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President Barack Obama

Legislative notebook: Obama, Legislature plan Minnesota gun discussions

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ST. PAUL -- Next week is turning into gun week in Minnesota.

President Barack Obama kicks the week off with a Monday Minneapolis visit to discuss gun violence and state legislators plan to consider a variety of gun-related legislation later in the week.

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White House spokeswoman Joanna Rosholm said the president will "discuss with local leaders and law enforcement officials his comprehensive set of commonsense ideas to reduce gun violence. Minneapolis is a city that has taken important steps to reduce gun violence and foster a conversation in the community about what further action is needed."

Rosholm did not say if Obama will make a public appearance or release other details of the visit, but did say he "will visit with members of the community about their experiences and discuss additional steps that can be taken at the federal level to reduce gun violence."

His Minneapolis visit will be his first trip away from Washington promoting a gun-control measure he unveiled last week. The president's 35-point plan folds together actions he can take with provisions Congress would have to approve.

Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek and Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau this week sat next to Obama during a White House meeting about guns.

Stanek, a former state representative, promotes a law to require stronger background checks before gun permits are issued.

Chairman Michael Paymar of the Minnesota House Public Safety Committee plans Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday meetings related to gun violence.

Paymar, DFL-St. Paul, said even some rural lawmakers, where gun control usually is a non-starter, have said they may be willing to consider some changes.

Bills being introduced in the state Legislature (and more are expected before next week's hearings) include some to make it more difficult for violent felons to possess guns. One bill would give the state Pardons Board power to decide whether a felon could have a firearm.

Other bills deal with keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill. Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, suggests a law to keep a list of the mentally ill who voluntarily want to be denied firearms permits.

Some Republicans want to allow more people to carry guns. Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, and Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Good Thunder, suggest letting teachers carry guns to protect schools.

Obama and other Democrats want federal legislation that includes bringing back a ban on military-style assault weapons and limiting the capacity of ammunition magazines. They also want more extensive background checks on gun buyers.

Debt buyer restrictions

A bill moving through the House would require debt buyers to prove they are taking legal action against the right people.

"We've seen the problem that when debt buyers ... come into court and use the courts to obtain judgments against Minnesotans with inaccurate or incomplete information," Deputy Attorney General Nathan Brennaman told a House committee.

Debt buyers purchase unpaid credit card and other debt, often for pennies on the dollar. They then go after the people who supposedly failed to repay debt they owed.

However, bill supporters say debt buyers often fail to take the right people to court or seek inaccurate amount of money. Not all judges demand that information, according to Rep. Debra Hilstrom, DFL-Brooklyn Center.

Scott Larson of St. Clair Capital said he supports the bill, but is concerned about costs of acquiring the required information.

Hilstrom's debt buyer bill has passed its first committee and a similar bill awaits a Senate hearing.

Milking the situation

Several dozen Minnesota dairy farmers met with legislators Wednesday and stopped by Gov. Mark Dayton's office.

The governor joked with the group, which included President Patrick Lunemann of the Minnesota Milk Producers Association, who gave two cartons of milk and a package of cheese.

Dayton also was serious when farmers told him about a health-care proposal to help farmers that they say has languished in the Commerce Department for five years. He promised to personally check into it.

The farmers lobbied Dayton and legislators to support funding a new University of Minnesota dairy research facility.

Lunemann said that with a third of legislators new this year they "need help to understand our industry."

Dayton told the farmers that his grandfather owned a dairy farm, as well as Dayton's Department Store. He did well as a farmer, the governor said, because he sold all of his milk to the department store, which paid whatever price he wanted.

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