"I would like to see support of payment for disease management," the program's manager, Linda Wick, said after testifying before a House health finance committee.

The committee's chairman, Rep. Tom Huntley, DFL-Duluth, said he'll look for ways to craft legislation so programs like Wick's see fair compensation.

Though he speculated that real health care reform might not take hold this legislative session, Huntley predicted major changes in 2008.

"I think we're going to do some important things this year," he said. "But next year is the year I think we're going to transform the Minnesota health care system."

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.