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The Capitol Note: Dayton still hopeful for medical marijuana deal

Gov. Mark Dayton changed positions following the meeting. (Staff photo: Peter Bartz-Gallagher.)

Gov. Mark Dayton changed positions following the meeting. (Staff photo: Peter Bartz-Gallagher.)

1.) The partial body cast that Gov. Mark Dayton has been wearing since his recent hip surgery did not prevent him from executing a 360-degree turn on the issue of medical marijuana Thursday. Entering the day, as you may recall, Dayton’s last word on the subject had been that that there was still time to forge a compromise on the issue during the 2014 legislative session. But during a late-morning press conference via telephone Thursday, as MPR reports,  Dayton reversed course and drew an emphatic line in the sand: Citing the dangers and uncertainties involved, Dayton told reporters, “It’s just not going to happen this session.” He also said, “I’m told by law enforcement that you can buy marijuana in any city in Minnesota. We have the distribution already set up. It’s extra-legal, and basically not a crime for people, or an extremely minor crime for people who possess an amount for personal use.” He later added that he wasn’t encouraging anyone to do anything illegal.

Almost immediately afterward, however, Dayton met with a group of 11 medical marijuana activists at the governor’s mansion. Afterward, according to the Star Tribune,  “Dayton said he would direct his top commissioners and staffers to meet with the group and see if some compromise could be reached in the remaining two months of the legislative session.”

2.) The Minnesota Sex Offender Program is unlikely to see any legislative reforms this year despite the now-longstanding threat of court intervention to address unconstitutional aspects of the program, according to MinnPost. Last year a package of changes to MSOP passed in the state Senate with some Republican votes, but so far the House DFL majority has been unable to win any GOP support for going forward, and unwilling to go it alone. As a result, the state seems poised to let the chips fall where they may, a stance that surprises William Mitchell College of Law Dean Eric Janus, who is also a member of the sex offender task force established by the court a couple of years ago.  “I’m not surprised it remains a politically charged issue, but I am surprised that the Legislature would be willing to risk a federal court takeover of this program. Why would anyone want to delay [acting] and risk a federal court order that could have very substantial consequences?”

3.) A number of data privacy and law enforcement bills will be up in the House Civil Law Committee today, including a pair of bills brought by committee chair Rep. John Lesch, DFL-St. Paul. Lesch’s bills would seek to codify and curtail the use of unmanned drones by Minnesota law enforcement and require a search warrant before tracking a person’s location via electronic device. Other bills slated to appear include one that would allow set standards for the employment of GPS tracking on domestic abusers, as well as a bill authored by Rep. Mary Liz Holberg, R-Lakeville, to create a state data practices and data privacy commission. The committee hearing starts at 10:00 a.m., and is scheduled to reconvene at 1:00 p.m.


  • R.T. Rybak is throwing his support behind the upstart challenger to Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, according to the Star Tribune. Rybak endorsed Minneapolis School Board member Mohamud Noor, whom the former mayor of Minneapolis as “the best choice for bringing all our voices together.” Kahn and Noor are set to face off at an April 5 endorsement convention.
  • The Minnesota Biodiesel Council has hired lobbyist Judy Cook of Cook Girard. The move means that group now has both named principals from Cook Girard, and five lobbyists altogether.
  • Tina Smith is kicking off her campaign role for Gov. Mark Dayton with a series of events over this weekend. Smith has multiple stops scheduled in the Duluth, Eveleth and Virginia areas, including visits to local businesses and DFL Party endorsement conventions.
  • Sen. David Osmek, R-Mound, has been named the new Senate Republican Whip, a role which will see Osmek tracking GOP vote totals on important legislation. Osmek is in his first term in the upper chamber.
  • Legislative auditor Jim Nobles will be the featured guest at a Humphrey School of Public Affairs event on March 26. Nobles will talk about his role in state government, and discuss findings his office has made about the state’s sex offender treatment program and its health insurance exchange. More information here.
  • Goff Public has brought on a pair of new staffers, according to its most recent newsletter. The firm hired Julie Hubbell, a former Senate staffer and veteran manager of political action committees, to serve as office manager; University of Minnesota graduate Kendra Tillberry joined the public affairs team as a writer.

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