MEDICAL MARIJUANA, SMOKING BAN ON LAWMAKERS' AGENDA
Closer, But So Far Away
A medical marijuana bill authored by Sen. Steve Murphy, DFL-Red Wing, passed its first Senate committee earlier this week.
But that doesn't mean it's fast-tracked toward approval.
The bill sailed through the Senate's Health, Housing and Family Safety committee on Wednesday, but it has at least a few committees left before it hits the Senate floor.
A companion bill in the House is still in its first committee, though it has acquired nearly 20 co-authors, including Rep. Steve Sviggum, a Republican from Kenyon, and Rep. Ken Tschumper, a Democrat from La Crescent.
The bill would let doctors prescribe marijuana for anyone with a chronic or debilitating illness. Marijuana can help alleviate pain, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting -- common symptoms associated with chronic illnesses.
Lawmakers have introduced similar bills in recent years, but none has come close to final approval. Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who has the ultimate choice on whether to veto the bill or sign it into law, has not supported similar efforts in the past.
Smoking Ban: Slowly And Not Always Surely
Bars and restaurants where alcohol accounts for the majority of sales are not exempted from a proposed statewide smoking ban.
At least so far.
The proposal is still in the Senate's Business, Industry and Jobs Committee, where it narrowly survived amendments that would exempt certain places from the ban. A similar bill is making its way through the House, and both proposals may face floor votes in the coming weeks.
The Senate committee is expected to vote on the proposal on Monday.
Vote No, Lose The Dough
Next week, senators will have to put their money where their mouths are.
In the six weeks since the daily expense allowance for Minnesota senators rose from $66 to $96, there's been grumbling about the decision. But only five senators have chosen to take less than the maximum check.
In response to the complaints over the per diem boost, the Senate's leaders decided to tie the increase to a high-stakes vote: Vote no and forfeit the dough.
The measure has an escape clause. Lawmakers who oppose the resolution could still get paid as long as they write a letter asking for the payment, unlike the usual practice where lawmakers automatically get the money unless they make other arrangements.
The resolution emerged from a Senate committee after some testy exchanges Thursday.
Senators are paid $31,140 a year in salary, but they also are eligible for thousands of dollars a year in allowances for food, mileage and other costs of serving.
Early education funding unlikely
Various early education funding bills have been circulating the House and Senate, but local lawmakers are unsure where funding for initiatives like all-day, everyday kindergarten would come from.
Sen. Sharon Ropes, DFL-Winona, who is on the education policy committee, said the committee has not heard any early education bills.
Ropes said Friday she thinks support for early childhood education funding, as well as for all-day kindergarten, is widespread.
"Right now we're just saying, 'Great idea. Let's pass it,'" she said.
Rep. Gene Pelowski, DFL-Winona, said Friday the budget forecast is likely to come out next week, when lawmakers will know more about how much money they'll have to work with.
With competing interests like property tax relief and higher education, he said he doubts the Legislature will be able to satisfy all interests.
Winona Daily News (MN)
Copyright: 2007 Winona Daily News