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The Capitol Note: House compromise divides lawmakers, advocates

1)The House brought forward on Thursday what lawmakers there called a compromise on contentious medical marijuana legislation that law enforcement doesn’t oppose.

The bill would allow children and certain adults with severe illnesses — more restrictive than a different proposal that has stalled in the House — to ingest and vaporize marijuana as part of clinical trials. The Senate version, which has been moving with more force, is more permissive. The proposals will travel in earnest on Friday into next week.

“At this point, the goal of the Legislature is to get something enacted to help families across the state,” Rep. Carly Melin, who sponsored both bills, said at a press conference on Thursday.

In trying to plow forward, Melin and the House has alienated part of the coalition that’s backing medical marijuana. “I’m going to be working with the House to try to fix this proposal,” Minnesotans for Compassionate Care political direct Heather Azzi said. “I don’t know if the law enforcement community is going to be willing to fix this in any way that works.”

The Senate is still moving forward with its proposal, which Azzi and others prefer. Dayton said he is evaluating the House plan, both for cost and legality.

2) House and Senate Democrats unveiled a nearly $300 million supplemental spending target on Thursday, signaling the beginnings of a global deal to bring the 2014 session to an end.

The $293 million target is a reduction from the House’s initial $322 million proposal, and a leap up from the Senate’s $209 million plan, which are currently under review in conference committee. Though the two chambers have agreed on an informal $200 million for cash projects in a capital investment package, a target for a second round of tax cuts remains unreleased.

Lawmakers are working on this non-budget year with a $1.2 billion surplus.

“We wouldn’t even be talking about a supplemental budget without the structured and balanced budget we passed last year,” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Richard Cohen said in a prepared statement. “Our aim is to put this money back into common sense priorities that support Minnesotans, including pay equity for residential care workers and enhanced early childhood education.”

3) The House followed the Senate on Thursday in passing a proposal that would allow the state to keep newborn blood samples without limits, Minnesota Public Radio reports.

Now the two proposals must be reconciled in conference committee. DFL Rep. Kim Norton, who sponsored the House proposal, pushed back against privacy concerns by praising the public health aspects of the proposal. State scientists at the Department of Health test newborn blood for genetic defects.

“Our current law is a tremendous barrier to new test development. Members, the current law is not working for our children, our families or for public health,” Norton said. “If allowed to, it’s likely the changes we’ve proposed to the program could save many more lives by adding additional tests to this screening panel.”

COMINGS & GOINGS

  • Democrat Craig Brenden has opted not to run for the state House seat held by Rep. John Petersburg, R-Waseca, according to the Mankato Free Press. Brenden gave no reason for his decision, which leaves the local DFL chapter without an opponent to face Petersburg, now in his first term; he won an initial contest against Brenden with about 52 percent of the vote in 2012.
  • The Republican Liberty Caucus of Minnesota will hold its state convention at the Celtic Junction in St. Paul tomorrow. The event, which begins at 2:30 p.m., will feature a straw poll for statewide candidates, and a number of endorsed legislative candidates are scheduled to appear, including Rep. Joyce Peppin, R-Rogers. Ticket price and registration options available here.
  • The Association of Minnesota Counties is seeking a taxes and government policy analyst to join its government affairs team. The hire would serve as a liaison between counties and state government officials, including conversationally and through writing policy briefs. Three years of relevant experience required, Master’s degree preferred; applications due May 30. Send resume, application letter and salary requirement to Julie Ring at [email protected]
  • Lobbyist Barbara Nick has terminated her registration to work for the Minnesota Energy Resources Corp. It was Nick’s only client listed, but her departure still leaves that company with a dozen lobbyists on file, including some of the most prominent advocates around the Capitol.
  • Douglas Franzen signed-up to lobby for the Minnesota Joint Religious Coalition, taking that outfit’s current tally up to four registered lobbyists.
  • The 2014 Tax Cut Rally will be held on the Capitol mall beginning at 10:00 a.m. tomorrow. The event is organized by a number of fiscally conservative groups such as the Taxpayers League of Minnesota and Minnesota Majority. For more information, contact Dan McGrath at 612-605-3303 ext. 703 or [email protected]

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