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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In politics, it is all about winning. Take, for instance, Al Franken's razor-thin victory over Norm Coleman in the Minnesota U.S. Senate race. The day after the state Supreme Court ruled in Franken's favor, making him Minnesota's newest senator, Brian Melendez, the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party chairman proclaimed: "Our election system in Minnesota works." His comments, delivered to a Franken rally, brought loud and long cheers.
Gov. Tim Pawlenty's decision to make unilateral budget cuts could cost up to 4,700 jobs across Minnesota, the state economist told legislative leaders Tuesday. In a confrontational meeting, House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis, disputed some of those numbers. She told State Economist Tom Stinson that he undershot the number of jobs that school districts will be forced to cut, perhaps by several hundred. Stinson said up to 600 of the 4,700 job loses would come from schools.
Money appropriated, along with examples of how it will be spent, for the next two years from a higher sales tax voters approved last November: Outdoors heritage, $159 million ($71 million not spent) -- Preserve northern Minnesota forest by buying rights to prevent development, $36 million -- Protect and restore wetlands, $21 million -- Protect grassland and prairie areas, $14 million -- Improve game and wildlife habitat, $14 million Clean water, $151 million -- Testing water for pollution and related activities, $66 million -- Preventing runoff pollution, $47 million -- Sewage treatm
Mike Kilgore says the green Minnesotans pay in a higher tax beginning Wednesday will mean a greener Minnesota in a year. Minnesota forests will stay green, prairies will turn greener and some wetlands will return to their green state thanks to a sales tax increase voters approved last November, Kilgore said. The increase, upping the state's portion of the sales tax from 6.5 percent of purchases to 6.875 percent of purchases, is to provide money to clean up the state's water, protect and restore wetlands and prairies, support parks and trails and preserve arts and cultural heritage activities
A 39-year-old North Dakota native takes over as Minnesota House Republican leader. Fellow House Republicans gave Rep. Kurt Zellers of Maple Grove about 70 percent of the vote Tuesday night in picking him to replace Rep. Marty Seifert of Marshall as minority leader. Seifert plans to announce in less than two weeks that he is running for governor. Rep. Randy Demmer of Hayfield was the other major candidate. Several ballots were needed before Zellers emerged the winner. Zellers takes over a caucus of 47 members out of the 134-person House.
Next year's Minnesota Legislature should be interesting, given that many key lawmakers want to make the jump to governor - or at least are considering it. Rep. Marty Seifert, R-Marshall, opted to leave his job as minority leader even if he just "kicks the tires" for a gubernatorial run. He said it would not be fair to the 47 House Republicans if he were forced to split his time between leading them and running for governor. Another House leader soon may face the same situation, but pretty much no one expects her to step out of her high-profile role.
Two state representatives said today that they are dipping their toes in the Republican gubernatorial waters. State Rep. Marty Seifert of Marshall said he is strongly considering getting into the Minnesota governor's race, but this morning said he is not quite ready to make the leap. Rep. Morrie Lanning of Moorhead said he also is considering it. Neither could say when a decision would be made. They are the first of many Republicans expected to express an interest in replacing Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who Tuesday announced he will not seek a third term.
Tim Pawlenty may not know what his next political move will be, but Minnesota's Republican governor said on Tuesday that he expects to be involved nationally. And if he runs for president, as many political pundits expect, it will be quite a rise from his stockyards neighborhood upbringing in South St. Paul. Pawlenty's personal story has been told often, especially in the past year as bloggers and reporters tried to introduce him to the American public as a potential vice presidential or presidential candidate. Pawlenty finished second as John McCain's running mate to Alaska Gov.
Low-interest loans are available to farmers affected by floods and other severe weather in 28 Minnesota counties. The Minnesota Rural Finance Authority announced the loan availability Wednesday, following a presidential disaster declaration in April. Weather-related damages not covered by insurance may allow farmers to receive the loans. For instance, farmers may apply for building repairs or replacement or for purchase of feed to replace lost crops. Loans will be up to 10 years at 3 percent annual interest.
Minnesota's soaring home foreclosure rate, a top issue a year ago, has eased a bit in the Twin Cities, but not so much in other parts of the state. And as the foreclosure situation swells, especially in rural Minnesota, options are scarce. Ed Nelson of the Minnesota Home Ownership Center said that those outside the Twin Cities are more likely to find fewer options to get out of foreclosure because, ironically, they often did everything right when picking their mortgages. The housing crisis began with sub-prime mortgages that were issued without enough collateral.