Legislators at the Minnesota Capitol were busy Monday, with committee and floor actions on several high-profile issues. Here's a rundown of them.
UPDATE: House passes e-cigarette restrictions; Senate committee passes tougher version
The Minnesota House passed a bill Monday night to restrict the use of e-cigarettes by minors. The measure, which was part of a larger health and human services bill, makes selling e-cigarettes to minors a misdemeanor crime. It also prohibits use of e-cigarettes on public school property and state office buildings, bans e-cigarettes from being sold at kiosks, and requires child-resistant packaging for e-cigarette liquid.
E-cigarettes heat a liquid nicotine solution that users inhale. Unlike regular cigarettes, they don't emit smoke or tar, but there is debate over whether the vapor is safe, especially for bystanders who might breathe it in.
Earlier Monday, the Senate Finance Committee approved a stricter measure which would treat e-cigarettes just like tobacco, and ban their use indoors and in public spaces, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press. It also would make it illegal to sell e-cigarettes to minors.
If the full Senate approves that version, the differences between the two bills will need to be worked out by a conference committee.
Gov. Dayton has said he supports the provisions in the House bill, but opposes the move to ban e-cigarettes indoors.
House bill includes ban on tanning beds for minors
Another provision in the health and human services omnibus bill prohibits children under the age of 18 from using commercial tanning equipment. The state already requires parental consent for children younger than 16 to use tanning beds. The authors say they're concerned about rising numbers of skin cancer, especially among people in their teens and 20s.
Minnesota has one of the highest rates of melanoma – the most deadly form of skin cancer – in the nation. A similar measure is awaiting action in the Senate.
Medical marijuana bill headed for Senate floor vote
A bill to legalize the use of marijuana for some medical treatments was approved by the Senate Finance Committee Monday, and now goes to the full Senate for a Tuesday floor vote, according to the Star Tribune.
The bill would allow people with certain medical conditions such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, epilepsy and chronic pain to obtain marijuana for treatment. The bill was modified so patients would not be allowed to smoke marijuana, but they could ingest it using a vaporizer. The drug would also be available in pill or oil form.
The House is considering a measure that would put more restrictions on medical marijuana use.
Sunday growler sales a no-go
The Senate Tax Committee stripped a provision in the omnibus liquor bill that would have allowed taprooms to sell growlers – refillable half-gallon containers of beer for takeout – on Sundays, MPR News reports. The provision would be one small exception to Minnesota’s ban on Sunday alcohol sales.
The move came after officials representing the Teamsters Union, which delivers alcohol on behalf of beer and liquor wholesalers, said Sunday growler sales would force them to reopen their contacts with distributors. The bill would still allow taprooms to open on Sundays and sell alcohol on site. The measure goes to the Senate floor, and a companion bill is awaiting action in the House.
Gun restrictions for convicted abusers clears Legislature
The Senate voted 60-4 on Monday to restrict gun possession rights for people convicted of domestic abuse and those subject to restraining orders, according to the Star Tribune. State law already prevents convicted abusers from having handguns, but this includes all firearms. The bill would require anyone convicted of child or domestic abuse to give up their firearms for good, and any person subject to a temporary restraining order would have to give up their guns while the order was in effect.
The House passed the same bill last week. The legislation now goes to Gov. Mark Dayton, who has indicated he will sign it.
Senate unveils $1.1 billion bonding plan
The Minnesota Senate outlined a $1.16 billion bonding bill Monday, a massive plan that would launch a variety of construction projects around the state, from roads and bridges improvements to university building renovations, its backers say. The Senate’s bill would borrow $846 million in general obligation bonds and an additional $200 million in cash from the state’s budget surplus.
The package is larger than the $975 million proposal in the House, and Gov. Dayton has already said he thinks it is unwise to use cash on projects more typically funded through borrowing.