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 - Twenty-seven World War II veterans from New London, Minn., beamed Tuesday as Gov. Tim Pawlenty hung medals around their necks and thanked them for serving their country. After the medal ceremony and a short speech, Pawlenty paused to have his picture taken with the heroes near a newly finished World War II memorial before heading up the hill to his Capitol office and a meeting about the collapsed Minneapolis bridge. "It was a great honor," said Alton Miller, who married a girl he met when fighting in France.
ST. PAUL - Most Minnesota political eyes are focused on the Minneapolis bridge collapse, but another possible disaster will take center stage when farmers and politicians gather this week. Drought concerns are spreading like wildfire across parts of Minnesota. U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., for instance, says drought conditions are reaching crisis levels.
ST. PAUL - Gov. Tim Pawlenty may lift his long-held opposition to raising Minnesota's gasoline tax if he calls a special legislative session, as expected, following a deadly Minneapolis bridge collapse. Pawlenty on Friday said a special session to increase transportation funding is likely.
ST. PAUL - A Minnesota Republican and a Wisconsin Democrat want a federal law encouraging local ownership of plant-based fuel refineries such as those producing ethanol and biodiesel. Sen.
The National Journal's Web site asked a simple question recently: "Why is Tim Pawlenty in DC today?" The answer, in short, could have been to make nice with GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Pawlenty is national co-chairman of John McCain's struggling presidential bid, and the Web site reporters put on their thinking caps. "One has to wonder where the GOP's 'next superstar' will turn if his current dog really quits the race." Besides looking to play a role in a Romney administration, the Journal guessed that Pawlenty could be looking at running against first-term Sen.
U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., will be on the bipartisan Senate national security working group, an organization that fills in senators about negotiations between the Bush administration and foreign governments. The appointment was made by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
ST. PAUL - Gov. Tim Pawlenty may face problems from some northeastern Minnesota lawmakers in getting a new park in their area. For instance, the proposed state park on Lake Vermillion received a cool response from House Majority Leader Tony Sertich. The Chisholm Democrat said he would prefer to see dollars invested in the Iron Range area going to job creation. "I've got great state parks all around my district," Sertich said, adding that a new one should not take top priority. Not all area lawmakers object. Sen.
Helping Minnesota employers find qualified workers will be a priority of the new Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system board chairman. That should be no surprise since David Olson is president of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce. "Employers of all types and sizes are increasingly challenged to find qualified workers," Olson said. "Minnesota's higher education system is a valuable resource for employers." "The Minnesota Chamber and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system share similar priorities," Olson said.
ST. PAUL - National Guard soldiers coming home from Iraq receive nation-leading mental and physical care, Minnesota's veterans' affairs commissioner said, but he worries that other soldiers are not as lucky. Clark Dyrud said thousands of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, part of the active military and reserve units, are not getting the same help. And they can feel ignored. "How about the guy who has come back, fought in an infantry unit, and goes home to Ada?" Dyrud asked.
FORT McCOY, Wis. - Minnesota's 2,600 National Guard soldiers returning from Iraq faced a full schedule of lectures, medical tests and other tasks preparing for civilian life before being allowed to head home. But of all the experts they heard during the week-plus stay at Fort McCoy, the best advice may have come from their boss, Maj. Gen. Rick Erlandson. "I'm going to ask you, as you go home, to go slow," the general told his troops. "Take it one step at a time. One hour at a time. A week at a time. A month at a time.