Daily Digest: Gun control push hits a wall

Good morning, and happy Tuesday. Spring is due to officially arrive later today.  In the meantime, here's the Digest.

1. Some students continue to push for gun control. A group of high school students confronted a key Minnesota lawmaker Monday to demand action on three gun control bills. The students want Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, to schedule hearings on the measures in the Senate judiciary and public safety committee that he chairs. The bills are related to gun purchase background checks, creation of a stolen gun registry and protective court orders for gun owners posing a danger. “We need these bills to be heard for our own safety,” said Josh Groven, a student at the School of Environmental Studies in Apple Valley who organized the demonstration at Limmer’s office. Limmer, who chairs the Senate judiciary and public safety committee, told the students who crowded into his office that the emphasis this session is on school security improvements, not gun restrictions. He was noncommittal about hearings. “I’m not going to entertain far right or far left solutions to this. I want solutions that work,” Limmer said. “I want solutions that will keep our kids safe.” (MPR News)

2. Gun control opponents are organized and effective. Key members of the GOP-controlled Legislature will never sign on to bills that could even be considered more restrictive or impose new mandates on gun owners or gun dealers. They chair the pertinent committees and control the flow of legislation that reaches the floor of the House and Senate, making new legislation unlikely. “We have a lot of allies,” said Rob Doar, the political director of the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus. Although the NRA’s regional lobbyist splits his time in several states, Doar’s group and the gun rights movement more broadly can be mobilized at a moment’s notice. “The e-mails are 120 to 1 not to touch the gun laws,” said Rep. Brian Johnson, R-Cambridge, a retired police officer who chairs the House Public Safety Committee, making him a key lawmaker on the issue. Earlier in March, when a DFL representative used some arcane legislative maneuvering to force a hearing on two gun control measures in his committee, Johnson said he received 2,000 e-mails urging him to stand firm. The bills were tabled. (Star Tribune)

3. Conference committee needed on MNLARS bills. The Minnesota House and Senate passed bills Monday that would put more money toward the effort to fix the state's troubled vehicle licensing and registration system, but because the bills are different they have to be reconciled before any more cash can be spent. MNLARS has been a major headache since its launch last summer, causing numerous delays and errors in daily transactions. Deputy registrars and auto dealers are among those who've complained the loudest about the system's shortcomings. The Senate bill now allocates $9.65 million of the $10 million originally requested by Minnesota IT Services (MNIT) and the Department of Public Safety (DPS) from existing reserves. The previous version included $7.3 million. The bill includes $350,000 for the Office of the Legislative Auditor to monitor progress on the MNLARS system and make quarterly reports. A new legislative steering committee will also keep tabs on the project and have the authority to decide whether to hold back any of its funding. The House bill provides $10 million and requires DFL Gov. Mark Dayton's administration to cut an equal amount of spending from executive branch budgets. Dayton opposes the House approach. (MPR News)

4. Workers on one gubernatorial campaign form a union. State Rep. Erin Murphy, who cut her political teeth as a nurses union organizer, announced Monday that workers in her campaign for Minnesota governor have formed a union. Murphy’s employees have signed a collective bargaining agreement with the Campaign Workers Guild, making hers the first campaign for governor in the country to take that step with the union. The guild bills itself as a “national independent union representing non-management workers on electoral and issue-based campaigns.” Several candidates for Congress and local offices have aligned with the guild around the country. Murphy, a former House majority leader from St. Paul, is one of three Democrats still in the hunt for the party’s nomination. She is seeking the DFL endorsement in June, along with State Auditor Rebecca Otto and U.S. Rep. Tim Walz. Officials with Otto's and Walz's campaigns say they haven't been approached by the guild. (MPR News)

5. You won't be able to catch a keeper on Mille Lacs again this year. Catch-and-release only rules will be in effect for walleye on Lake Mille Lacs when the season opens May 12, state officials said Monday. The rules are essentially a continuation of last year's controversial order that kept anglers from keeping the prized fish and the third consecutive season anglers will face catch-and-release only. Department of Natural Resources officials did note that because Mille Lacs' spawning walleye population has improved, they will not seek to close the lake completely to walleye fishing as they did for several weeks last summer. Still, news of catch-and-release only is likely to anger local resort owners who've argued the DNR's walleye management plans the past few years have wrecked their business because anglers want to keep what they catch. (MPR News)

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