1.) A Minnesota Senate bill to put the question of inflation-indexing the state’s minimum wage on the November ballot passed out of that chamber’s Jobs, Agriculture and Rural Development Committee on Friday, reports the Associated Press. The bill, which seeks to amend the state’s constitution, passed through the committee despite being opposed by testifiers from business and labor as well as interfaith groups. “We’ve already elected people to speak for us,” Minnesota Chamber of Commerce lobbyist Ben Gerber told the panel. Later in the day, Gov. Mark Dayton added his voice to the chorus of opposition to the plan — which includes Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk as a co-author — joining DFL leaders from the Minnesota House.
The minimum-wage bill, which has been in conference committee since late in the 2013 session, is one of the top remaining priorities of House Democrats and Dayton. Most observers still expect that its resolution will be tied to the fate of the pending Senate Legislative Office Building project, which still awaits final approval from the House Rules and Administration Committee.
2.) At a Friday morning press conference, Gov. Mark Dayton pronounced himself done talking about the medical marijuana battle that has taken up an unexpected amount of time and energy during the 2014 session — but not before eliciting fresh controversy by denying that he ever advised medical marijuana activists that they could obtain the drug illegally without risk of substantial penalties. After the remarks, as PIM reported on Friday, two activists who were at a March 13 meeting with Dayton at the governor’s mansion reiterated and expanded on their claims about the governor’s remarks.
Some chronology: During a March 13 telephone call with reporters, the same day that he met with activists, Dayton said, “The fact is you can go out in any city in Minnesota, I’m told, and purchase marijuana. And if you possess less than an ounce of it, an ounce-and-a-half of it, it’s a petty misdemeanor. It’s a traffic ticket.” Then, at a March 26 press conference, some of those activists went public with the claim Dayton had made similar comments during their meeting with him – a claim that Dayton had not denied until his most recent press availability on Friday. “I was sitting right next to him when he said it,” Patrick McClellan, 47, told PIM. “He said that driving back from Colorado is not like going out of the country, there are no checkpoints with drug dogs at state lines. I said that bringing the drug back from Colorado would be a federal offense, and he said, ‘I live in the real world, and no one would prosecute someone who was just trying to help their child.’”
3.) Republican gubernatorial candidate Jeff Johnson won a straw poll at the 3rd Congressional District endorsing convention on Saturday, according to politics.mn. Johnson, who lives in that district, won 66 percent of the vote among those who turned up for the convention. Marty Seifert finished a distant second place with 15 percent of the vote, while Sen. Dave Thompson, R-Lakeville, nabbed third place with 8 percent. Notably, Rep. Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, finished last out of six candidates, with the former House leader getting just 2.3 percent of the activist crowd. In a U.S. Senate contest, Sen. Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhassen, won a third consecutive intra-party poll, as her 40 percent bested the 28 percent for former investment executive Mike McFadden.
COMINGS & GOINGS
- Today, March 31, marks the quarterly fundraising deadline for Congressional candidates.
- Dakota County Board member Paul Krause is retiring from that post, according to the Star Tribune. Krause, who has been struggling with health problems, would have been forced to defend his seat against Rep. Mary Liz Holberg, R-Lakeville, who is leaving the Legislature and pursuing a spot on the local board.
- Rep. Bob Barrett, R-Lindstrom, will hold a 10:00 a.m. Capitol press conference to bring attention to a bill that would reduce the number of legislators in the state of Minnesota, thereby negating any need to construct a new Senate office building.
- House District 14A Democrats endorsed Dan Wolgamott in his campaign against incumbent Rep. Tama Theis, R-St. Cloud, over the weekend. Wolgamott is a real estate agent and veteran DFL campaign activist. Theis won more than 54 percent of the district vote in a 2013 special election to replace former Rep. Steve Gottwalt.
- Republican Jeff Backer has officially registered his campaign in House District 12A, where he will look to oust Rep. Jay McNamar, DFL-Elbow Lake. Backer won the GOP endorsement in that district last week; he is a member of the Browns Valley School Board and a small business owner.
- Democrat Laurie Warner registered to run in House District 32A, currently represented by Rep. Brian Johnson, R-Cambridge. Warner, a former Duluth City Council member, worked as a field representative for the AFSCME public union for a decade before retiring from that position in 2013.