The Minnesota Senate has overwhelmingly passed a bill requiring police to obtain a warrant in order to track a person’s location by their cell phone or other electronic devices.

The vote today was 56 -1. Under the bill, law enforcement must show probable cause of a crime. There’s also a requirement for notifying people when their tracking information is collected.

Sen. Branden Peterson, R-Andover, said his bill raises the threshold for law enforcement at a time of rapidly advancing technology.

“Our understanding of sort of the common notions of what traditional Fourth Amendment requirements are, and general privacy standards, is sort of up in the air,” Petersen said. “In light of that, it’s necessary that we address those concerns.”

Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, was the lone vote against the bill. Ingebrigtsen, a former sheriff, said he thinks it sends the wrong message.

“You know we’re not running out of bad guys, folks. We just aren’t,” Ingebrigtsen said. “This idea that everybody is walking around and gathering data on those that are doing things right and somehow keeping this data for a later time, that whole attitude is troubling. It’s just very troubling.”

Medical marijuana supporters share the names of doctors and clergy members who support their cause. Tim Pugmire/MPR News

Medical marijuana advocates are urging state lawmakers to take action on their bill before the end of the 2014 session.

During a state Capitol news conference today, they highlighted a growing list of physicians and clergy members who support the legalization of medical marijuana. The bill would allow physicians to prescribe marijuana to patients with debilitating conditions. But the number of doctors on the list is less than 100, and none appeared at the event.

Heather Azzi, political director for the advocacy group Minnesotans for Compassionate Care, said she believes doctors in Minnesota still don’t know enough about marijuana.

“Because, it is illegal here for them to handle,” Azzi said. “They don’t have any firsthand experience with it. When we look to doctors on other states, we see high numbers of support from the medical community. I expect we’ll see that here as well once they have an opportunity to use this medication firsthand.”

The Minnesota Medical Association, which has 10,000 members, came out against medical marijuana legislation last month.

A Senate committee that began discussing the bill earlier this month is expected to take action soon. But the chair of the Senate Health, Human Services and Housing Committee has not yet scheduled a hearing.

“We should try to accomplish that maybe even this week, but I’m not certain if I’ll be able to do that,” said Sen. Kathy Sheran, DFL-Mankato.

Medical marijuana supporters insist they have the votes needed to pass the bill in both the House and Senate. But the Gov. Mark Dayton still opposes the measure, and he shared his concerns again today.

“Why would we want to take another drug, whose effects may be beneficial to some people but whose potential for harm is even greater for far many more people, without giving it  all kinds of consideration?,” Dayton said.

Dayton also pointed out that the medical marijuana effort in Minnesota is being backed by a national organization that wants full legalization of marijuana.

In response, Heather Azzi said her group does receive financial support from the Marijuana Policy Project, a national organization that wants marijuana regulated and taxed like alcohol. But Azzi said there is no hidden agenda.

“There are no tricks in this medical marijuana bill,” Azzi said. “It is strictly a medical proposal.”


The Senate Health, Human Services and Housing Committee will resume its discussion of the medical marijuana bill Friday at 8:00 a.m.

State Rep. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, announced he’s not seeking re-election to the Minnesota House and will focus on his campaign for U.S. Senate.  Tom Scheck/MPR News

State Rep. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, said today that he’s retiring from the Minnesota House to campaign for U.S. Senate.

Abeler made the announcement to show supporters that he’s focused solely on his bid for the Senate.  Up until now he has left open the possibility of running again for his House seat, even though he was competing to win the GOP nomination to run against DFL Sen. Al Franken. He said he made the decision to show Republican voters that he’s committed to his Senate campaign.

“If I don’t go ‘all-in’ then I may not get there,” Abeler said. “I think that Minnesota and Washington need me to be there to get after the problems that plague us and get after the divisions that are so rife.”

Abeler says it’s likely that he’ll run in the Republican primary if he doesn’t win party endorsement. There are at least five other Republicans seeking to challenge Franken in November.

Republicans have already endorsed Abigail Whelan to run for his district 35A House seat, and Abeler says it was best he announce a decision.

“If people think that she’s a placeholder then that affects fundraising, it affects my focus, it affects people’s confidence that I’m really in this for real,” he said.

Abeler has been in the the state House for 16 years. He is best known in the Legislature for his work on issues involving health and human services programs.

He chaired the House Health and Human Services Finance Committee in 2011-2012. He is also one of the Republican House members of the “override six” who voted to override Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s veto of a gas tax increase in 2008.

Welcome to the Daily Digest. Minnesota: State Sen. Torrey Westrom, who is running against 7th Congressional  District Rep. Collin Peterson, has been named a ‘contender’ in the NRCC’s Young Guns program. (MPR News) State Sen. Julianne Ortman, who is seeking the GOP endorsement to challenge Sen. Al Franken, says she raised $375,000 in the first Read more