Convicted Felons Have the Best Chance in Years to Gain Right to Vote in Minnesota

Emily Baxter
An estimated 200 people attended a Restore the Vote rally yesterday near the Capitol
This year libertarian and Tea Party conservatives joined ultra-liberal organizations like the ACLU and Take Action MN to create a loud, formidable coalition with the best shot in years of restoring voting rights to convicted felons on probation or parole.

Right now Minnesota is one of 30 states that does not allow convicted felons to vote until they are completely off of parole and/or probation. Out of 57,000 convicted felons living in Minnesota, 47,000 of them cannot vote.

Liberals say barring people from voting when they're trying to get their life back together after prison is counterproductive; pushing them back to the margins where crime and recidivism lurks. For conservatives, it's about liberty and taxes.

See also:
Robert Stewart, a Doctoral Student Is One of Thousands Who Can't Vote in 2014 Election

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"Right to Try" Bill Would Allow Dying Patients to Use Experimental Drugs

Victor via Flickr
"Everyone has the natural, constitutional right to try to save their own life so long as they don't infringe on someone else's rights."
Matthew McConaughey won an Oscar last year for his role in Dallas Buyer's Club, where he played Ron Woodruff, an activist who smuggled experimental AIDS drugs up from Mexico in the 1980s.

Not only did the film cement McConaughey's unlikely evolution into a legitimate actor, it also kickstarted a national legislative movement to make it easier for terminally ill patients to get a hold of experimental drugs. Five states signed the first so-called "right to try" bills into law last year, and Minnesota's version will be introduced in a Senate committee on Wednesday.

See also:
Minnesota's Camel Milk Black Market

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New MNvest Bill Would Take Homegrown Crowdfunding to the Next Level

MNvest Facebook
It's like Kickstarter, except instead of donations for goods or services anyone could buy dividend-paying shares in a venture
A new bill introduced in the state Senate last week would allow anyone in Minnesota to support homegrown entrepreneurs by buying a piece of their idea or company.

It's like Kickstarter on steroids. Kickstarter allows backers to prepay for goods or services. This initiative, called MNvest, would legalize crowdfunding equity. Backers buy a stake of an idea, product, or company by purchasing dividend-paying shares to help finance entrepreneurial dreams.

See also:
"Common Man" Dan Cole Documentary Is On Kickstarter

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Rep. Steve Drazkowski Believes Motorcyclists Need Protection from Overzealous Cops

Courtesy of pixabay
Motorcyclists are being victimized by sterotyping police officers, thinks Rep. Steve Drazkowski.

Motorcyclists' lives matter, says Rep. Steve Drazkowski (R-Mazeppa).

To demonstrate he's in the legislative sidecar of those constituents on two wheels, the state representative from Wabasha County has introduced a new anti-motorcycle profiling bill in the Minnesota House.

See also:
Steve Drazkowski, City Pages' "Best Villain," calls the award an honor

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Four Bills Aimed at Giving Minnesotans What They Want: Sunday Liquor Sales

Dave Hosford, via Flickr
Will any of these efforts work?
On Wednesday we broke down the powerful factions standing in the way of legalizing Sunday liquor sales.

There's a decent shot this may be the year those forces are defeated, with both the governor and House majority leader on board. So far six bills taking aim at the ban have been introduced.

See also:
Meet the People Stopping You From Buying Beer on Sunday

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Meet the People Stopping You From Buying Beer on Sunday

Brian Child, via Flickr
These are the forces messing with your Sunday Funday
The annual push to bring Minnesota out of the 1930s and legalize Sunday liquor sales is heating up as the 2015 legislative session gets going.

The chances of repealing the ban are as good as they've been in quite some time. Governor Dayton is on board, as is House majority leader Kurt Daudt, who recently changed his mind on the matter.

Will this be the year it finally happens? Here are the forces standing in the way of a repeal:

See also:
Teamsters Union Stalls Sunday Growler Sales

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Minnesota's Welfare Benefits Have Been Frozen for 29 Years: Time for a Hike?

Welfare Rights MN Facebook
"I think the conservative rhetoric is that people who are living off of welfare are lazy, but the reality is if you live on welfare you're not lazy, you're struggling every single day."
Once again welfare reform advocates are bringing an impossibly ambitious list of demands to the Capitol this legislative session. They hope to double grants, end the five-year limit people are allowed to stay and collect benefits, and raise income restrictions so more poor Minnesotans can get help.

Tracy Molm with the Welfare Rights Committee acknowledges the tiny likelihood of that type of sweeping reform, especially with Republicans retaking the House, but they do hope to build on a small victory last year.

See also:
Star Tribune Draws Heat For "Welfare Babies and Their Screaming Babies" Editorial

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New bill for pregnant inmates goes into effect, but funding isn't certain

Categories: Legislature

Thumbnail image for prisonbars.jpg
Michael Coghlan via Flickr

As a pediatric researcher and assistant professor with the University of Minnesota, Rebecca Shlafer has studied children, and more specifically, the children of incarcerated women, for years. She's seen just how difficult life was for pregnant inmates, who are often alone in their pregnancy, feeling isolated and confused.

But in 2012, Shlafer saw how things could change. That's when she and UMN started working with the nonprofit Everyday Miracles on the Isis Rising project, a program to support pregnant inmates at the all-female correctional facility in Shakopee. The program, which started in 2010, supplies the pregnant women with doulas - professionals who are like coaches for for pregnant women, giving them emotional guidance and support through the entire pregnancy process.

See also:
Minnesota prison term lengths on the rise as crime falls

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Phyllis Kahn wants the state to restructure the MN Orchestra, sell the people half [UPDATE]

-- Updated with a statement from the Orchestra --

State Rep. Phyllis Kahn is drafting legislation that could establish community-ownership of the dysfunctional Minnesota Orchestra.

She's still working on the details. As it stands, the governor would oversee the creation of a new company, and that company would sell stock to raise the funds to buy the orchestra.

No individual or entity would be allowed to own more than five percent of common stock, and at least half the company would be reserved for community members, who'd be limited to owning one percent a piece.

SEE ALSO: Osmo Vanska resigns from Minnesota Orchestra

For more than a year now, the community has mostly sat silent while the musicians and the board carried on a labor dispute and public relations campaigns. Two weeks ago, the orchestra's celebrated music director, Osmo Vanska, resigned.

When asked how a potential restructuring of the orchestra would prevent a similar impasse in the future, Kahn responded, "I'm not a financial expert." But she added, "The major thing for this bill is to start a conversation."

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MN United raising funds for pro-gay marriage legislators

Categories: GLBT, Legislature

MN United has pledged to help support 15 legislators who voted for the same-sex marriage bill.
The organization that lobbied to legalize same-sex marriage in the Legislature is vowing to help raise money for 15 lawmakers who voted in favor of the bill.

The Minnesotans United PAC announced plans to support 15 legislators -- dubbed the "Minnesota 15" -- on Thursday. The group only released the first five names this week, and all are DFLers so far.

A history of Minnesota's gay marriage debate
First same-sex couples pick up their marriage licenses

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