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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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.
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.
A dream of the Paul Wellstone may be approaching congressional passage five years after the Minnesota senator died. U.S. senators last week approved a bill that prohibits health insurers from treating mental health patients different than those with physical illnesses. An organization founded after Wellstone's death in a plane crash, which normally trains potential political candidates, has been active on the issue and one of the late senator's sons testified for the measure on Capitol Hill. Wellstone's opponent in his last election, GOP Sen.
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.
ST. PAUL - 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.
Minnesota's two U.S. senators and one from South Dakota are among those who want to borrow $50 billion to improve the country's transportation infrastructure. Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.; Norm Coleman, R-Minn; and John Thune, R-S.D., say their "Build America Bonds" plan is a one-time federal borrowing program that could create 2.5 million construction jobs and save lives. "The Build America Bonds Act is about generating economic growth, improving transportation infrastructure and, ultimately, saving lives through enhanced transportation safety without a tax increase," Thune said.
ST. PAUL - Those who support a gasoline tax increase say a State Fair survey shows Minnesotans as a whole do, too. "The poll demonstrates again that Minnesotans understand that when it comes to important issues like transportation, you get what you pay for," Rep. Al Juhnke, DFL-Willmar, said. "Because the gas tax is constitutionally dedicated to pay for roads and bridges, people know that money is going to be used to build better and safer roads and bridges." A House survey showed 58 percent of those polled would back a dime-a-gallon gas tax increase.
Five energy and environmental groups say building a coal-fired South Dakota power plant - and constructing new power lines in Minnesota - will cost more after a new Minnesota law took effect. A legal document filed by the groups opposing the Big Stone II plant said the new plant would impede Minnesota's mandate to reduce global warming emissions by 80 percent by the year 2050.