Minnesota legislators often discuss North Dakota, usually in relation to its oil wealth and usually the talk is accompanied by envy.
But the Minnesota House Public Safety and Crime Prevention Committee underwent a lengthy and spirited debate about a topic with even more firepower than money: whether North Dakota residents’ gun permits should be honored in Minnesota.
After a meeting split between morning and night Thursday, the committee cast a divided vote to allow Class I North Dakota permits to be legal. The next stop is the full House.
Sen. Kent Eken, D-Twin Valley, is author of a similar Senate bill.
The argument came because gun rights groups do not agree with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension’s decision that the North Dakota gun permit law is not close enough to Minnesota law to allow reciprocity.
Current Minnesota law requires the state to honor gun permits from states with “substantially similar” laws to Minnesota. The BCA makes that decision and puts a list of those states that do not have similar laws on its Website.
The bill in front of the House would remove the word “substantially” from the Minnesota law, but also specifically requires the BCA to allow Class I North Dakota permits. Class I permits require more testing than North Dakota’s Class II permits.
North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem’s Website indicates that “holders of a Class 1 license have reciprocity in many more states than those who have a Class 2 license.”
Minnesota allows gun permit holders from 11 states to carry weapons in the state. The bill could nearly triple the number of states.
Lawmaker rejects immunity
Minnesota legislators have discussed for years whether they are immune to arrest during a legislative session.
Like in many states, there is a constitutional provision dealing with legislative immunity. Some say lawmakers cannot be arrested, while others disagree, so legislation often is discussed about clarifying that in most instances lawmakers can be arrested like anyone else.
The debate is back on the table in this year’s Minnesota legislative session, and it faces a tall hill to climb, but the issue arose in another state.
It came up this year in Kentucky, when state Sen. Brandon Smith of Hazard was charged with drunken driving. At first, Smith claimed legislative immunity from arrest, but later withdrew a court motion requesting that because, he said, he did not want to look like he was seeking a special favor.
“Quite frankly I would have liked to have been arguing that today (in court) but he felt like he did not want to rely on that,” the senator’s attorney, William Johnson said, as quoted in The State Journal of Frankfort. He explained that it’s been embarrassing and difficult for Smith to carry out his legislative duties while facing these charges. “He felt you ought to go through the justice system and that’s what we’re doing.”
Smith, who lost his driver’s license because he did not obtain a lawyer by the Kentucky deadline, has pleaded not guilty and expects an April jury trial on the charge.
Spirited debates go nowhere
The two liveliest debates of the 10-week-old legislative session resulted in lots of talk but no bill moving forward.
Senators got into how schools should handle transgender athletes when Republicans tried to pull a bill out of a Senate education committee that did not appear to be going anywhere. The attempt to move the bill directly to the full Senate failed, but senators took plenty of time to debate transgender issues.
Representatives took part in a 90-minute debate about long-term care funding when Democrats tried to get an immediate vote on a bill that would increase senior care funding.
The colorful debate included Rep. Tim Miller, R-Prinsburg, saying Minority Leader Paul Thissen, D-Minneapolis, wanted to be king and Rep. Ryan Winkler, D-Golden Valley, saying House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, was “acting like a dictator.”
Winkler’s comments came when Daudt ended the session for the day as Thissen was seeking a roll call for adjournment.
Lawmakers will get a break from each other when they take an Easter vacation March 28 to April 6.
Statues under scrutiny
First it was Christopher Columbus; now it is Leif Erickson.
A bill by Rep. John Persell, D-Bemidji, calls for a Columbus statue plaque on the Capitol grounds to be reworded from him discovering America to him landing here. Rep. Phyllis Kahn, D-Minneapolis, now has added a bill to make a similar change to an Erickson statue across the street from the Capitol.
Historians do not agree on who actually was first to land in what now is the United States.
Columbus is being attacked on another front, too.
With some cities opting to change Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day, there now is a state House bill to do the same statewide.
Rep. Susan Allen, D-Minneapolis, introduced legislation to make the second Monday in October American Indian and Indigenous People’s Day “to acknowledge and promote the well-being and growth of Minnesota’s American Indian and Indigenous community.”
State of State April 9
Gov. Mark Dayton plans to deliver his annual State of the State address at 7 p.m. in the House chamber.
He originally was going to deliver it next Wednesday, but legislative leaders asked him to postpone it because of deadlines. Then he asked if he could speak on April 8, but House Republicans reported a scheduling conflict.