Minnesota lawmakers are again considering legislation to get rid of the state tax on Social Security income.

The House tax committee held a hearing Wednesday on two versions of the bill. One (HF9) would phase out the tax by 20 percent per year for five years. The other (HF213) has a 10 year phase out at 10 percent a year.

Rep. Dale Lueck, R-Aitkin, is the sponsor of the faster plan. Lueck said the clock is ticking for senior citizens who could use a tax break.

“Everything else is stagnant or going backwards for these people,” Lueck said. “If we spend a lot of time here continuing to jaw on this for a couple of sessions, there’s a whole ‘nother crop of them are going to die before we actually provide any relief.”

Rep. Kathy Lohmer, R-Stillwater, said the Social Security tax is the issue she hears about most from constituents. Lohmer said too many senior citizens are moving out of Minnesota to avoid the tax.

“These people have been productive and valuable citizens of Minnesota, and they leave behind children, grandchildren, neighbors and friends,” Lohmer said.

The Minnesota Department of Revenue estimates the two-year cost of the bills would eventually top $1 billion, with half of the benefits going to individuals with incomes over $100,000.

Paul Cummings, the department’s tax policy manager, said the legislation was a “poorly targeted approach” to providing relief to seniors in need.

“This proposal does not benefit all seniors. It primarily benefits wealthy seniors,” Cummings said.

Under current state law, Social Security benefits are tax exempt for individuals making less than $25,000 and married couples making $32,000. Slightly higher incomes get as much as a 50 percent exemption.

Rep. Paul Marquart, DFL-Dilworth, said the proposed phase out of the Social Security tax is not affordable. He said a more realistic approach would be to adjust the exemption levels.

“If you were to move that up to about $60,000-$70,000 that would be the targeted relief that we can afford,” Marquart said.

DFL Gov. Mark Dayton has said he’s willing to consider adjustments to the exemption incomes.

The committee took no votes. Both bills will remain under consideration for a larger tax bill this session.

Good morning, and welcome to Wednesday. Here’s the Digest.

1. Minnesota lawmakers renewed their decades-old debate over Sunday liquor sales Tuesday as the House Commerce Committee advanced a bill to the House floor on a lopsided 15-4 vote. As in previous years, supporters of the move are convinced that the time has come to lift Minnesota’s longtime ban on Sunday liquor store sales. This time they could be right. (MPR News)

2. DFL Gov. Mark Dayton held a news conference Tuesday with some Minnesotans facing health insurance premium spikes to try to get lawmakers to act immediately on his rebate plan. He wants them to delay consideration of  bigger changes to the insurance system until later in the session. Many of those facing big increases without eligibility for federal subsidies are struggling with the expense. (Star Tribune)

3. Gov. Dayton announced a $500 million program that will take thousands of acres of environmentally sensitive land out of farm production in order to prevent water pollution. The federal government is putting up $350 million and the state is expected to contribute $150 million. The program will pay farmers to take 60,000 acres of land out of production, and demand for enrollment is expected to be strong. (Star Tribune)

4. A report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says repealing major parts of Obamacare would leave 18 million people without health insurance. That number would rise to 32 million over 10 years with a doubling of individual insurance premiums. Republicans said the report should be taken with a grain of salt because it gave only one view by looking at the impact of a repeal without a replacement. But Republicans still haven’t settled on a replacement plan, so the CBO hasn’t looked at one.  The office was considering the repeal bill Congress passed last year that President Obama vetoed. (New York Times)

5. In one of his final acts in office President Obama commuted the prison sentence of Chelsea Manning, meaning Manning’s 35-year sentence will end in May. Manning has been behind bars for more than six years. She was known as Bradley Manning when she was convicted of leaking classified government and military documents to the website WikiLeaks. Manning was an intelligence analyst in Iraq and has acknowledged leaking the documents, but has said it was done to raise public awareness about the effects of war on civilians. Obama also commuted the sentence of Puerto Rican nationalist Oscar Lopez-Rivera among others,  and pardoned 64 people, including  retired Gen. James Cartwright, who was charged with making false statements during a probe into disclosure of classified information. (AP)

Aerial drones are being used for many things these days, but a group of Minnesota lawmakers says hunting shouldn’t be one of them.

A bill introduced Tuesday in the state Senate would outlaw the use of unmanned aircraft controlled remotely to take, harm or harass wild animals. Sen. Dan Schoen, DFL-St. Paul Park, said hunting by drone goes too far.

“The tradition of hunting and fishing and sportsman activity in Minnesota is all about you got to get out and actually do it,” he said. “It would be in the same realm as dropping dynamite in the lake to do some fishing. It’s about making it fair. It’s not just about the harvest of the animal. It’s about the activity.”

Schoen said he isn’t aware of any noteworthy incidents involving drones and hunting to date. But he sees it as a step to head off problems later.

Schoen is chief sponsor of the bill that has bipartisan backing. The bill doesn’t say what the penalty would be for violators.

There are several videos on the internet of people using drones to scope out or chase deer.