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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ST. PAUL - Five weeks remain in the Minnesota legislative session, but the Senate's Republican leader already is talking about a special session. "I am very, very worried about a special session," Sen. Dave Senjem of Rochester said Friday. "We have so much to do in so little time." Others were not going that far, but as the House prepares for a week of furious activity passing more than $35 billion of spending bills - plus a tax bill to raise money - the divide between Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty and the Democratic-Farmer-Labor-controlled Legislature did not appear to be shrinking.
ST. PAUL - Gov. Tim Pawlenty appears to have taken himself out of the vice presidential race. "For the 900th time, I am not running for vice president, don't want to be vice president and am focused on being governor of Minnesota and have said I will fill out my term," the GOP governor told reporters asking about what many people see as his vice presidential ambitions. "It is not reality," Pawlenty said about the speculation he will be Sen.
U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson's office made the most privately funded trips of any representative, the latest figures show. The Minnesota Democrat and his staff made 66 trips at a cost of $62,646 last year, the Center for Responsive Politics reported. Although his office took the most trips, others accepted more private money. Peterson just became chairman of the House Agriculture Committee and has traveled extensively. He took 14 of the trips, while staff members took the rest. Most were funded by farm-related organizations
ST. PAUL - Gov. Tim Pawlenty says Democrats are playing politics with his premier economic development initiative, but predicted the Job Opportunity Building Zones program will survive. The Senate has voted to eliminate JOBZ, something Republican Pawlenty called on Thursday a Democratic "shot over my bow." An early JOBZ supporter, Sen.
ST. PAUL - Minnesota lawmakers gave the Mall of America a mixed reception Wednesday when its representatives sought state aid to expand. "I would say my district needs more help than you do," Rep. Sandy Wollschlager, DFL-Cannon Falls, told them. On the other hand, Rep. Dean Simpson, R-Perham, rebutted: "Any time you can bring that kind of money into the state, we should do it." A similar Senate bill has advanced with relatively little opposition, but the House plan faces problems, especially since the Taxes Committee chairwoman is against it.
ST. PAUL - Minnesota's Chippewa American Indians say wild rice is so important that the state needs to protect it from being contaminated by genetically modified rice. "Wild rice is more important to us than you probably realize," Leech Lake tribal Chairman George Goggleye on Tuesday told a Senate Committee considering regulating genetically modified wild rice.
ST. PAUL - The pre-season, if you will, is about over for Minnesota legislators. When they return to work Tuesday, after more than a week off for Easter and Passover, the final preliminary work begins to wrap up. Then the real job starts in about three weeks. Lawmakers can expect what has been an easy session to change as hard decisions must be made in coming weeks: -- Is a 9.8 percent increase in the state budget, as Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty proposes, enough? Or should it rise 18.7 percent, as Senate Republicans figure Senate Democrats want? -- Should income taxes rise?
The state would provide transportation to any Minnesota World War II veteran who wants to attend a June 9 war memorial dedication if Rep. Tim Faust, DFL-Mora, gets his way. A provision in a larger bill due soon in the full House provides funding for the transportation plan. The World War II memorial is being built in front of the state Capitol. "World War II veterans answered their country's call like no other generation," Faust said.
ST. PAUL - Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty has launched a new campaign. It is not for re-election, or even for the vice presidency, something many think may be in his future. This one is against Democratic legislators. The Republican governor's campaign committee is buying radio spots complaining about Democratic-Farmer-Laborite tax increase proposals. "When you finish a diet program, you don't celebrate by going to the all-you-can-eat buffet," a soft female voice says to open the commercial. "When you finally pay off your credit cards, you don't go on a spending spree.
U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar is working to get more E-85 pumps installed. In a letter co-signed by 11 other senators, congressional agricultural leaders are encouraged to provide federal funding for installing the pumps. The Minnesota Democrat said Minnesota is the country's leader in selling E-85 fuel, a blend of 85 percent corn-based ethanol and 15 percent gasoline, but other states need to sell more. Of the 170,000 gasoline stations in the country, fewer than 1,200 sell E-85, she said. A quarter of the country's E-85 pumps are in Minnesota.