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The Capitol Note: Lawmakers return to wrap up tax, spending bills before bonding

1) Lawmakers returning to the Capitol this week have to finish negotiating over supplemental budget bills and additional tax cuts made possible by Minnesota’s projected budget surplus, Minnesota Public Radio reports.

Though legislators have already passed $443 million in tax cuts, they’re still wrangling over the differences between two bills that would provide roughly $100 million in additional tax relief. The House has passed $323 in new spending, which must be meshed with a $210 million bill from the Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk said he still thinks this years’s legislative session can end early, but that will depend on Republican willingness to provide the votes necessary to pass a bonding bill.

“If we could come back and have a couple weeks, that would be a pretty short session,” Bakk said. “I mean anything under 10 weeks would be pretty short. I don’t know if that can be done. That’s totally in the hands of the Republicans, because the bonding bill is the bill that’s going to be the hardest to close up because it has to have bipartisan support.”

2) Medical marijuana advocates will host a press conference Tuesday morning at the Capitol in a blowout blitz to push the struggling legislation past the finish line, according to a media release.

The event will highlight doctors and clergy who support access to medical marijuana, which the legislation would provide in a limited way for patients with certain conditions who get doctor approval. So far, Gov. Mark Dayton has opposed any medical marijuana bill that doesn’t have the backing of law enforcement.

Some lawmakers from both parties have criticized law enforcement’s lobbying power at the Capitol.

“Doctors and clergy throughout the state and around the country support legal access to medical marijuana,” Heather Azzi, political director for Minnesotans for Compassionate Care, said in a statement. “Legislators need to adopt comprehensive medical marijuana legislation this year. Seriously ill Minnesotans should not have to wait any longer.”

The Minnesota chapter of NORML will hold a rally on Wednesday at the Capitol to push for full legalization of marijuana, according to a flier that reads: “Yes we Cannabis!”

3) U.S. Sen. Al Franken has continued his criticisms of a $45 billion merger between cable and Internet giant Comcast and its rival, Time Warner Cable.

Comcast, which has typically supported Democratic candidates in the past and has ties to the Obama administration, has faced Franken’s ire from a consumer standpoint. Some observers also say the move could have significant repercussions for political advertising. Though Comcast has also backed GOP candidates, some worry that a preference for Democrats could force out certain political activity.

“The first thing I would do is not let the largest cable TV company buy the second-largest cable TV company,” Franken said.

COMINGS & GOINGS

  • Gov. Mark Dayton has a trio of open public events on his schedule today, beginning with an 11:30 a.m. speech to the North Central Minority Supplier Development Council. At 1:20, Dayton will speak at an event in the rotunda, as part of drug court day at the Capitol, and at 4:00 p.m., Dayton will return to the rotunda to address a clean energy and jobs rally.
  • Updated: Yesterday Republican activist/attorney John Gilmore tweeted that former Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch would be joining GOP candidate Randy Gilbert’s campaign for State Auditor, and that former Senate GOP communications guru Michael Brodkorb would be lending a hand. Brodkorb tells PIM that the claim is entirely false. Koch also phoned to complain about our reporting on the Gilmore tweet, but refused to say whether she is involved with the Gilbert campaign.
  • SEIU Healthcare Minnesota registered Anna Odegaard as the newest member of  its lobbying team, taking the union organization’s current count up to four; it’s Odegaard’s first registration with the state.
  • 6th Congressional District candidate Rhonda Sivarajah has retained Patrick Davis to serve as her campaign’s counsel and strategist. Davis, a South Dakotan, is former executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and once worked in the public affairs office under President George H.W. Bush.
  • A new political fund has been launched to support a bond referendum for the Kasson-Mantorville school district. The “Committment to Excellence” committee registered with the state campaign finance board last week, listing Angie Richards, an active player in the Rochester Chamber of Commerce, as its chair.

 


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