Racial baby steps, who was Roy Wilkins, same-sex firsts in Fargo, for the love of winter, and cold people and warm hearts.
One of the first floor debates of any significance in the Minnesota Senate this session isn't going to be about football stadiums. It'll be something far more important: Do Minnesotans have an obligation to flee when faced with danger?
A Minnesota Senate committee this morning sent the so-called Defense of Dwelling and Person Act to the Senate floor on a party-line vote.
There are many elements of the bill (full text here), but this is the big one:
Subd. 2. Circumstances when authorized. (a) The use of deadly force by an individual is justified under this section when the act is undertaken:
(1) to resist or prevent the commission of a felony in the individual's dwelling;
(2) to resist or prevent what the individual reasonably believes is an offense or attempted offense that imminently exposes the individual or another person to substantial bodily harm, great bodily harm, or death; or
(3) to resist or prevent what the individual reasonably believes is the commission or imminent commission of a forcible felony.
(b) The use of deadly force is not authorized under this section if the individual knows that the person against whom force is being used is a licensed peace officer from this state, another state, the United States, or any subordinate jurisdiction of the United States, who is acting lawfully.
Subd. 3. Degree of force; retreat. An individual taking defensive action pursuant to subdivision 2 may use all force and means, including deadly force, that the individual in good faith believes is required to succeed in defense. The individual may meet force with superior force when the individual's objective is defensive; the individual is not required to retreat; and the individual may continue defensive actions against an assailant until the danger has ended.
In many ways, the legislation wouldn't be possible, if not for a man in Apple Valley who shot a gang friend to death.
In 1999, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that there is no such requirement in Minnesota to retreat inside a dwelling. It ruled in the case of Tony Carothers, who shot a gang enforcer six times in his mobile home in Apple Valley after an argument over $20 in a card game in 1967. He was given a 14-year sentence.
In instructing a jury, a trial court judge said Carothers had a duty to first flee a self-defense situation, but Justice Russell Anderson overturned the conviction, warning, however, that it's not a license to kill:
We emphasize that a person claiming defense of dwelling is still subject to strictures insuring the reasonableness of his or her behavior. Defense of dwelling and self-defense within the dwelling serve a defensive and not offensive purpose, and do not confer a license to kill or to inflict great bodily harm merely because the offense occurs within the home. It may be more reasonable for a person to advance towards or retreat from a danger within his or her home in different circumstances, and that decision should be left to the jury. When faced with a defense of dwelling claim, the jury must determine (1) whether the killing was done to prevent the commission of a felony in the dwelling, (2) whether the defendant's judgment as to the gravity of the situation was reasonable under the circumstances, and (3) whether the defendant's election to defend his or her dwelling was such as a reasonable person would have made in light of the danger to be apprehended.
This is the Castle Doctrine. Anderson's decision gave Minnesotans the right to kill someone invading a home, removing the obligation to flee first. The latest legislation extends the protections in the home to a person outside of it.
The bill was heading to the Senate floor last year, too, until several police chiefs and county attorneys held a news conference objecting to it.(6 Comments)
It's been a few weeks since there's been any sort of dust-up surrounding the legal head shop in downtown Duluth, The Last Place on Earth. The shop sells synthetic marijuana.
Jonathan Bothun posted a video on Perfect Duluth Day asking a good question as, he says, a fact finding mission for a longer documentary: Who smokes synthetic pot and why?
In Sioux Falls, KELO TV reports on another growing problem surrounding stores that sell synthetic marijuana: dumpster divers.
Is it ever too early for Minnesota school children to learn just how hard it is to get something through the Minnesota Legislature?
The effort to name the black bear the state mammal of Minnesota -- described in this space yesterday -- may be dead at the Capitol.
Dana Coleman, the first grade teacher whose young charges researched bears and proposed the designation, writes to say legislative support is dwindling:
Thank you for your nice story today! I am the teacher whose first graders have the bill in the MN House and Senate to have the black bear become our state mammal. I hope you have more accurate news than I do. I wish it had bipartisan support. According to Senator Michelle Benson and Representative Peggy Scott (our authors) it has lost momentum in the House and now they aren't even going to hear it. The kids are so disappointed. If you have any ideas of ways for me to get the word out there to help our cause, I would greatly appreciate it. Thanks again for bringing this to the forefront! Dana Coleman
On WCCO Radio with Jason DeRusha today two theories were offered. First, if the Legislature fails to accomplish anything major this session, legislative candidates would point out that the Legislature wasted its time on bears. The other is the possibility that legislators fear hunters will think it's the start of a conspiracy to protect the bears.
But Ms.Coleman dismissed both theories, noting it's just a designation and that passing it would take mere minutes.
But this is fairly routine for official designations. The last "official" was the state apple. The bill designating the honeycrisp was filed in May 2005, and not voted on until the final days of the legislative session in 2006.
Prior to the great honeycrisp debate, the previous "official" item bill in the state was the official state picture, "Grace," taken by Eric Enstrom in Bovey.
It took more than a year before the bill got a vote in both the House and Senate and was eventually sent to Gov. Ventura for his signature.(4 Comments)
A bill to slow the progress toward "governing by referendum" appeared at the Capitol today.
This legislative session has seen a seemingly endless filing of proposed amendments to the Constitution in Minnesota. Already in November, residents will be voting on the amendment restricting marriage to one man and one woman. It's likely a bill to add a requirement to show a photo when voting will also be added.
These bills bypass the executive branch of government -- the governor -- and, when approved, go to the ballot instead.
Today, several legislators in the House filed a bill that could stop the practice. It would require a bill to receive a two-thirds vote in both the House and Senate. Ironically, the bill would amend the Minnesota Constitution.
An amendment to the Minnesota Constitution is proposed to the people. If the amendment is adopted, article IX, section 1, will read:
Section 1. A majority Two-thirds of the members elected to each house of the legislature may propose amendments to this constitution. Proposed amendments shall be published with the laws passed at the same session and submitted to the people for their approval or rejection at a general election. If a majority of all the electors voting at the election vote to ratify an amendment, it becomes a part of this constitution. If two or more amendments are submitted at the same time, voters shall vote for or against each separately.
Sec. 2. SUBMISSION TO VOTERS.
The proposed amendment must be submitted to the people at the 2012 general election. The question submitted must be:
"Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to require a vote of two-thirds of the members of each body of the legislature to propose amendment?"
Those opposed to the recent conservative-backed amendment proposals might be quick to embrace this proposal. On the other hand, the 2008 Legacy Amendment, which dedicated money to outdoors and the arts, would've never appeared on the ballot. There were 85 votes in the House on the bill to put it on the ballot. Under today's proposed bill, it would've required 86.
A two-thirds vote would indicate widespread popularity for a measure, making the need for many constitutional amendments unnecessary. In addition to overcoming a gubernatortial objection, they're often used now by many politicians to provide political cover on controversial issues.
Two Republicans -- King Banaian of St. Cloud and Greg Davids of Preston -- joined seven DFLers as sponsors of the bill.(7 Comments)
Whose fault is the high rate of alcoholism on Indian reservations?
The Oglala Sioux Tribe of South Dakota today filed suit against beer makers, seeking $500 million in damages for the cost of health care, social services and child rehabilitation caused by alcoholism.
The AP reports:
The lawsuit alleges that the beer makers and stores sold to Pine Ridge's Indian population, knowing they would smuggle the alcohol into the reservation to drink or resell. The beer makers supplied the stores with "volumes of beer far in excess of an amount that could be sold in compliance with the laws of the state of Nebraska" and the tribe, tribal officials allege in the lawsuit.
The Connecticut-sized reservation has struggled with alcoholism and poverty for generations, despite an alcohol ban in place since 1832. Pine Ridge legalized alcohol in 1970 but restored the ban two months later, and an attempt to allow it in 2004 died after a public outcry.
The lawsuit says one in four children born on the reservation suffer from fetal alcohol syndrome or fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. The average life expectancy is estimated between 45 and 52 years, the shortest in North America except for Haiti, according to the lawsuit. The average American life expectancy is 77.5 years.(9 Comments)