Lots of work left as committee deadlines loom

(House Public Information Services file photo)

House leaders on Friday praised the body’s quick work in passing $500 million in tax relief this week, but cautioned much work remains on major bills as a March 21 committee deadline draws near.

Lawmakers said the fast pace set over the first two weeks of the 2014 session would continue next week, with HF1986, a bill to amend the state’s ban on gifts to lawmakers, scheduled for a House floor vote, and committees hearing pieces of Gov. Mark Dayton’s “unsession” proposals to eliminate outdated and antiquated laws.

A bill legalizing medical marijuana is also scheduled to make its next stop next week. After advancing out of the House Health and Human Services Policy Committee following an emotional, hours-long hearing earlier this week, HF1818 is scheduled to be heard in the House Government Operations Committee Tuesday morning.

During a Friday morning news conference, House Speaker Paul Thissen (DFL-Mpls) cast doubt, however, as to whether the legislation can become law in its current form.

Thissen said he wants to get “to a bill that both law enforce and advocates of medical marijuana use can support.” That hasn’t yet happened, he said, and Dayton has made clear his unease with legalization legislation in the absence of support from Minnesota law enforcement.

“Until we get to that point, I don’t see a (medical marijuana) bill passing off the House floor,” Thissen said.

Sponsored by Rep. Carly Melin (DFL-Hibbing), the bill would allow a registered patient or designated caregiver to possess 2.5 ounces of usable marijuana and, under certain conditions, up to six marijuana plants.

Minimum wage stalemate

The future of a hike in the state’s minimum wage still looks unclear, with a conference committee deadlocked on whether to tie a proposed increase to inflation.

Both House and Senate negotiators have said they support the House’s proposed increase to $9.50 per hour by 2016. But, while House conferees have stated their preference to automatically raise the wage in line with inflation in future years, the Senate has not indicated willingness to include such a bump.

Despite that, House Majority Leader Erin Murphy (DFL-St. Paul) said Friday she is “full of optimism” that a deal between House and Senate negotiators can be reached.

“It’s important we give 350,000 Minnesotans a boost in pay,” she said.

Sen. Jeff Hayden (DFL-Mpls) cited the Senate’s movement from the $7.75 minimum wage bill it passed last year to the $9.50 figure proposed in the House as evidence the two sides can reach a deal.

“It’s been a little testy, but I think that’s normal when you sit down and work these things out,” Hayden said.

Movement on tax bill?

Rep. Kelby Woodard (R-Belle Plaine) offered guarded praise for the $503 million tax relief bill passed Thursday in the House, calling HF1777 “a tax correction” that “doesn’t go far enough.”

“We’ve got a lot more work to do to provide tax relief to Minnesotans,” Woodard told reporters.

That bill is now in the hands of the Senate, whose leadership has indicated they will not rush its passage to meet the governor’s March 14 deadline.

Murphy called it a “focused and clean bill” and said she is hopeful HF1777 reaches the governor by the end of next week.

Senate Minority Leader David Hann (R-Eden Prairie) voiced frustration with the Senate’s approach to the proposed legislation.

“We need to see this tax bill come through the Senate quickly,” he said. “We’re not that interested in taking other things up until that happens.”

  • When a loved one is in pain, wasting away unable to eat, and needs this marvelous herb in order to increase their appetite, reduce the overwhelming pain, and live as as healthy and happily as they can with the time they have left, let's have the compassion to allow them to have it. Stop treating Medical Marijuana Patients like second rate citizens and common criminals by forcing them to the dangerous black market for their medicine. Risking incarceration to obtain the medicine you need is no way to be forced to live. Support Medical Marijuana Now! "[A] federal policy that prohibits physicians from alleviating suffering by prescribing marijuana for seriously ill patients is misguided, heavy-handed, and inhumane." — Dr. Jerome Kassirer, "Federal Foolishness and Marijuana," editorial, New England Journal of Medicine, January 30, 1997 "[The AAFP accepts the use of medical marijuana] under medical supervision and control for specific medical indications." — American Academy of Family Physicians, 1989, reaffirmed in 2001 "[We] recommend … allow[ing] [marijuana] prescription where medically appropriate." — National Association for Public Health Policy, November 15, 1998 "Therefore be it resolved that the American Nurses Association will: — Support the right of patients to have safe access to therapeutic marijuana/cannabis under appropriate prescriber supervision." — American Nurses Association, resolution, 2003 "The National Nurses Society on Addictions urges the federal government to remove marijuana from the Schedule I category immediately, and make it available for physicians to prescribe. NNSA urges the American Nurses' Association and other health care professional organizations to support patient access to this medicine." — National Nurses Society on Addictions, May 1, 1995 "[M]arijuana has an extremely wide acute margin of safety for use under medical supervision and cannot cause lethal reactions … [G]reater harm is caused by the legal consequences of its prohibition than possible risks of medicinal use." — American Public Health Association, Resolution #9513, "Access to Therapeutic Marijuana/Cannabis," 1995 "When appropriately prescribed and monitored, marijuana/cannabis can provide immeasurable benefits for the health and well-being of our patients … We support state and federal legislation not only to remove criminal penalties associated with medical marijuana, but further to exclude marijuana/cannabis from classification as a Schedule I drug." — American Academy of HIV Medicine, letter to New York Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, November 11, 2003 "[The LFA] urges Congress and the President to enact legislation to reschedule marijuana to allow doctors to prescribe smokable marijuana to patients in need … [and] urges the US Public Health Service to allow limited access to medicinal marijuana by promptly reopening the Investigational New Drug compassionate access program to new applicants." — Lymphoma Foundation of America, January 20, 1997 - by Brian Kelly on Sun, 03/09/2014 - 11:28am

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Jonathan Avise's picture
Jonathan Avise