1.) Tuesday in the Senate Education Committee, Sen. Scott Dibble introduced a retooled version of his bill to prevent bullying in Minnesota schools, reports the Pioneer Press. Changes to the bill, the paper notes, “include narrowing the definition of bullying, specifying the school staff who must receive bullying prevention training and updating the timeline for bullying investigation to be conducted.” Despite the modifications, the bill is still a source of concern to some districts in view of the local costs of administering it — estimated at some $20 million to schools across the state — and it is vehemently opposed by the Minnesota Family Council and other social conservatives, including some GOP state senators, for giving express protection to gay and lesbian students.
GOP Sens. Carla Nelson (Rochester) and Roger Chamberlain (Lino Lakes) have introduced an alternate bill that leaves out the sexual orientation language. A version of the Dibble bill was passed in the House near the end of the 2013 session, but the effort stalled out in the Senate.
2.) The field of official and unofficial candidates for the Republican Secretary of State nomination continues to expand in the wake of presumptive nominee Dennis Nguyen‘s sudden withdrawal. On Tuesday, former Red Wing GOP Senator John Howe announced that he would seek the office, taking Nguyen’s place as the lone Republican officially in that race. Howe, who served one term in the Senate before losing a re-election bid in 2012, pledged to abide by the party endorsement, and said he would urge any other GOP entrants to do the same. Also known to be thinking over a bid is Howe’s former Senate colleague, Ted Daley, who told Capitol Report that he had been thinking about the contest for some time, and that Nguyen’s vanishing act would affect his decision, which he promised would be made “very soon.” Also thought to be waiting in the wings, according to GOP operative Gregg Peppin of P2B Strategies, are a number of other possibilities:
- Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake, who held the office for two terms before losing it to current Secretary of State Mark Ritchie.
- Kent Kaiser, a senior staffer to Kiffmeyer, who told Capitol Report that he was just learning of Nguyen’s departure, and wasn’t sure how that might alter his choice.
- Sarah Janecek, a lobbyist and former consultant who formerly published Politics in Minnesota.
- Rhonda Sivarajah, currently running as a GOP candidate in the 6th Congressional District, who might take see the Secretary of State race as a better option than her current uphill battle against CD 6 frontrunner Tom Emmer.
3.) A bill to legalize the medicinal use of marijuana in the state – always deemed a long shot for the 2014 session – appears stalled at the Legislature, writes the Associated Press. House chief author Rep. Carly Melin, DFL-Hibbing, asked that a scheduled Tuesday hearing of the bill, HF 1818, be postponed, and complained via Twitter that law enforcement officials had rejected a compromise proposal of their own making. The legislation also got a public kiss of death yesterday from House Speaker Paul Thissen, who wrote in an email to a reporter, “It does not appear to me that a compromise is going to happen this session.”
COMINGS & GOINGS
- The MNsure board will meet at 1:00 p.m. today, with a regularly scheduled meeting in the 81 East 7th St. building in St. Paul.
- Elementary school teacher and Democrat Susan Witt has registered a legislative candidacy to challenge Rep. Tim Sanders, R-Blaine. Sanders, now in his third term, won re-election to that seat with about 54 percent of the vote in 2012.
- The Iron Mining Association of Minnesota retained a quartet of lobbyists from Messerli & Kramer, including principal Ross Kramer. Those professionals bring the trade group’s current lobbyist count to five, including association president Craig Pagel.
- Lobbyist Maureen O’Connell registered to represent the state chapter of the AARP (American Association of Retired People), becoming the fifth lobbyist on record for that group.
- The Theater of Public Policy announced its lineup of upcoming shows; among them is an April 14 event at Bryant Lake Bowl that will feature Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, as well as an April 28 discussion between Rep. Pat Garofalo and TakeAction Minnesota director Dan McGrath. See the full schedule here.