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Minn. governor to halt state-financed ads during TV shows depicting violence


ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Gov. Arne Carlson says he intends to order state departments to stop state-financed advertising "during television programs which exploit and glorify violence."

The Republican governor's announcement came last week as he and GOP legislators outlined their anti-crime proposal to be introduced in the Minnesota Legislature later this month.

Mr. Carlson's package is aimed at strengthening state laws against violent crimes, especially violent sex crimes. Much of what was outlined had been unveiled earlier by either the Governor's Commission on Violent Crimes or Republican legislators.

Among the package's elements:

* Those convicted of repeated violent sex crimes could face life in prison.

* A third drunken-driving conviction would be treated as a felony, and the defendant's vehicle would be forfeited.

* In cases where several people are charged in connection with the same crime, they could be tried in a single trial, rather than in several.

* Courts would be directed to give domestic abuse cases a high priority.

Regarding the anti-violence campaign, the governor was not specific about which programs or ads would be involved, but other officials said they had the state lottery in mind.

"We are targeting the lottery," said Kevin Johnson, a Hennepin County prosecutor and co-chairman of the Governor's Commission on Violent Crimes. A commission report that was made public in December is the basis for much of Mr. Carlson's anti-crime plan.

Mr. Johnson said a lottery commercial was aired along with a TV program called "Grudge Match," which features contestants in protective gear attacking each other, a violent message he said the state doesn't want to promote.

GOP legislators said they also were upset over radio commercials for the lottery's "Cabin Fever" game. The commercials feature a bickering husband and wife with sounds in the background of a shirt being ripped and a TV set being smashed.

"The problem is that it [commercial] makes violence sort of cute," said Senate Minority Leader Duane Benson.

The state lottery has an $8 million advertising budget, said Judy Hohmann, public relations director for the lottery. She said the agency's ads were handled by an advertising firm and the state didn't know in advance which programs they would be aired with.

"We need some guidelines about what the governor thinks would constitute violent programming," she said.

Regarding the "Cabin Fever" commercials, she said the aim was to show the stress of a long winter, not abusive behavior.

A spokesman for the governor said the curb on state advertising was designed to "begin a change of attitude, and one way to do that is to refuse to put state advertising with certain programs."

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