Parents of ailing children, doctors and clergy are intensifying their push to persuade legislators and Gov. Mark Dayton to legalize medical marijuana this year.
“Our leaders here in Minnesota have the opportunity to heal the sick and bind up the injured,” said the Rev. Catherine Schuyler, of Duluth. “They have the opportunity to make good medicine available to those who are in pain.”
Minnesotans for Compassionate Care, the group leading their effort, held a news conference at the Capitol on Tuesday to announce that 100 doctors and religious leaders from around the state support the measure.
The proposal would allow doctors to prescribe medical marijuana to patients with a host of ailments, including children who suffer from seizure disorders.
Federal regulators do not consider marijuana to have a medical benefit, so doctors are barred from prescribing it.
Dayton is bowing to the strong objections of law enforcement and health officials, who say that the change would make it easier for marijuana to end up in the hands of children and recreational users.
Dayton has tried to seek a compromise, offering to have the state pay for a Mayo Clinic study that would allow at least 200 children with seizures to be part of trials to see if marijuana does have medical benefits.
The study could provide new and potentially ground-breaking medical research in what has become a very political issue in Minnesota and around the country.
Medical marijuana advocates have so far rejected the study proposal, saying there is no guarantee that Mayo Clinic could legally obtain marijuana for the trial.
So advocates resumed their push for legalization, saying public opinion and existing medical research is on their side.
“Studies have shown that medical marijuana is a safe and effective treatment for people suffering from nausea, appetite loss and pain that are often caused by HIV/AIDS or the medical used to treat it,” said Bill Tiedemann, executive director of the Minnesota AIDS project.
No doctors or medical professionals attended the news conference, but the Minnesota Nurses Association released a statement of support.
“We believe this legislation will result in positive health outcomes for the sickest patients in Minnesota,” the group said.
Gov. Mark Dayton's three most recent appointees to the state of Minnesota's campaign watchdog board are coming up for review by the House Elections Committee.
The panel is scheduled to meet Tuesday morning for an overview of the appointments of Christian Sande, Ed Oliver and Jon Stafsholt to the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board. Oliver's appointment is the most notable, as he served from 1993 to 2002 as a state senator from western Hennepin County.
When Dayton appointed Oliver last summer for a term that expires in 2017, he became the second former GOP legislator that the Democratic governor tapped for the campaign finance board. Former state representative Neil Peterson of Bloomington was the first.
The board's current chairwoman is also a former state lawmaker. Deanna Wiener is a former DFL senator from Eagan.
Dayton's other two appointees up for review by the House panel are Christian Sande, a private attorney who once ran for secretary of state as a Democrat; and Jon Stafsholt, a retired district judge from the state's Eighth Judicial District in west-central Minnesota.
Touting millions of dollars in savings for Minnesota taxpayers on Tuesday’s filing deadline, Gov. Mark Dayton said he hopes for another round of cuts benefiting homeowners and working parents.
“I believe there will be another tax cut bill that will come after the Legislature returns,” he said. “I’m hoping for property tax relief and also the childcare tax credit that was in my original message and which I still believe would be of enormous benefit to people whose childcare costs are going up astronomically. It’s staggering to me how very young families are spending $10-15,000 per child. That’s outrageously high costs and we need to do something to relieve that burden.”
Dayton made the comments after declaring Tuesday “Tax Cut Day,” introducing two families who benefited from the $508 million in tax cuts: the Zuzeks of Hastings, who benefit from college tuition tax deductions for their three children, and Kristy and Aaron Norman of Rochester, who saved $800 in state taxes related to the adoption of their two children.
With hours left to go before the filing deadline, Minnesota Department of Revenue Commissioner Myron Frans said 2.2 million Minnesotans filed their taxes as of Monday night, with 500,000 to go.
Dayton said the tax cuts are another step forward, calling Minnesota a “high tax state but a high value state.”
“We have an excellent workforce, people who are hardworking, educated and company after company has been expanding here in Minnesota at a pace that exceeds the nation because they recognize the value.” he said.
The cuts follow a $2.1 billion tax increased imposed last year.
DFL Gov. Mark Dayton signed into law a dramatic increase in the state’s minimum wage Monday, giving raises to more than 325,000 Minnesotans.
The new $9.50 base hourly wage takes the state from having one of the lowest minimum wages to one of the highest when it fully kicks in by 2016.
“Minnesotans who work full-time should be able to earn enough money to lift their families out of poverty, and through hard work and additional training, achieve the middle-class American Dream,” said Dayton, surrounded by legislators, labor and labor leaders at a ceremonial bill signing in the State Capitol rotunda. “Raising the minimum wage to $9.50, and indexing it to inflation, will improve the lives of over 325,000 hard-working Minnesotans. I thank the Legislature for recognizing the need to make work pay in Minnesota.”
Minnesota’s dramatic wage increase puts the state at the forefront of a major initiative of President Obama, who has failed to persuade Congress to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 and instead focused on pressing his case state by state.
The state’s higher minimum wage has angered Republicans and business leaders, who say the higher wage will force them to lay off workers and become a drag on the fragile economic recovery.
“We believe that all Minnesotans deserve the dignity of supporting themselves and their families through hard work,” said state Rep. Ryan Winkler, a Golden Valley DFLer who was a chief negotiator of the minimum wage effort. “Raising the minimum wage and indexing it to inflation is an important step to create a rising floor for all wages that will benefit hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans who work hard and deserve to get ahead.”
At $6.15 per hour, Minnesota has one of the lowest minimum wages in the nation, lower than neighboring Wisconsin, Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota. Minnesota is one of only four states with a minimum wage below the national rate of $7.25 per hour.
State officials estimate that the $9.50 base wage will put an additional $472 million in the pockets of Minnesota’s lowest-wage workers each year. Supporters say the increase in consumer spending is expected to help local businesses in communities across our state, and provide another boost to Minnesota’s growing economy.
“Today represents a big step forward for low-wage workers in our community,” said Sen. Jeff Hayden, a Minneapolis DFLer who was a chief supporter of the wage-hike measure. “We rely on these workers every day, yet many of them cannot support their own families. Raising the minimum wage is part of a larger effort to lift up the working poor and ensure all Minnesotans have the opportunity to earn enough to get by.”
A Minnesotan who earns $6.15 per hour work full-time earns an annual salary of just $12,792, about $7,000 below the poverty line. Raising the minimum wage to $9.50 per hour comes within $30 of closing that gap for the year.
To help small businesses, the bill also establishes lower minimum wage requirements for small employers and young workers once the new law takes effect Aug. 1.
DFL Gov. Mark Dayton will usher in a new era of wage hikes for Minnesota's lowest paid on Monday.
The measure will, over time, raise the minimum wage from one of the nation's lowest to one of its highest.
Right now, the state's minimum for most employers is $6.15 an hour. With the new law, it will be $9.50 an hour by 2016.
"The governor is looking forward to signing a bill into law that will improve the lives of over 300,000 Minnesotans," Matt Swenson, Dayton's spokesman, said.
Dayton will sign the measure into law Monday at 2:30 p.m. at the Capitol. Advocates who have pushed Democrats to increase the wage floor for two years are expected to crowd into the rotunda for the event.
Photo: A February rally backing the minimum wage hike//Associated Press
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