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February 9, 2021

MN House Democrats Propose Marijuana Legalization

On Monday, February 1, 2021, House Majority Leader, Representative Ryan Winkler (D-Golden Valley) revitalized his multi-year effort to legalize recreational marijuana in Minnesota. Winkler and 33 other House democrats - including Speaker of the House Melissa Hortman (D-Brooklyn Park) - introduced H.F. 600, a 173-page bill that decriminalizes and regulates the adult-use of cannabis in the state.

The bill creates a new Cannabis Management Board to oversee the use of cannabis products in Minnesota. The new regulatory board would consist of seven members appointed by the Governor for three-year terms.

The bill also establishes a taxing structure for businesses to sell cannabis and amends criminal penalties - including retroactive expungement for certain offenses related to marijuana.

Find a full summary of the bill here.

ECO Bills Moving in State Senate and House

The Energy Conservation and Optimization (“ECO”) Act has been revitalized for a second year with bipartisan support in both bodies.

H.F. 164/S.F. 227, introduced by Representative Zack Stephenson (D-Coon Rapids) and Senator Jason Rarick (R-Pine City), reflects a multi-industry effort to modernize the state’s existing Conservation Improvement Program (“CIP”) which was established in 2007 and sets state energy-savings goals by requiring utilities to offer energy conservations programs to its customers and invest in energy conservation measures. The bill has broad support from stakeholders, including support from all of Minnesota’s utilities and clean energy advocacy organizations.

The bill has received some criticism for permitting fuel switching and establishing new requirements that some opponents believe will raise electricity costs.

H.F. 164 was passed out of committee and is awaiting a debate on the House floor. The Senate Energy and Utilities Committee is set to hear S.F. 227 later this week.

SAFE Account Would Provide Assistance to Local Governments

A bill to provide state reimbursements to cities and counties utilizing local law enforcement in response to emergencies is moving through the Minnesota House. H.F. 445, authored by Representative Carlos Mariani (D-St. Paul) appropriates $35 million to a newly created State Aid For Emergencies (SAFE) Account. The funds would be distributed to local governments requesting reimbursements for public safety overtime and staffing costs after significant critical incidents occur.

The bill comes after a year filled with protests related to the death of George Floyd and the 2020 Presidential Election.

Governor Tim Walz has included his own version of the House’s SAFE Account in his biennial budget proposal – including $150 million in bonding to assist the City of Minneapolis to rebuild from last summer’s civil unrest.

There is no companion bill in the Senate; however, shortly after the hearing on H.F. 445, Senate Republicans held a press conference raising concerns and outlining their ideas for addressing this issue, including potentially deducting any extra costs for law enforcement needs from a community’s Local Government Aid.

U.S. Senate Committee Assignments

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell reached a deal Wednesday on a power-sharing agreement for governing the upper chamber which means committees can promptly setup and get to work.

This process was delayed as Senate Democrats did not win the majority until the Jan. 5 Georgia runoff races, when Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock both won Senate seats. Vice President Kamala Harris is the tie-breaking vote for Democrats.

Schumer and McConnell have both announced new committee assignments for the 117th Congress. Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar and Senator Tina Smith are now a part of the Senate majority gaining the power that comes by being in the party with the gavel.

Klobuchar will chair the Rules & Administration committee, sit on the Judiciary committee and remain on the Commerce, Science & Transportation committee and on the Joint Economic committee.

Both Klobuchar and Smith will sit on the Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry committee.

Additionally, Smith will continue to be on Banking, Housing & Urban Affairs as well as Indian Affairs committees.

    Please reach out to any of the Larkin Hoffman Government Relations team members with any questions. 


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