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Cancer research funding OK'd

ST PAUL - Iron Range lawmakers and Gov. Tim Pawlenty have reached a compromise to fund a miners' cancer deaths study.

Pawlenty could sign a bill next week appropriating $4.9 million so the University of Minnesota can study why 58 people connected to Iron Range mines have died of mesothelioma.

The compromise allows the state to use a different fund than originally proposed, a fund acceptable to Pawlenty.

"Gov. Pawlenty believes it's very important that this study moves forward and is pleased we were able to reach a compromise on an acceptable funding source," said his spokesman, Brian McClung.

"Utilizing $4.9 million from the assigned risk plan ensures the study is funded in a way that will not increase costs on employers, which was our concern about the previous version that would've tapped the workers' compensation fund," he added.

Republicans said the original plan would have increased workers' compensation premiums that businesses pay.

Senators on Thursday preliminarily approved, on a voice vote, a bill approving the study. The measure includes the new funding source, making it different than a bill representatives passed 88-45 a week earlier, and forcing the House to take a second vote on the revised plan.

Sen. David Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm, urged senators to pass the bill "so our miners can go to work in a safe environment." Tomassoni said the mysterious cancer may take 30 years to appear.

The measure will return to the House next week, where Majority Leader Tony Sertich, DFL-Chisholm, expects it to receive prompt approval.

Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, questioned the need for an extensive study.

"There is a lot of information out there about mesothelioma," she said. "It has been around forever."

Her father died of the disease.

Preliminary work already has started on the study, funded by $250,000 from Iron Range Resources, a state agency.

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.