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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Minnesota legislators anticipate a stern lecture when they sit down Tuesday with a leading congressional transportation expert. U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar, who represents northeastern Minnesota's 8th District and is House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman, will discuss funding for roads and transit with state legislators. Such meetings are rare. "I think he's going to give us hell," Rep. Bernie Lieder, DFL-Crookston, said.
ST. PAUL - A late 2005 report showed Minnesota state computers were vulnerable to hackers. The auditor suggested the state give those who manage the computers more money. Those words did not fall on deaf ears. When state officials began an every-other-year budget process last year, the topic returned. Gov.
ST. PAUL -- Rep. Tom Rukavina walked through the crowd during a Sept. 11, 2001, memorial service and noticed most of the flags were made in China, Pakistan or someplace else other than the United States. "If anything should be made in the United States, it should be the American flag," he said. So began the Virginia, Minn., Democrat's quest to require all American flags sold in Minnesota to be made in this country.
ST. PAUL - Legislators are close to making Minnesota the first state to endorse a compact to restrict use of Great Lakes water. On a voice vote, senators gave preliminary approval to the issue Monday, with a final vote expected Thursday. The House already overwhelmingly approved the compact and Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty is expected to sign the measure.
A statewide smoking ban could be headed for approval by the Legislature, but it won't get everyone's backing. "I highly doubt many (Iron) Rangers will be supporting the final bill," House Majority Leader Tony Sertich, DFL-Chisholm, said. Sertich was referring to his fellow Iron Range lawmakers, who may support a smoking ban that provides exemptions, such as for bars or private clubs. Bills being considered by the House and Senate don't include those exemptions. Sertich said he believes a statewide ban in public places will pass this year.
ST. PAUL - Minnesota forests could get a piece of the pie if legislators and voters approve raising sales taxes to fund outdoors and arts programs. A Senate committee on Wednesday decided to spend an estimated $25 million annually to buy or obtain easements on Northland forest land that private companies are ready to sell. It is the first time in the decade the tax proposal has been around the Capitol that forests were specifically included. However, the proposal has a long way to go.
ST. PAUL - Moorhead is a different city today in part due to state aid sent to five Red River Valley communities, Mayor Mark Voxland says. "We were losing businesses weekly," Voxland told a Senate committee Wednesday about the early-1980s. When a state aid program for five Red River Valley cities passed in the 1983, things began to change and those communities started to compete with North Dakota, he said. "It stopped the hemorrhaging to a great extent." Voxland said after years of Moorhead losing businesses and people, the population is beginning to rebound.
ST. PAUL - Minnesota's increasing wind energy emphasis could lead to 15,000 new jobs, a House committee heard Monday. Lynn Hinkle of the United Auto Workers suggested that the soon-to-be-closed St. Paul Ford Ranger pickup manufacturing facility become a wind turbine manufacturing plant. "For every one production job, there are 10 more (workers) standing behind those," Hinkle said, adding that Minnesotans from the Iron Range to southwestern Minnesota would benefit from a renewable energy expansion. "This is an opportunity of a lifetime," he said.
Many of Minnesota's 300-plus traffic accidents Tuesday morning - not to mention slow commutes - were due to the Pawlenty administration not adequately funding transportation, a group that included Sen. Katie Sieben said at a press conference Tuesday. Senate Transportation Chairman Steve Murphy, DFL-Red Wing, said roads were not cleared like they should be, blaming 290 property damage accidents and 48 that caused injuries on a shortage of money.
ST. PAUL - Opponents of a smoking ban charged supporters were "social engineers" who would hurt businesses - especially small, rural ones - but backers of a ban prevailed Thursday in the first legislative debate on the subject this year. After more than two hours of testimony and debate, the ban passed the Minnesota House Health and Human Services Committee on a surprisingly easy 12-6 vote. The bill would ban smoking in businesses such as bars and restaurants - including private clubs - much like it already is banned in public buildings.