Republicans in Senate are a Hard No on Marijuana Legalization

Minnesota Report

Yesterday, in the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Finance Committee Chair Warren Limmer (R-34, Maple Grove) allotted a half hour per side for the proponents and the opponents to voice their respective positions on the legalization of recreational Marijuana. This occurred after a 30-minute presentation by Dale Quigley-Deputy Coordinator of the National Marijuana Initiative for the High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Program in the United States. Most of the information Quigley presented provided negative consequences to public health and drug use by minors.

After all was said and done, every supportive measure advanced by the DFL through Sen Ron Latz (DFL-46, St Louis Park) failed on a party-line vote of 6 Republicans to 3 DFLers, including measures to advance the bill without recommendation, table the bill, a call for a task force to study the issue further, and final passage. During the proceedings, Latz inquired if it was Limmer’s intent to kill the legislation in his committee.

This means this issue is effectively dead for 2019 unless it becomes a portion of global negotiations at the end of the session. The Republican message during the debate was clear, they support Medical Marijuana, but not the ability for people to consume it at their leisure. The principal point raised by the opponents stemmed from opposition to Driving Under the Influence and the increases expected to follow legalizations. During the debate, there was a constant reflection of measurement of Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) to which is totally unrelated. Vice Chair Dan Hall (R-56, Burnsville) tried to learn what the point of impairment was for Marijuana in a person and the information never became quite clear. Medical Marijuana providers recommend their clients do not drive until four hours after usage.

Those voting in opposition Sens Limmer,  Hall, Bruce Anderson (R-29, Buffalo), Bill Ingebrigsten (R-08, Alexandria), Mark Johnson (R-01, East Grand Forks) and Jerry Relph (R-14, St Cloud). Many of the Republicans are older white men who have a viewpoint shaped by experiences in the 1960s.

It seems reasonable for there to be some type of science to be used to make determinations on the impact of marijuana for both the medicinal side and also the recreation side. Since both sides involve users. The task force concept has merit and we believe the need for a comprehensive study should also occur. In October, Colorado released a report on a five-year study and since Minnesota is closely in line with the Rocky Mountain state in population it might prove to be a worthy measure.

Two Sides Have Formed Regarding Omar’s Comments

Minnesota Report

There are staunch defenders and just as staunch opponents to the anti-Semitic tropes advanced by Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (DFL-MN05). Throughout the week and last weekend all of the political programs discussed whether or not the original resolution condemning Omar for her words was watered down to apply a broad brush to all forms of racism and culturally insensitive language.

The matter seems to be a challenge to the leadership of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA12). The freshman triumvirate of Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-NY14) (AOC), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI13) and Omar are proving to be a significant challenge to the Speaker and are marking a structural tension between the establishment and more virulent strain of Progressivity. The younger more aggressive group is not happy with the status quo and voices their opinions regularly on social media, but they also carry some star power because of the attention they have received

When, AOC toppled a Congressman Joe Crowley (D-NY14) in the Primary as a self-declared Democratic Socialist she reignited to smoldering embers of the US Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) faction. When Omar won her Primary and was assured her seat in Congress and on Election Night Tlaib said regarding Donald J Trump (R) “We’re going to impeach the Motherf—er,” she significantly increased her profile.

The question people will need to reconcile regarding Omar is does she harbor anti-Semitic feelings at her core or is she just against the Jewish state. So far, she doesn’t seem to be backing down and softening her words. The problem is this is not the first time her comments have been seen as anti-Semitic and often past performance is a good indicator of future action.

We will now just wait and see if she changes her rhetoric or continues on course. In total, she seems to be critical of the entire establishment and the broad role of Special Interests, but now that she is immersed in the culture of Washington DC, she not just popular, but also wide-open to critics across the nation not just in the 5th Congressional District.

University of MN Regents Selection Still Pending

Minnesota Report

The meeting of the joint DFL House and Senate caucuses last week did not resolve the conflicts for the selection of the four seats up for consideration. This year the Student seat, the 5th Congressional District seat and two At-Large seats are being selected.

We understand the Assistant Majority Leaders in both bodies are now having discussions with their colleagues to find some form of resolution, but no agreement has occurred at this point in time. Because the DFL holds the majority of the combined legislative strength 107 DFL votes out of 201. So if they all agree on a candidate they can decide on all of the positions, but unless unanimous support comes from the DFL Republicans could have some sway in the outcome.

DNC Picks Milwaukee for 2020 Convention

Minnesota Report

Democrats from across the nation will descend upon Milwaukee July 13-16th to nominate their candidate for President. This will be an opportunity to highlight the importance of midwestern values and will heighten the impact of the region outside of Iowa. Since it is only one state over it will be easy for the Minnesota Democratic party faithful to flock to the Badger State. This will be the first Democratic national convention in the Midwest outside of Chicago, IL. Republicans held their 2008, convention in St Paul.

Donald J Trump (R) carried Wisconsin in 2016, but since the state has shifted to Democratic gubernatorial control with the election of Tony Evers (D-WI) and it also reelected US Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI).

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DW High

Minnesota Report

Yesterday, during the Responsible on Cannabis press conference we coined a new term DW High. We asked the following questions of Rep Carlos Mariani Rosa (DFL-65A, St Paul). Also present were Health and Human Services Chair Rena Moran DFL-65B, St Paul), Subcommittee on Elections Chair Raymond Dehn (DFL-59B, Minneapolis) and Corrections Division Chair Jack Considine (DFL-19B, Mankato).

Here is a video of the press conference

C&B: The principal concern of the law enforcement community is people Driving Under the Influence, or in this case let’s call it DW High, the question is what in your discussions with colleagues when looking at this issue to addressing those concerns?

Mariani Rosa: “We also have a Rep Quam bill that we will be hearing in Public Safety that lays out a planned approach for identifying an instrument a tool, a process that can accurately identify individuals driving under the influence when it comes to THC, Marijuana. The issue quite frankly, is its chemically, a very difficult issue. We’ve spoken with experts at the University of Minnesota in chemistry who have been studying ways different states have approached this and other countries as well. There is a wide range of approaches, from a purely subjective nature of just having a local law enforcement, the stopping officer making determination. I think most of us think that is unfair an unobjective way. What that really points to is the fact all the only other processes known practices right now whether they be urinary samples, blood samples, I am not sure what the others are, but they are inaccurate. And part of this, I think, is to have a conversation, quite frankly about not falling into the thinking that a way to deal with this to understand this, is the way we understand alcohol and driving. Two different elements, two different impacts on the body, and to some degree perhaps even two different results in terms of driving. The point is to demystify all that, have this task force some time among other issues diving deep into that so that they can come back with recommendations. I think every legislator here wants to know what the public safety and the roads threshold issue is and not to just jump to conclusions.”

C&B: You mentioned the word study, in regards to what the different effects of the different parts of marijuana or cannabis are, where are you gaining your science, where do you expect to do you expect to gain your science on this question.

Mariani Rosa: “Well, we certainly have interreacted informally with scientists. As I mentioned earlier, you know, we spent some time with a Professor of Chemistry at the University of Minnesota. So, we certainly are looking to expand the number of folks in different fields, you know, so you know, folks who and quite frankly, quite frankly people who are not just academics about this issue, but practitioners. I think it is important to hear directly from the law enforcement. I think it’s important to hear directly from people providing chemical dependency treatment. Frankly, I think its import to hear from folks’ in the private sector, in terms of what is a fair market system that the state can encourage to develop. So, I think a part of the answer is that we are going to look to a broad array of folks who are both academic steep but as well are practicing in these particular fields.”

Now, as we are constantly emphasizing, the greatest question is always what is occurring with companion legislation in the other legislative body. The Companion Bill HF 0717 is SF 0897, but its Chief Author is Sen Jeff Hayden (DFL-62, Minneapolis) even though Sen Scott Jensen (R-47, Chaska) is set to sign onto the bill as a co-author. That’s nice but doesn’t have the same impact if Jensen were to take on the bill as Chief Author.

Tonight, the Future Regents May Become Known

Minnesota Report

This evening there is a joint DFL caucus with the House and Senate and the topic of discussion is the selection of the four University of Minnesota Regents. The current seats are for the Student Regent, the 5th Congressional District seat and the two At-Large seats. During the joint hearing of the two higher education committees, the DFL and Republicans reached a decision on the Student Seat, the 5th CD seat and one of the at-large seats, but not all of those decisions are expected to hold.

There are a number of side issues in play we are hearing the issue of a recapturing of the Labor Seat echo in the hallways of the legislature, and former Congressman Bill Luther (DFL) is carrying that mantel. We are hearing rumors of candidate discussing positioning themselves as Pro-Life with Republicans and Pro-Choice with DFL legislators. We understand there is a building of support for Janie Mayeron for members with ties to the Jewish community, which is interesting in light of the current controversy for Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (DFL-MN05). The main question we are following is what is the split going to be for those who align with the Posse Comitatus in the House, which is a far more progressive element.

One of the greatest issues’ legislators are addressing is gender. Right now, only two of the board members are women and one of those women incumbent Regent Peggy Lucas who is continuing to fight hard to retain her seat. Her challenger Adul Omari has withdrawn his opposition and is now only seats one of the At-Large seats.

The way things stood coming out of the joint Higher Education committees meeting had Mike Kenyanya recommended for the Student Seat and Mary Davenport with strong first-ballot majorities Mayyeron with a bare majority and both Kao Ly Ilean Her and Sandy Wiese advancing without recommendation. We think Her will prevail because she had the bulk to DFL support in spite of Omari’s change in direction.

Whatever the collective DFL mind decides has the likelihood of passing on the floor, because DFL holds the majority in a joint legislative session.

One interesting note is the highest vote recipients were the high vote totals from both the Regents Candidate Advisory Council and the Joint Higher Education Committees.

Wrestling with Realities and the Clash with Federal Law

Minnesota Report

This legislative session a number of issues clearly show how the desires of citizens and non-citizens in Minnesotans directly confront the imposition of Federal Law. The easiest example is the quest for Marijuana legalization and in addition drivers licenses for undocumented people.

Questions about non-citizen in Minnesota has been an active concept nearly since the state’s inception, and the indigenous population is very well acquainted with this fact. Governor Tim Walz (DFL-MN) a resident of Mankato clearly knows the largest mass execution in US history occurred in 1862 in Mankato, when 38 native men suffered the ultimate imposition of state power and were hanged.  We expect when he delivers his State of the State address this point will be broached. It also highlights the significance of his selection of running-mate of Rep Peggy Flanagan (DFL-St Louis Park) and her eventual ascension to the Lt Governor’s position.

As people are grappling with the issues associated the immigration and attempting to establish legality, rights, and privileges some seem stuck, mainly Republicans, on the first point, legality. The problem is laws change and the timing of the laws always occurs after the fact and then the law is applied moving forward. When immigration was a simple exercise northern Europeans came in easily without much question. After the immigrating population stemmed from other parts of the globe, like Ireland (Catholic) and Italy (Catholic) then the Federal government wanted to restrict the passage and hence, places like Ellis Island, New York City were set up to regulate the flow to a greater extent. But don’t forget there was a cheaper passage through Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada that accomplished the same mission, and many of those people migrated to the United States as well.

The definition of what is “legal” is a concept without much salience other than a pejorative application of the people born here only a few generations different from the class of immigrants. It is a very Waspish (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) idea, which is being perpetuated to protect the white, Caucasian minority from being uprooted from its societal dominance. The problem is newer immigrant populations do not hold the same ideals, religions or birth rates and the white population is in rapid decline.

Drivers Licenses for Non-Citizens Moves Forward in the House

HF 1500 is rapidly headed to the House Floor after a stop in the Government Operations: Subcommittee on Elections, which is necessary because of the ability to use a DL as a means of verification for voting eligibility. Once it passes there it will be on pace for a floor vote, but the legislation is not finding similar support in the House, in fact, the issue has not even had a hearing.

This is not a new issue by any stretch. Here is a document created by House Research in 2004 that addresses a wide array of issues. On page 65 of this document, you can see how it used to be in Minnesota.

Once HF 1500 passes the House, it will be sent to the Senate for concurrence, which by all indications is unlikely, and it may not even be put up for a vote. The difference between the two parties here in Minnesota is drastically different, but such is not the case in other states.

During the various committees, we have heard that twelve states have already passed a law similar in nature. Those are California-2013, Colorado-2017, Connecticut-2014, Delaware-2015, Hawaii-2016, Illinois-2013, Maryland-2013, New Mexico-2016, Nevada-2014, Utah-2005, Vermont-2019, and Washington-1993, and the District of Columbia-2015 and Puerto Rico-2014

Its clear most of the states listed are controlled largely by Democrats, although Colorado has switched majorities over the course of time.  If you look at one state Utah, which is clearly conservative having a large Mormon population and strong western “rugged individual “mentality you will find the principal advocate in 2005 was Sen Carl Bramble (R-16). Bramble ran for Governor against John Huntsman (R-UT) because he wasn’t conservative enough.

Republican legislators might want to look west to understand the idea of having safer roads is better than dogmatic isolationism.

The Best Way to Eliminate Smoking on the LRT

Minnesota Report

Attention Commissioner Nora Slawik, if you want to fix the problem of smoking on the Light Rail Train, start with a simple solution, try a community service announcement. If you have the system at the platforms and on the train regularly announce the fact and says to people present every five minutes, “There are cameras being used to gather evidence against any illegal activity that violates the Minnesota Clean Indoor Air Act or causes harm, via second-hand smoke to other riders, and if you violate this public standard you will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law” puts potential perpetrator on notice.

Just this week after having read the story about this issue at 9:00 p.m. leaving the Capitol we witness a smoking violation and this was not the first time. If the Metropolitan Council would like to abate this problem as quickly as possible, they put law enforcement in plain clothes on the trains after 7:00 pm at night after two weeks of the announcements and then any violator who is deaf to the message gets what’s coming to them, because they have received “just and timely notice.”

Hey Judd Schetnan, are you listening?

February 2019 Revenue Forecast Down

Minnesota Report

As we expected the February Revenue Forecast, which the 2020-21 State Budget will be based on, is showing a reduction from the November Forecast of $492 million, leaving a projected surplus of $1.052 billion. These figures, though based on projections, are the starting point for all budgetary considerations and as they like to say in legislative parlance based on current law. The point being laws can change.

The current tax collections do not embrace tax conformity with the federal tax laws and this differential continues to generate more money for the state coffers than would result in more changes in alignment. The impact of the federal tax changes on deductions and tax liability is now starting to be fully integrated and resulting revenues from individual income tax between November and February are down $571 million.

The forecast is pessimistic on the national economy anticipating a slow in the growth of GDP due to continued tariffs, a relatively strong dollar and continued decline in the labor force due to Baby Boom retirements.  In Minnesota, it is less so, though it recognizes a challenge in the labor market with low unemployment and a continual flow of workers into the retirement pool. There is a reflection of lower than expected wage growth in the 3rd quarter of 2018, meaning the compensation rates for employees are not occurring inline with the high demand for employees in a tight labor market.

As has been a constant statement on the DFL side, there is a need to incorporate inflation as a factor on the spending side of the formula and not just on the revenue side. Republicans criticize this idea because they say it puts governmental spending on an upward trajectory or auto-pilot.

The drop-in state revenue for income tax has resulted in the Republican old saw of the flight of high-income earners leaving the state, which is not a surprise since as Baby Boomers continue to retire and in turn winter in warmer climates with lower income taxes for six months and a day, they change their own tax liability. If the State of Minnesota wants to collect all its due, they should change their tax assessment to a monthly system and collect from the snowbirds when they return.

One of the arguments for income flight out of Minnesota is consistent with state’s who had high deductions for federal income tax, New York, like Minnesota, is experiencing a similar trend because of the changes created in the Republican Tax Bill of 2017.

Now Governor Tim Walz (DFL-MN) will need to put forward an adjusted budget and we will see where the $492 reduction has the most impact. As we follow the debates and discussions about federal tax conformity, tax policy and the various spending bills that emerge, we will have a clearer perspective on what the state budget picture look like.

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