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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Former Minnesota Attorney General Mike Hatch briefly returned to the public eye last week. Hatch, who lost his bid for governor last year, talked about insurance reform with a legislative committee led by Sen. Mary Olson, DFL-Bemidji. The ex-attorney general gave suggestions about how the state could raise the number of people with health insurance. "Ensuring quality, affordable health care for all Americans is the No. 1 issue facing us in the 21st century," Hatch said.
ST. PAUL - The Minnesota governor delivered a major speech featuring such items as property tax reform and compliments about a good business climate. "I will veto any sales tax which may be presented for my signature," he said during an Appleton, Minn., speech. But the governor was not Tim Pawlenty, the incumbent Republican. It was Elmer Benson, an Appleton farmer who served 1937 to 1939. The one-term Farmer-Labor Party governor - who later helped merge that party with the Democrats - filled the Appleton armory for his Sept. 20, 1938, speech.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation intentionally withheld bridge construction documents from a House committee, its chairman says, and he is ready to issue rare subpoenas to obtain them if state officials don't give him the paperwork within a month. The subpoena threat came Thursday as the House Commerce Committee investigated lengthy delays in finishing the second half of a Mississippi River bridge connecting Dakota and Washington counties. Lt. Gov.
ST. PAUL - Look for virtual "welcome" signs in Minnesota's northern forests. "Rather than having a series of private landowners put up 'no trespassing' signs, we are putting up 'welcome' signs for Minnesota citizens to enjoy the great outdoors," Gov.
ST. PAUL - State, private and local bridge inspectors are pouring over bridges across Minnesota as the two-month anniversary of a Minneapolis bridge collapse arrives Monday. State inspectors and a private contractor working for the Minnesota Department of Transportation face a Dec. 1 deadline to fulfill Gov. Tim Pawlenty's promise to check all bridges.
The private organization Conservation Minnesota has developed a Web site that allows Minnesotans to check the safety of their lakes. The site www.checkmylake.org lets visitors to pick a lake by name or by county, and presents a map showing where the lake is located. It also shows whether the lake is safe for swimming and if fish caught in the lake are safe to eat. The site takes data already collected by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and puts it in an easier-to-use format. Groups such as Conservation Minnesota want the state to spend more money to clean up lakes and streams.
ST. PAUL - The fate of Carol Molnau and state transportation funding was topic No. 1 around the Minnesota Capitol last week. Democrats want her fired as transportation commissioner, but apparently are OK with her remaining as lieutenant governor. Molnau has remained out of the public eye most of the time since the Interstate 35W bridge collapsed Aug. 1. In a couple of news conferences in the first half of August, she turned feisty when reporters asked if she would consider resigning. The commissioner and the man who appointed her, Gov.
Minnesota's pioneering 32-year-old anti-smoking law gets a facelift Oct. 1. That is when the Freedom to Breathe Act takes effect, banning smoking from almost all indoor areas other than homes and private vehicles. Most affected will be restaurants, bars and private clubs, many of which fought implementation of the law earlier this year over fears it would hurt business. Those getting ready for the strict smoking ban report no problems as the start date nears, and a relatively few questions, after a loud legislative debate earlier this year.
Many lawmakers hoped a Sept. 11 special legislative session would increase transportation funding, but after no agreement was reached in time for action then debate continues around the state. Gov. Tim Pawlenty used part of his Friday radio show to attack his transportation funding opponents. He particularly criticized people who oppose his proposal to borrow much of the money to build and fix roads. Many lawmakers, especially Democrats, want more funding to come from increased taxes and less from loans.
ST. PAUL - Two Minnesota state agencies buy a quarter of all their vehicle fuel at E-85 pumps, and the state fleet as a whole is on track to double its E-85 use this year. The Administration Department reports that state vehicles burned 167,000 gallons of the corn-based fuel in the first half of 2007, about the same as used in all of 2006. Twenty-five percent of Agriculture Department and Pollution Control Agency cars use E-85, the best use in the state. E-85 accounts for 6.3 percent of state fuel use. E-85 is a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline.