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In a statement following the decision, DHS Commissioner Lucinda Jesson echoed the call for legislative action this spring.

The Capitol Note: Judge says sex offender commitment system “clearly broken”

Sen. Kathy Sheran said some would try to "wash their hands" of the issue. (staff photo: Peter Bartz-Gallagher)

Sen. Kathy Sheran said some would try to “wash their hands” of the sex offender issue. (staff photo: Peter Bartz-Gallagher)

1.) On Thursday U.S. District Court Judge Donovan Frank issued a 75-page decision in a class-action lawsuit that challenges the terms of confinement for around 700 men being indefinitely detained in the Minnesota Sex Offender Program, writes the Star Tribune. In the ruling, Frank calls the bluff of the Legislature with respect to reforming the program, which is widely viewed by legal scholars as unconstitutional in its present form. Wrote Frank: “The politicians of this great state must now ask themselves if they will act to revise a system that is clearly broken, or stand idly by and do nothing, simply awaiting court intervention.”

In recent sessions, bills have been offered at the Legislature to ensure the constitutionality of the program by beefing up its treatment component, increasing the frequency of case file reviews, and making provisions to hold certain offenders in less-restrictive settings. One such measure passed the state Senate with bipartisan support in 2013, but stalled in the House after Republicans in that chamber withheld their support. Despite the looming threat of court action to overhaul the program, DFL Sen. Kathy Sheran of Mankato acknowledged that “There will be people who will still want to wash their hands of the problem and let the court decide.” Frank’s decision did not specify any timetable for court action. In a statement following the decision, DHS Commissioner Lucinda Jesson echoed the call for legislative action this spring. “The ruling raises questions about the future of Minnesota’s civil commitment system for sex offenders,” she wrote, “and we urge the full Legislature, on a bipartisan basis, to address this issue in the coming weeks and months.”

2.) The chief sponsor of a House bill to legalize medical marijuana has confirmed to Minnesota Public Radio  that she is in talks with Minnesota law enforcement organizations about a possible compromise on the measure. “They want to limit it to pills or liquid-form consumption, rather than the traditional inhalation of marijuana or what you would consider smoking marijuana,” Iron Range DFL Rep. Carly Melin told the station. “They want that out of the bill entirely. So, we’re looking to other states and having conversations with patients and the medical community to see what the reality is of moving in that direction.” The position of law enforcement groups is critical to the measure’s passage, because DFL Gov. Mark Dayton has said repeatedly that he will not sign any bill opposed by those organizations. House Speaker Paul Thissen and Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk  have downplayed the possibility of acting on Melin’s bill in 2014, but Bakk told MPR that a pills-and-liquids approach is “absolutely worth exploring.” It remains to be seen whether the proposal will satisfy medical marijuana advocates, since the chemical derivatives now under discussion are useful for only some of the conditions that the drug is used to treat in other states that have embraced limited legalization.

3.) A second GOP candidate has registered a bid against Rep. David FitzSimmons, R-Albertville. Senell Jaster, an attorney who specializes in health care, registered her candidacy with the campaign finance board earlier this week. On her website, Jaster lays out her conservative position on a number of issues, including a call for lower taxes and less government regulation, as well as socially conservative beliefs in “the right to life and traditional marriage.” Jaster is a veteran Republican activist, having served as a convention delegate and as treasurer of the Republican Party of Wright County. Eric Lucero, a Dayton City Council member, is also looking to defeat FitzSimmons in his House District 30B endorsement convention this weekend. FitzSimmons is thought to have become a target thanks to his vote in support of gay marriage, and told the Star Tribune that he does not regret taking that position. Asked about his chances in the endorsement battle, the freshman legislator said, “I think I have a solid shot to win, but anything can happen.” FitzSimmons, himself a longtime party activist, has pledged to abide by the party endorsement.


  • Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB) announced that the February economic forecast will be released next Friday, Feb. 28, at 11:00 a.m. The budget news will be presented with a press conference in Room 15 of the Capitol, with MMB Commissioner Jim Schowalter and state economist Laura Kalambokidis scheduled to give an update and take media questions.
  • Abdimalik Mohammed Askar has registered to run as a Republican in House District 60B, the heavily DFL-leaning district represented by Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis. Askar works as the outreach coordinator for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MNSCU) system.
  • 6th Congressional District candidate Phil Krinkie is hosting a fundraising event featuring controversial Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio. On March 6, Arpaio is scheduled to be on hand at the Mermaid in Mounds View. The fundraiser includes a meet-and-greet session with Arpaio, according to a tweet from; suggested contribution $25.
  • Trudie Gustafson has been named the next vice president of Greater Mankato Growth, the Mankato Free Press reports. Gustafson had worked for Taylor Corp. for nearly four decades, eventually becoming a vice president with the company. Her work for the business advocacy group begins on March 31.

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