2014 legislative session roundup

Minnesota lawmakers passed a range of bills this spring that affect University of Minnesota students and the state.

Taylor Nachtigal

The Minnesota Legislature finished its 2014 session May 16, passing a variety of bills ranging from a minimum wage increase to allocations for a $1.23 billion budget surplus.

The Minnesota Daily has compiled a roundup of passed legislation affecting the state and the University of Minnesota community.

Medical marijuana

Lawmakers legalized medical marijuana after a lengthy and emotionally charged debate between the House and Senate over the bill’s exact parameters.

Minnesota’s law is one of the nation’s strictest when compared with about 20 states that already have medical marijuana.

The state allocated about $2.8 million to establish the program so manufacturers can start supplying patients by July 1, 2015.

Patients will be able to administer medical cannabis in liquid, oil and pill forms, or through the use of a vaporizer. The law bans patients from smoking the plant form of cannabis.

The bill specifically limits the legal use of medical marijuana to patients with debilitating medical conditions or terminal illnesses, including HIV/AIDS, Tourette syndrome, Crohn’s disease, seizures and chronic pain conditions such as cancer.

Eligible patients will pay a $200 annual enrollment fee, or $50 per year for those who qualify.

A provision of the bill also mandates that a task force study the medical effects of cannabis.

Two in-state manufacturers will be responsible for the production of all medical cannabis, which dispensaries throughout the state will distribute.

Despite initially opposing the measure, Gov. Mark Dayton reconsidered his position after meeting with families suffering from serious diseases whose pain could be alleviated by medical marijuana.

“This bill is citizen government at its best,” Dayton said in a statement. “It has been led by parents, who deeply love their children, are anguished by their pain, and insist their government try to help them.”

Kill switch

Minnesota became the first state in the country to pass legislation that will force cellphone manufacturers to include a “kill switch” feature on smartphones manufactured after July 1, 2015. This function would allow the phone to be rendered useless remotely in the event it gets lost or stolen.

Industry-led initiatives to enforce a kill switch were also made this year by CTIA-The Wireless Association, a nonprofit representing the wireless communications industry. About one-third of robberies in the U.S. involve cellphone theft, according to the Federal Communications Commission. 

The recent escalation in thefts on the University of Minnesota campus helped spur this measure, said Rep. Joe Atkins, DFL-Inver Grove Heights. The University of Minnesota Police Department testified during legislative hearings earlier this year that 60 percent of robberies on campus are cellphone-related.

“Since it has been passed, we have been hearing from states who are looking to do the same thing — and it all started right there on the U of M campus,” Atkins said.

During the 2013-14 school year, 17 of the 21 emailed crime alerts involved robberies, 11 of which were armed — catapulting the issue of crime and safety to the forefront of the University community’s concerns.

Many students share the hope that this legislation will curb campus theft. Former Minnesota Student Association President Mike Schmit was one of the law’s supporters and lobbied for the bill at the Capitol earlier this year.

“I think the ultimate goal is the change of perception that thieves have about stealing from students,” he said. “Right now we’re easy targets; we’re seen as
big-money robberies.”

Other bills

MINIMUM WAGE: Lawmakers raised the minimum wage across the state from $6.15 per hour to $9.50 per hour over a three-year period, with the final rate taking effect by 2016. After 2018, minimum wage will be adjusted to inflation.

LIQUOR REGULATIONS: The omnibus liquor bill allows the University to continue selling alcohol at TCF Bank Stadium. An additional provision allows Hennepin County bars to be open until 4 a.m. during the 2014 Major League Baseball All-Star Game hosted at Target Field this July.

ANTI-BULLYING LAW: The “Safe and Supportive Minnesota Schools Act” expanded Minnesota’s anti-bullying policy, requiring schools to create reports on student bullying. It also requires schools with Internet access to establish a policy prohibiting cyberbulling.

WOMEN’S ECONOMIC SECURITY ACT: This act aims to close the gender pay gap by requiring equal pay certificates and expanding benefits for new parents and pregnant women. The act also aims to support women-owned small businesses through $500,000 in grants.

E-CIGARETTES: Legislators passed a law to ensure that e-cigarettes stay out of the hands of minors in response to growing criticism that they are often marketed to children and teens. Despite the current lack of research on the devices, lawmakers hope to curb the possibility of harmful effects.