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'Four Firkins Bill' Stands a Good Chance This Year

Rep. Simon: The legislation will make the House and Senate omnibus liquor bills.

The “Four Firkins bill” stands a good chance of passing this year, Rep. Steve Simon (DFL-District 44A) said Thursday.

Simon said he's been told by the chairs of the House and Senate commerce committees that the legislation will likely be included in each chamber’s omnibus liquor bill. Earlier in this young session, Simon said he was concerned there wouldn't even be an omnibus liquor package.

The Four Firkins bill would allow liquor stores to sell store-branded T-shirts and other merchandise. Last year, it was included in the House’s omnibus package, but didn’t make the cut in the Senate. Omnibus bills typically pass without much controversy, Simon said, but getting included is the “tough" part.

The Four Firkins bill first came forward during the 2011 session when Jason Alvey, owner of St. Louis Park craft beer store The Four Firkins, approached Simon and Sen. Ron Latz (DFL-District 44) with his desire to sell store-branded gear.

“We have lots of regular customers who would be proud to wear a Four Firkins T-shirt,” Alvey said last year. “We want to be able to sell to them.”

Latz Condemns Self-Defense Bill

Latz makes no secret of what he thinks about a proposal to loosen personal defense laws: “It’s a terrible bill,” he said. “It will literally allow somebody to get away with murder.”

The bill expands the use of deadly force for civilians who feel threatened. Current law allows the use of deadly force in certain circumstances while people are in their “dwelling.” The bill would expand dwelling to include homes, tents, cars, boats or anywhere else someone is temporarily staying.

It would also remove the so-called “duty to retreat” that currently requires people to avoid the danger if reasonably possible.

And the bill changes the legal standard for self-defense. Instead of having to prove that a deadly action was what a “reasonable person” who perceived a threat would have done, the bill changes the legal justification for shooting to how the person who used deadly force perceived the threat.

Latz, who’s the ranking member on the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety committee, said the legal standard change would make it impossible to prosecute many shootings and listed off several scenarios in which he thinks the bill could lead to shootings. What if someone bumps into a tent while walking back from the restroom in a state park? What if someone approaches a car to ask directions? What if police have to serve a warrant?

The latter scenario is just one of many concerns that has law enforcement alarmed. On Thursday, the Minneapolis and St. Paul police chiefs, other law enforcement representatives, Hennepin County Attorney Michael Freeman and representatives of the Minnesota County Attorneys Association hosted a press conference to criticize the proposal.

“The law enforcement community is standing shoulder to shoulder opposing this bill,” Latz said. “They are all uniformly opposed to this bill because it would jeopardize the safety of the officers and jeopardize the safety of the public.”

The full Senate is scheduled to take up the bill Thursday.

Legislators Await 'Map Day'

There's tension at the Capitol, Simon said, as legislators await the new legislative district lines being released by the Minnesota Supreme Court on Tuesday. The court is drawing the map because the legislature couldn't come to an agreement.

District lines were last redrawn in 2002—before District 44 representatives Simon, Latz and Rep. Ryan Winkler (DFL-District 44B) were in office. It's hard to say what the new landscape will look like, Simon said.

"I think it will generally be the same," he said of the district's political makeup. "But really, it's beyond my control."

Here’s what happened this past week with other bills authored or co-authored by your legislators:

Rep. Ryan Winkler

Rep. Steve Simon

Sen. Ron Latz

  • Authored a bill that would provide $1.4 million in funding to the Perpich Center for the Arts. SF1827 was introduced on Feb. 13 and referred to the Capital Investment Committee.
Emily B February 18, 2012 at 05:25 AM
While it is sad our legislature won't get much significant done this year, I'm glad to hear the Four Firkins bill will likely make it through. Then again, it would fall under the "loosening" of regulations that the Repubs want, so maybe it shouldn't be a surprise.

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