Pubdate: Fri, 16 Feb 2007
Source: Winona Daily News (MN)
Copyright: 2007 Winona Daily News
Author: Britt Johnsen, Brian Voerding, Associated Press
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


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.
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MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman