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ST. PAUL - Some Minnesota legislators want to move more prisoners from state facilities to a private prison, saving the state $12 million in the next two years. Others object, saying prisons should be a state, not private, enterprise. The 776 medium security prisoners at the Moose Lake prison would be transferred to the Appleton facility under a bill promoted by Rep. Torrey Westrom, R-Elbow Lake, and Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria.
ST. PAUL - Minnesota's court officials say Minnesotans will see significant service cuts if Gov. Tim Pawlenty's proposed budget passes, but the governor says the court budget needs trimming as a way to pressure them to change. "The court is antiquated and needs significant reform," Pawlenty said Tuesday. "The courts need to change and improve their processes. All the paperwork needs to become electronic in nature." The governor's comments, made to the West Central Tribune in Willmar, mirrored long-term plans court officials outlined Tuesday to the House Public Safety Committee.
WILLMAR -- If adults don't take steps to solve America's looming energy and environmental problems for themselves, they should do it for people like 11-year-old Laura Norling of Willmar. "It is in times like these that we as Americans again will reach out to each other and pursue real and unbiased solutions,'' she told about 80 people attending an energy summit Tuesday in Willmar. The day-long summit was sponsored by Citizens Energy Plan, a grassroots organization that's leading a process of developing and presenting a national energy plan to Congress in 2010.
ST. PAUL - Minnesota should eliminate its corporate income tax and make other changes to spur business growth, a governor-appointed panel recommended. The just-completed recommendations could struggle to become law, however, as they are paid for with a controversial sales tax expansion and a cigarette tax hike. The proposals are designed to position Minnesota to compete internationally for businesses and jobs in the long term, said Michael Vekich, 21st Century Tax Reform Commission chairman. "They will be controversial and it will take leadership to enact," Vekich said Friday.
ST. PAUL - Note to Minnesotans: Get comfortable because the U.S. Senate election trial is going to take a while. There is no trial timeline, but a brief courtroom comment Wednesday by one of three judges hearing the election lawsuit confirmed that the case is far from over. Judge Denise Reilly of Hennepin County said the court will review and count absentee ballots that the judges decide were wrongly excluded from the Nov. 4 election and the recount.
Minnesota high school students could get scholarships of up to $7,500 if they graduate early under a proposal pushed by Rep. Pat Garofalo of Farmington and other Republican lawmakers. Garofalo said that his proposal would save nearly $25 million in the next two years because fewer high school students would be in schools. "The earlier a student graduates, the more the scholarship would be," Garofalo said. His idea is to provide scholarships starting at $2,500 for students who graduate one semester early.
The chairman of the Senate transit subcommittee reversed directions Wednesday, now promising to consider a bill that would take $95 million out of Twin Cities transit funding and spread it among school bus programs statewide. "Please accept my sincere apology for my remarks dismissing ... the student transit initiative," Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, wrote to the bill's author, Sen. Joe Gimse, R-Willmar. "I was wrong and I should have immediately welcomes the opportunity." Right after Gimse announced the bill, Dibble dismissed it, saying his committee would not consider the measure.
Any who has ever dug into a fish dinner at Afton, Minnesota's Catfish Saloon, or licked an ice cream cone from the town's storied ice cream parlor will most certainly want to pick up a copy of "Death Row" ($17.99), by Hal Barnes, available in bookstores and through Lulu.com. And if you've never sampled the culinary delights of the beautiful little town pick one up anyway because it's a crackling good mystery, chockfull of international intrigue and contemporary concerns. Barnes, a Twin Cities business writer, lives in Afton and his infectious enthusiasm for the neighborhood shows.
ST. PAUL -- An estimated 5,000 uncounted ballots should be included in the U.S. Senate election tally to avoid problems seen in Florida's 2000 presidential recount, Norm Coleman's campaign said Monday. In opening statements at Minnesota's U.S. Senate election trial, an attorney for Coleman said counties applied different standards when they decided whether to reject absentee ballots in the election.
ST. PAUL - A Woodbury woman played a minor role in an early U.S. Senate election trial controversy. Kristen Fuzer was the first witness in the trial, which started Monday. As Norm Coleman's campaign political director, Fuzer was called before the three-judge panel, campaign attorneys and a courtroom audience to answer questions about photocopies she helped make. The Coleman campaign wanted the copies of rejected absentee ballots to be part of the trial. Al Franken's campaign objected, citing problems with the paperwork.