Minnesota Lottery officials went in search of new revenue and decided the Internet might be a good way to get it. But the Legislature slapped down their embryonic efforts to distribute games online and via other channels such as ATMs and gas station pumps. A coalition of anti-gambling legislators and tribal casino interests banded together to successfully pull the plug on such games by this fall barring a veto by Gov. Mark Dayton.
Moves by Colorado and Washington to legalize recreational marijuana legal probably made it palatable for Minnesota to take a much lesser step, but it was the emotional appeals of chronic disease sufferers that finally pushed medical marijuana into law. In the end, legislators settled on a tightly drawn law that forbids smoking the drug or vaporizing any actual plant material. Patients must use it in oil or pill form. The state now faces a complex buildout of a distribution and monitoring system that should start making the drug available in 2015.
Majority Democrats delivered big to their base with a big bump to the minimum wage. It will go up more than $3 over the next few years, landing at $9.50 by 2016, with inflationary increases thereafter. Not a single Republican got on board as Minnesota moved from one of the nation's lowest minimums to one of the highest. Business groups warned of potential layoffs as a result and questioned the wisdom of moving so far above surrounding states.
MNsure, the state-run health insurance exchange, got off to a terrible start with long wait times on a hotline and plenty of problems with the website. But with no real legislative power, Republicans could do little but criticize the exchange. Most of their attempts to force legislative changes were ruled out of order. Look for the health overhaul to be a major campaign theme.