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US (MN): "The faster we can legalize, the better it is for everybody"

Minnesota lawmakers return to St. Paul on Monday with a shorter to-do list and a tighter budget. Even-year sessions typically center around passing a public construction bill along with new policy measures. The two-year budget was adopted last year. And after a substantial new year of policy and spending changes in 2023, leaders from both parties said significant new spending is unlikely this year.

As lawmakers prepare to return for the 2024 legislative session, here are some issues to watch: Public construction bill at the fore. The primary work of the session will be piecing together a borrowing plan for public construction projects. The proposal — known at the Capitol as a bonding bill because the state issues bonds to pay for it — requires a higher vote threshold to pass because it involves debt.

Lawmakers will consider hundreds of millions of dollars in construction and renovation projects for roads, bridges, wastewater treatment plants, college campuses, and other buildings around the state. The final list will likely include just a fraction of the $7.6 billion in projects pitched for state support. DFL and GOP leaders said they are hopeful of striking an agreement. But Republicans said they’d like to see some belt-tightening on state spending as part of the ultimate accord.

The state’s new adult-use cannabis law is also due for another look this year, with a focus on speeding up the process of licensing growers and retailers. Rep. Zack Stephenson, DFL-Coon Rapids, helped push the adult legalization bill last year. Like laws regulating alcohol, he said there are likely to be changes required to update the policy over time. “The benefit of legalizing cannabis is having a strong regulator to make sure that there’s good consumer protections, health and safety protections that we’re transitioning from that illicit market to a legal marketplace,” he said. “And the faster we can make that happen, the better it is for everybody. So we’ll be looking for ways to speed things up.”

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