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Capitol Chatter: Feds support anti-synthetic drug legislation

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ST. PAUL -- The federal Justice Department agrees with Sen. Amy Klobuchar that Congress should ban synthetic drugs that pose threats to Americans.

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The department has announced it backs three bills by the Minnesota Democrat to ban 2C-E, bath salts and synthetic marijuana.

Klobuchar, a former prosecutor, has held hearings on the issue in Washington and Minnesota after several communities reported problems with the drugs. The first American death attributed to 2C-E, also known as europa, came in a Twin Cities' suburb when 10 others were hospitalized after a party where the drug was used.

"Synthetic drugs are taking lives and tearing apart families in Minnesota and across the country, but right now many of these dangerous substances can still be purchased legally," Klobuchar said. "We must take swift action to give prosecutors and law enforcement the tools they need to crack down on synthetic drugs and keep our communities safe."

Synthetic drugs have been sold in shops from Moorhead to Duluth, often marketed as incense with warnings "not for human consumption."

The drug 2C-E produces LSD-like highs.

Last month, Klobuchar brought U.S. Drug Control Policy Director Gil Kerlikowske to Minnesota to meet with law enforcement leaders.

Moorhead Police Chief David Ebinger said after meeting with Kerlikowske that even a new state law to ban synthetic drugs has not stopped sales. Since the new law began, the chief said, undercover agents bought the now-illegal drugs from two shops.

After the Minnesota meeting, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration banned three chemicals commonly found in products marketed as bath salts, but used by people to get high.

Bad Vikings timing

A New York Times story may best explain the Minnesota Vikings' woes in seeking a new stadium: "The country's most popular sport is colliding with the country's emergent political philosophy -- smaller government and lower taxes."

Reporter Ken Belson examined problems ranging from this summer's Minnesota government shutdown to opposition from St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman over a proposed sales tax increase that he claims would hurt business in his town.

Even the national spectacle of the Metrodome's roof collapsing has not helped the Vikings' cause.

Many National Football League franchises have received government help to build stadiums in recent years. But, Belson writes, "the Vikings' pitch stands apart from other NFL stadium deals because it is running headlong into a vastly different economic and political landscape. In a state whose financial hardships were so severe that the Legislature shut down state services for several weeks over the summer, a franchise in the $9 billion NFL is asking the public to pay about 60 percent of the cost of a $1.1 billion stadium."

Belson points out that other professional teams have left for greener stadiums, and Los Angeles is hunting for a football team now, dangling a new stadium as bait.

Flooded roads?

It is tough to predict conditions in 50 years, but the Minnesota Department of Transportation says one factor it must consider in the next half century is a changing climate.

MnDOT predicts more flooding, especially flash floods, will affect transportation.

Weather experts predict climate changes mean there will be more thunderstorms, MnDOT says. "This could lead to regular incidence of simultaneous drought and flood conditions. This is an issue that affects infrastructure design and runoff management strategies."

Shutdown case goes on Minnesota's government shutdown ended July 20, but a court case about it continues, for now at least.

A group of state legislators seeking court clarification has told the Minnesota Supreme Court that the issue should be resolved in case the situation comes up again.

The case revolves around whether the courts have the right to order spending to continue without a legislative appropriation.

The courts did order much state spending to go on during the shutdown, for what were called urgent needs, despite a constitutional provision that requires the Legislature to appropriate money before it is spent. The shutdown came because the Republican-controlled Legislature and Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton did not agree on a budget, so the state essentially ran out of money.

The high court is deciding whether the case is moot because the shutdown ended.

Don Davis works for Forum Communications Co., which owns the News Tribune.

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Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.
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