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House approves immigrant driver’s license status bill
By Don Davis, The Forum
Published Saturday, March 18, 2006

ST. PAUL – On a 100-28 vote, the House approved putting an immigrant’s status on his or her driver’s license.

While the idea is already being done under the Gov. Tim Pawlenty administration, supporters say making it a law removes the chance of a future governor stopping the practice on a whim.

Pawlenty has pushed the driver’s license status display as part of a crackdown on illegal immigrants, saying it makes it easier to arrest people in the country illegally.

A bill offered by Sen. Dallas Sams is designed to make Minnesota health insurance more affordable.

The Staples Democrat introduced a bill to:

- Establish a prescription drug discount program.

- Start a small-employer buy-in option for MinnesotaCare, the state’s insurance program for the poor.

- Increase the income limit for single adults and households without children to get state insurance aid.

- Increase coverage for self-employed farmers by changing how income is measured in determining MinnesotaCare eligibility.

- Raise the hospital inpatient reimbursement cap in order to account for health-care inflation.

About 375,000 Minnesotans don’t have health insurance. Many are employed, and Sams said small businesses need state help to afford insurance for their workers.

By a 5-4 vote, a Senate committee approved allowing the use of marijuana for medical needs.

The bill would eliminate criminal penalties for the seriously ill who use marijuana with a doctor’s recommendation. The bill is sponsored by Sen. Steve Kelley, DFL-Hopkins, a candidate for governor.

“Patients battling cancer, multiple sclerosis, AIDS or other painful and deadly illnesses should not have to risk arrest and jail if their doctor believes marijuana may ease their suffering,” Kelley said. “This legislation protects the sick, while establishing sensible controls.”

Kelley brought patients who told committee members that marijuana is the only thing that relieved their pain.

“I have tried numerous prescription medicines to alleviate pain and nausea, but achieved little or no relief, not to mention unhealthy side effects,” said Don Haumant, a Minnesota resident who has been living with liver disease for more than 30 years. “Marijuana has been the only medicine I have found to ease my pain and restore my appetite.”

“When I use a small amount of medical marijuana, my body does not know my actions are not okay under Minnesota law. What is clear is that I look and feel healthier.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Don Davis at (651) 290-0707