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The Capitol Note: Senate passes cell-phone tracking regulations

1) The Senate passed a measure on Tuesday that would enhance the regulation of cell-phone tracking devices currently used by at least two law enforcement organizations in the state. The Senate version, however, was amended at the last minute to weaken the legal standard allowing only limited access to citizens’ location information, according to privacy advocates.

“Everybody knows what my original bill was, and that’s still my preferred position, but, you know, it’s the legislative process and you do what you’ve got to do,” Sen. Branden Petersen, R-Andover, said after the nearly unanimous final vote on Tuesday.

The legislation, which passed overwhelmingly in the Senate, now looks much more like its Senate counterpart. Critics also said the measure was another example of law enforcement influence at the Capitol, while supporters of the different legal standard said they were simply trying to find a workable solution.

Other privacy provisions are also moving forward.

State employees who abuse access to public databases to look up Minnesotans’ personal information will soon face enhanced penalties and it access to the information will be more restrictive, the Rochester Post Bulletin reports.

The measure is currently in conference committee between the House and the Senate. A case in which an ex-state employee looked up roughly 19,000 drivers licenses over a few years in part spurred the crackdown.

2) Medical marijuana advocates started a blitz in the thick of session aimed at passing a bill that has so far floundered under Gov. Mark Dayton’s withering gaze. Advocates, led by Minnesotans for Compassionate Care, held a press conference at the Capitol on Tuesday to announce the support of 100 clergy and medical professionals for people with certain, severe conditions to be able to access marijuana through a doctor’s recommendation, the Star Tribune reports.

“Our leaders here in Minnesota have the opportunity to heal the sick and bind up the injured,” Rev. Catherine Schuyler, of Duluth, said at the event. “They have the opportunity to make good medicine available to those who are in pain.”

The Minnesota chapter of NORML will host a rally on Wednesday for the full legalization of marijuana.

3) House lawmakers on Tuesday announced a proposed $25 million “down payment” on expanded broadband access across Minnesota out of an estimated $100 million need, according to the Pioneer Press. The funding isn’t included in the Senate’s supplemental budget proposal.

“As we traveled around the state there was clear interest in this,” House Speaker Paul Thissen said at the Tuesday press event. “It’s one of the first things that people talk about.”

While 93 percent of Twin cities residents have access to broadband, just 46 percent of those who live outstate have the opportunity to access it, according to the Department of Employment and Economic Development. “This bill is really about economic development,”  Rep. Erik Simonson, DFL-Duluth, said of his support for the measure he is carrying.


  • As he had previously predicted, Rep. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, confirmed yesterday that he would not run for re-election to his House seat in order to focus wholly on his bid for the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate. Abeler, an eight-term legislator and a Republican authority on health and human services, made the announcement during a Tuesday morning Capitol press conference; he was joined by endorsed GOP candidate Abigail Whelan, a former Senate committee administrator and Republican campaign operative.
  • Senate Republican staffer Brad Biers, an aide to Senate Minority Leader David Hann, has left the caucus, according to a staff email tweeted by the Star Tribune’s Rachel Stassen-Berger.
  • The Libertarian Party of Minnesota has gained  its first notable candidate for statewide office in the form of Chris Holbrook, who registered as a gubernatorial entrant last week. Holbrook will run for that party’s endorsement at its April 26 convention in Maple Grove, which features a number of guest speakers and emcees; more information here.
  • Former Scott County Board commissioner Bob Vogel will run for the soon-vacated legislative seat of Rep. Kelby Woodard, R-Belle Plaine, the New Prague Times reports. Vogel is chairman and CEO of the New Market Bank, and served two terms on the county board. Woodard has stated he is leaving the Legislature to help found a new Catholic school for underprivileged youth.
  • The 1st Congressional District DFL will hold its endorsing convention in Faribault beginning at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, April 26. Registration for the event starts at 8:30 a.m.; more information here.


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