Certain issues come up year after year in the Legislature in the form of unsuccessful proposed bills, with the consistency and reliability of perennial blooms. Some come remarkably close to becoming law. Former State Representative Tom Rukavina (DFL-Virginia) repeatedly introduced a bill decriminalizing medical marijuana for several years before it finally passed the Legislature in 2010, only to be vetoed by then Governor Tim Pawlenty. This year, Representative Carly Melin (DFL-Hibbing) and Senator Scott Dibble (DFL-Minneapolis) introduced yet another medical marijuana bill. This time, neither bill made it to the floor for a final vote but rest assured, it will bloom again in future sessions.
Another perennial that can be counted upon is Sunday liquor sales. One variation of the Sunday liquor sale bill was the “Wine with Dinner” bill which would have allowed wine sales in grocery stores. Representative Phyllis Kahn (DFL-Minneapolis), a 41 year veteran of the State House of Representatives, continued to author that legislation year after year until the grocery stores tired of the fight. Representative Kahn shared with me that she loves to cook on weekends and has always been frustrated over her inability to pick up wine with her other ingredients. Representative Kahn also has been the author of another reliable regular, the industrial hemp bill.
The perennial bloomer which garnered the most activity and debate this year was the bill to raise the speed limit on Interstate 35E between Interstate 94 and West 7th Street in St. Paul (affectionately referred to as the “training highway”) from 45 to 55 miles per hour. Suburban or greater Minnesota legislators accustomed to traveling faster than 45 miles per hour on the interstate continually push this issue. Just as consistently, opponents point out that the lower speed limit is contained in a judicial Consent Decree resulting from the settlement of litigation over the location of the highway. Changing the speed limit, opponents argue, would violate that Consent Decree and result in litigation for the State.
The 35E speed limit provisions, like the other perennials this year, failed to advance. However, after initial setbacks, the bill morphed into an amendment to the Transportation Policy Omnibus bill which would leave the speed limit at 45 miles per hour but prohibit recording speed violations unless the violation is more than 10 miles per hour over the speed limit. Viewing this too as a violation of the spirit of the agreement which formed the Consent Decree, the conferees rejected that effort as well.