Medical marijuana support grows

ST. PAUL -- A bill to legalize medical marijuana use and possession for seriously or terminally ill patients zipped through a Senate health committee on a voice vote.

ST. PAUL -- A bill to legalize medical marijuana use and possession for seriously or terminally ill patients zipped through a Senate health committee on a voice vote.

The bill now goes to the Senate Judiciary Committee for consideration. Legislative leaders said an identical House bill is expected to receive its first committee hearing soon.

"The health committee heard today from patients and physicians about how marijuana is a beneficial treatment for certain conditions," said lead sponsor Sen. Steve Murphy, DFL-Red Wing. "I'm pleased with the committee's positive support for these patients and their vote for the bill.

Legislative schedule

The Legislature is "starting to hit stride, session-wise," Assistant Senate Majority Leader Tarryl Clark, DFL-St. Cloud, declared on Friday.


A children's health care bill offered by Sen. Yvonne Prettner Solon, DFL-Duluth, now faces a Senate oversight committee.

Legislators were invited to training sessions Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday presented by the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council.

A bill addressing the disposal of televisions and monitors will be heard Wednesday in a Senate environment committee. Later that day, online intimidation legislation will be considered at a Senate education committee, alongside a bill allowing schools to start before Labor Day.

The Senate Taxes Committee on Thursday will consider a bill calling for tax breaks for veterans. Senate Public Safety Committee members on Friday will tour Minnesota Correctional Facility-Red Wing.

Farmers' incentives

A bill that passed through a Senate agriculture committee would provide incentives for landowners to rent their land to beginning farmers.

The bill creates two non-refundable credits against the individual income tax or corporate franchise tax. The incentive credit is equal to 10 percent of the gross rental income or, for share rent agreements, 15 percent of the cash equivalent of the gross rental income. The credit provides a tax credit of up to $500 to beginning farmers for the cost of participating in an approved farm-management program. The bill heads to the Senate Taxes Committee.

Wine with dinner


Two Twin Cities legislators renewed efforts for customers to be able to buy wine at grocery stores in Minnesota.

Bills were introduced by Sen. Linda Scheid, DFL-Brooklyn Park, and Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, is the latest iteration of the push, which has seen fierce opposition from liquor store advocates.

"Consumers don't understand why they can buy a bottle of wine with their other dinner items at supermarkets in 33 states, including Wisconsin, Iowa and South Dakota, yet they can't do it here," Scheid said.

Deadlines set

A month and a half into the 2007 session, the Legislature has some deadlines.

However, they are different for the House and Senate - something that may be a first.

In the House, committees have until March 23 to act on bills, but have until April 2 to clear finance bills.

All Senate finance bills need to be settled by April 2. Senators need to finish dealing with all other Senate-originated bills by April 14.


Under the House-Senate agreement, legislative leaders must set spending limits for funding bills by April 27.

This year's session centers on forming a two-year budget. Traditionally, more than half a dozen budget bills - known as omnibus bills - collect spending provisions in categories such as health, natural resources, transportation, etc.

"These deadlines are the most aggressive deadlines ... for the past 20 years," House Majority Leader Tony Sertich, DFL-Chisholm, said. "We are looking to speed up the process. It will be demanding for us as legislators."

Compact OK'd

A compact to restrict use of Great Lakes water formally passed the Senate 57-3.

The compact, to be signed Tuesday in Duluth by Gov. Tim Pawlenty, needs approval from the other seven states bordering the Great Lakes. Assistant Senate Majority Leader Clark said legislative support for the compact is "another way that Minnesota is regaining our leadership."

Renewable debate

The House takes an unusual step Monday and holds a night session.


Representatives plan a 6 p.m. Monday full House session to debate a renewable energy proposal by Rep. Aaron Peterson, DFL-Appleton.

House Majority Leader Tony Sertich, DFL-Chisholm, said the meeting was called at a later hour to "give folks enough time to discuss" the matter.

Smoke debate stalls

The Senate Business, Industry and Jobs Committee will debate a statewide smoking ban for a third day next week.

The committee defeated attempts to weaken the bill last week, but ran out of time to take up the full bill.

Immigration bills

A group of mostly DFL lawmakers recently introduced four immigration bills, including one that would provide tax credits for immigrants seeking U.S. citizenship but can't afford to pay the filing costs.

Another bill, authored by Republican Rep. Rod Hamilton of Mountain Lake, would establish a Minnesota Commission on New Americans to help pair skilled immigrants with businesses. Sen. Jim Vickerman, DFL-Tracy, has authored a proposal calling for the Legislature to formally urge Congress to take up immigration issues at the federal level.


Legislators also are pushing a controversial bill known as the Dream Act. The measure would allow immigrant students who complete three years of high school and graduate to pay in-state tuition at Minnesota colleges. Pawlenty opposes the Dream Act.

State Capitol Bureau reporters Scott Wente and Don Davis contributed to this report. They and Mike Longaecker work for

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