Legislative notebook: House passes final synthetic drugs regulation

By Danielle Nordine and Don Davis

A proposal cracking down on synthetic drugs neared the finish line Friday when the House accepted the latest bill 117-6.

The Senate needs to consider the final version of the bill before it can go to the governor for his signature.

The bill makes selling certain synthetic drugs, compounds meant to mimic the effects of the actual drugs, a five-year felony offense. It currently is a gross misdemeanor.

It also allows the state pharmacy board to add drugs to the list of illegal substances, which supporters said would help the state keep up as compounds change.

When combining House and Senate versions of the bill, a few changes were made, Rep. Bob Barrett, R-Shafer, said. The pharmacy board must notify the Legislature when it adds a drug to the list, and lawmakers must approve the change during the next session. The expedited rulemaking also will be re-evaluated in two years.

Synthetic drugs have been a problem across the state, supporters of the bill said.

Rep. Kerry Gauthier, DFL-Duluth, said the issue is very important to his constituents.

“We have people ending up in ER rooms every night because of an overdose on these drugs,” he said. “We don’t know what’s in them and it’s bought legally.”

Fee increases?

A bill raising fees on hunting and fishing licenses was rejected in the Senate this week, but a key lawmaker said it could return.

Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, urged voting against the proposal Tuesday because he did not like the bill’s elimination of conservation licenses, which are cheaper and put a lower cap on take limits.

He and bill author Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, have since been talking, Bakk said, and a new version of the proposal could be in the full Senate Monday. Bakk said he anticipates bipartisan support for the measure.

Dayton vetoes bills

Gov. Mark Dayton Friday vetoed Republican-pushed bills to outlaw union due deductions from state subsidy payments and to ban the education commissioner from enforcing rules before they are adopted.

The union dues bill is part of a dispute between the Democratic governor and GOP-controlled Legislature over allowing in-home child care providers to join unions.

“This legislation is completely unnecessary because no union representation of child care providers exists in the state of Minnesota,” Dayton wrote in his veto letter.

Last year, Dayton issued an executive order to set up an election asking people who take care of children in their home, and receive state payments, if they want to join unions. Republicans opposed the idea as overreaching his authority, and a judge recently agreed.

The Senate author of the bill said the governor vetoed a measure that would protect state money.

“With his veto today, the governor does nothing to prevent unions from capturing taxpayer dollars intended for the care of our children,” said Sen. Ted Lillie, R-Lake Elmo.

The other vetoed bill would have stopped Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius and her staff from enforcing government rules before they are adopted. In his veto letter, Dayton said that unconstitutionally would remove executive branch authority.

Unions up pressure

Minnesota union members are increasing pressure for state legislators to pass public works and stadium funding bills.

“Workers in the construction trades were hit hardest when the great recession began and the sector still has yet to recover,” Minnesota AFL-CIO President Shar Knutson said. “Stadium construction and a large infrastructure bill will put tens of thousands of Minnesota construction workers back on the job in every corner of the state.”

A new report shows the state lost 500 construction jobs in March.

Public works projects, including the stadium, are stalled in the House and Senate, but new pushes on the issues are expected next week.

Abortion checks

The House on Friday agreed with the Senate and passed a measure requiring abortion clinics to be inspected.

The bill, after an 80-47 vote, now heads to Gov. Mark Dayton for his approval or veto.

Clinics that do at least 10 abortions a month would be required to be inspected.

Representatives defeated 87-36 an attempted amendment by Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, that would have required similar inspections for sperm banks and facilities that perform vasectomies, colonoscopies and other procedures.

“I would appreciate that the body show that it understand the sexual activity involves more than females,” Kahn said.

Land swap OK’d

The Senate voted 52-11 on a bill allowing the state to trade land with the federal government near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.

Sen. John Carlson, R-Bemidji, said the bill will “set up a framework” for how that will work.

When the Senate and House worked out final wording, members determined the goal would be a land-for-land exchange, but payments for the land also could be accepted, Carlson said.

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