Legislative News Briefs

Help for overdose victims wins approval

The Minnesota House and Senate Wednesday passed a bill to allow firefighters and police to inject a medicine that could save drug overdose victims.

The House passed the bill 130-0 Wednesday, followed by a Senate 65-0 tally.

Known as “Steve’s Law” after an overdose victim who died, the bill gives public safety personal immunity from prosecution for injecting the drug into people who they think have overdosed on dangerous drugs. The drug can save the lives of overdose victims.

“This vote is going to be a vote to stand up and say ‘I want to keep people alive,'” said bill sponsor by Rep. Dan Schoen, D-St. Paul Park, a Cottage Grove police officer.


Synthetic drug fight advances

Minnesota senators joined the fight against synthetic drugs Wednesday, voting 53-1 for a bill that gives the state Pharmacy Board more authority to combat their spread.

The House passed a similar bill a month ago.

Bill sponsor Sen. Roger Reinert, D-Duluth, said much of the bill also was included in an overall human services bill senators passed last week. What was not in that bill, but is in his, is a requirement that existing anti-drug programs also deal with synthetic drugs.

People see synthetic drugs on store shelves and think they are safe, Reinert said. But they can be more dangerous than other illegal drugs.

“I think that some people think synthetic drugs are fluffy … and should not merit the serious nature of their focus today,” said Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, who quickly added that youths’ deaths have proven the drugs are dangerous and the state needs to act.


Senate OKs traffic class option for some offenses

Local Minnesota governments could allow motorists to take traffic courses instead of receiving tickets under an amendment folded into an overall transportation bill Wednesday.

Sen. Matt Schmit, D-Red Wing, won the Senate’s approval on a voice vote to allow the so-called “diversion programs” for a year beginning June 1. Governments providing the programs would be required to report back to the Legislature.

“We don’t have a lot of information about these programs,” Schmit said, adding that the report would give lawmakers the chance to make a better-informed decision when the pilot programs end.

Several cities and counties established diversion programs to give motorists stopped for minor traffic violations a chance to take a class. But most local governments stopped the programs after a judge ruled one illegal.

Sen. Torrey Westrom, R-Elbow Lake, said law enforcement officers now have the option of writing a ticket or giving a warning.

“This does give an option to local … law enforcement to offer a middle-of-the-road program,” Westrom said.

The Schmit provision would require classes to be at least an hour long, with at least half of the class presented by a trained officer in the classroom.


Bill eliminates part-time cop licenses

The Minnesota Legislature has voted to eliminate licenses for part-time law enforcement officers.

While police still could work part time, they would need to have the same licenses as full-time officers. The 175 officers working under part-time licenses could keep their current jobs.

Sen. Ron Latz, D-St. Louis Park, said Wednesday that his bill is backed by police groups and law enforcement officials.

“We have plenty of full-time licensees who are willing and able to fill the part-time positions in police departments and the police departments generally like full time licensed police officers better,” Latz said.

Latz said part-time licenses require less training than for full-time officers.


Bill would help veterans seeking police jobs

The Minnesota House has passed a bill to give military police veterans a leg up when seeking civilian police jobs.

A bill sponsored by Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, would provide credit for police work after serving four years as a military police officer. Now, the reciprocity does not kick in until five years of service.

The measure does not guarantee licensure as a civilian law enforcement officer, but gives veterans the right to take the examination.

The bill awaits Senate action.


More practice proposed for student drivers

Student drivers would have to take twice the training under a bill awaiting Senate action.

The House has passed the bill to require 60 hours behind-the-wheel practice driving, with 15 hours required for night driving. Current law requires 10 hours of night driving.

However, if a driver’s sponsor takes supplemental parental driving training, the student would only need 50 hours behind the wheel. The bill requires the state Public Safety Department to establish a 90-minute parental curriculum.