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 - 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.
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.
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.
ST. PAUL - Border cities would fall under the same laws as other Minnesota communities, a House committee decided Monday when debating a statewide smoking ban. Rep. Bud Nornes, R-Fergus Falls, wanted smoking allowed in border cities' bars and private clubs, but it was defeated on a close voice vote.
ST. PAUL - One of the country's most quoted political scientists labels U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Gov.
U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar says he is worried that airline maintenance and inspection standards are slipping. The Minnesota Democrat said airlines hiring other companies to conduct maintenance could be hurting safety. In a recent House hearing, Oberstar told Federal Aviation Administration officials about his concern. "You lose contact with the reality that this is an aircraft, not a piece of paper, not a document popping up on a computer screen," Oberstar said. "I am much more comfortable with hands-on than I am with fingers on the keyboard and pop-up screens."
ST. PAUL - Minnesota Democratic senators knew in February they would suggest raising taxes to fund their top priorities, but first talked about it publicly last week and on Saturday passed a nearly $1 billion income tax increase. The tax increase was kept under wraps to direct attention toward education needs, the Senate's education finance chairman said. "There is a hesitancy on keeping the center of focus on taxes rather than investment," Sen.