Daily Digest: No toke over the Senate committee’s line

Good morning. Welcome to Tuesday and a brand new Digest.

1. Recreational marijuana proposal takes a big hit in Senate committee. A Minnesota Senate committee Monday rejected a proposal to legalize marijuana in Minnesota, even rejecting a move by supporters of the bill that tried to change it to create a task force to study the issue. Six Republican members of the Judiciary and Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee repeatedly outvoted three Democrats who tried to keep the issue alive for the session. A House committee last week backed a bill that would set up a task force to explore legalization. (MPR News)

2. Omar appreciates Fox News response to commentator’s hijab remark.  U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar thanked Fox News on Monday for condemning comments made on the network by weekend host Jeanine Pirro centering on the freshman Democrat’s wearing of a traditional Muslim head covering. Fox said it “strongly condemned” Pirro’s Saturday night commentary and said it had addressed the matter with her. Pirro did not apologize. On her show, Pirro noted that the Minnesota representative wears a hijab in apparent conformity to a directive in the Quran. “Is her adherence to this Islamic doctrine indicative of her adherence to Sharia law, which is in itself antithetical to the U.S. Constitution?” she asked. In its condemnation, Fox said Pirro’s views “do not reflect those of the network and we have addressed the matter with her directly.” Omar, in a tweet, thanked Fox for the statement, saying no one should question a person’s commitment to the Constitution because of a person’s faith or country of origin. Omar is a Somali immigrant. (Associated Press)

3. Is QuitPlan headed for the ash heap?  Minnesota’s free tobacco-cessation program will go up in smoke next year, although lawmakers are eyeing funding options for a replacement. ClearWay Minnesota provides the state’s QuitPlan services under a 25-year mandate following a 1990s settlement between the state and tobacco companies. But after R.J. Reynolds and Lorillard merged in 2015, the KOOL, Maverick, Salem and Winston brands were sold off and ceased paying fees into the program. The state is suing to regain the funding, while legislative proposals offer other potential funding avenues. Michael Sheldon, ClearWay’s director of marketing, said he’s hopeful lawmakers will realize the important role cessation programs have in helping people kick their tobacco addictions.  “It’s hard enough to quit as it is,” he said. “It’s a very addictive product that people are struggling with, and we want to make sure we’re providing that support.” (Mankato Free Press)

4. Minnesota Senate passes reinsurance bill. A three-year extension of an insurance subsidy program won Minnesota Senate approval Monday with no guarantee of action in the House. The bill maintains a program where the state absorbs some private-market health expenses for the costliest claims, known as reinsurance. The Republican-led Senate earlier voted down a premium tax credit and rebate plan suggested by DFL Gov. Tim Walz. The reinsurance bill passed by a 37-28 vote, with two Democrats joining all Republicans in support. Without it, insurance companies could charge more to all policy buyers in the individual market to spread out risk. Sen. Michelle Benson, R-Ham Lake, said lawmakers need to provide health plans clarity before they submit 2020 rate proposals in the weeks ahead. (MPR News)

5. Before the flood. Replenishing a nearly empty disaster fund should be a priority this session ahead of anticipated spring flooding following a particularly snowy Minnesota winter, Republican lawmakers said Monday. Rep. Tony Jurgens, of Cottage Grove, and Sen. Mark Johnson, of East Grand Forks, held a news conference to highlight a GOP proposal for $40 million to refill the Disaster Assistance Contingency Account, which was drained by floods in Brainerd and Duluth last year. They would add $20 million this fiscal year and another $20 million in the next, which begins July 1. The lawmakers said the need is urgent because the snowiest winter in recent years has increased the risk of major spring flooding across Minnesota, particularly along the Red, Minnesota, Crow, St. Croix and Mississippi rivers. (Associated Press)

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