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. - A Senate committee overturned three days worth of northern Minnesota senators' work Monday when it restored a statewide smoking ban proposal to near its original form. The panel removed provisions that would have allowed bars to allow smoking if they install ventilation equipment and to forbid local ordinances stronger than the state law.
Rep. Paul Marquart, chairman of the House property taxes committee, set up a hotline to receive public comments on the matter and has been getting ideas, such as: -- "For resorts, freeze or minimize property tax on resorts if the resort would agree to not break up the land for a certain amount of time to developers. This would save ma and pa resorts from breaking up. My bet is ma and pa would not sell." -- from Park Rapids.
ST. PAUL - All of Minnesota is under a winter storm watch tonight through Saturday, while the eastern and southern parts remain vulnerable Sunday, but don't expect the predicted significant snow accumulations to put much of a dent in the state's drought. And even if next month is snowier than normal - which does not look good now - the drought will continue. "A couple of March snow storms doesn't make the spring," Steve Baun of the National Weather Service Thursday told a Minnesota drought task force.
ST. PAUL - Minnesotans will accept a tax increase to protect their natural resources, environmentalists rallying Wednesday in the Capitol said. "The legacy that we leave for our future generations is the most important thing," John Doberstein of Duluth said. Added Doberstein: Cleaning up the state's water - as required by federal law - is a public priority. Duane Ninneman of Ortonville, who works in Montevideo, said clean energy also is a priority. He and about 200 others at the rally agreed a sales tax increase is an answer to cleaning up the environment.
A House committee backed measures that would provide relief to the state's struggling timber industry. The bill, authored by Rep. David Dill, DFL-Crane Lake, allows for timber permits issued by the state to be terminated. Under the legislation, those permits could be repurchased at substantially lower prices as a means to revitalize the industry in Minnesota, which proponents of the bill said is on shaky ground due to a slipping housing market. Despite concerns over the bill's long-term gains from Rep.
ST. PAUL - Minnesota children younger than 8 must be buckled in a booster seat or other restraint if a preliminarily Senate-passed bill becomes law. Senators initially approved the proposal on a voice vote Monday, with final approval expected Thursday. Current law requires children younger than 4 to be in a child's seat. Booster and other safety seats save injuries and money, supporters said. "The No. 1 killer of children over the age of 3 is automobile crashes," Rep. Jim Carlson, DFL-Eagan, said. Rep.
ST. PAUL - Minnesota may continue collecting a 75-cent-a-pack cigarette fee after the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday refused to hear a case brought to overturn the charge. "The U.S. Supreme Court's decision was expected and proper," Gov. Tim Pawlenty's spokesman, Brian McClung, said in a terse statement. "In legal terms: case closed." A Minnesota court had overturned the fee, but the Minnesota Supreme Court last year reversed that decision and put the fee back on the books.
Minnesota needs a permanent school safety center to help prevent school violence, public safety officials and others told legislators Monday. During the school shootings at Red Lake High School in March 2005, local, state and federal law enforcement officers worked well together, recalled former U.S. Attorney Tom Heffelfinger said.
A large majority of Minnesotans are happy with the work of school instructors and staff, but believe more state funding is needed to maintain that level of quality, a teacher-funded poll found. Education Minnesota, the state's largest teachers union, commissioned the phone survey last November. It also revealed that 62 percent of respondents believe school spending should be increased. One-third of those polled said funding should remain flat. Education Minnesota President Judy Schaubach of Red Wing said poll results reinforce public comments made at listening sessions across the state.
Minnesotans, many in rural areas, missed out on $172 million in federal food stamp funds last year because they lack knowledge about the program and face a complicated application process, a new report claims. "The worst participation is in our rural areas and rural counties," said Jessica Webster of the Legal Services Advocacy Project.