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 — The University of Minnesota's request to bump up its state funding $147 million comes at a tough time. The big university news over the past few weeks has been a football scandal, easily topping the team's Holiday Bowl victory. With that fresh in Minnesotans' minds, university officials are hitting up the Legislature for more money. "It doesn't help," said Jennifer Schultz, a Duluth legislator and University of Minnesota Duluth professor. "Timing wise, it is really bad to get when these fires happen. And we have really had a lot of fires."
ST. PAUL—A tweaked 2016 tax proposal that never made it into law is back. Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton said on Thursday, Jan. 5, that his plan calls for $230 million in a variety of tax cuts and $70 million in new spending for things such as increased state aid to local governments. It is based on a bill most legislators backed last year, but Dayton opted not to sign after a $101 million mistake was discovered in it.
ST. PAUL—Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton is bringing back a public works funding bill much like he offered last year, proposing to spend $1.5 billion on projects ranging from water treatment plants to fixing college buildings. "These projects have a direct economic benefit," the governor told reporters in a conference call Wednesday, Jan. 4.
ST. PAUL—Minnesota let out a sigh of relief Tuesday, Jan. 3, after a federal appeals court decided a lower court erred in tossing out a state law that put some of the worst sex offenders in prison-like facilities after they complete their sentences. Had the original ruling stood, the state would have scrambled to release many of the 700 sex offenders now confined in state hospitals.
ST. PAUL — Minnesota legislators express nearly universal agreement that state roads and bridges need an infusion of money, but a deep divide about where to get the funds prevented action the last two years. The same disagreement exists as the 2017 legislative session begins, leaving in question whether anything significant and long-term will be accomplished in transportation. Minnesota's roads face an estimated $16 billion funding gap over the next 20 years, according to calculations from the state Department of Transportation.
ST. PAUL — 2017 dawned on the Minnesota Capitol with bright sun Sunday, Jan. 1, illuminating the newly renovated building. But the sparkle dimmed as clouds moved in Sunday, followed by a dreary, wintry Monday for most Minnesotans. Was that a forecast of things to come in the 2017 state Legislature, which begins at noon Tuesday? That is impossible to predict, but Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton and Republicans who control the Legislature have a stormy past.
WASHINGTON — Keith Ellison confirmed Wednesday, Dec. 7, that he would resign from the U.S. House if he is elected chairman of the Democratic National Committee. The Minneapolis Democrat earlier had said he has the energy to remain a congressman while running the party. In recent days, however, he backed down from that and on Wednesday released a statement saying that he would quit his congressional job if elected.
ST. PAUL—Minnesotans will be able to treat post-traumatic stress disorder with medical marijuana beginning next year. State Health Commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger announced the addition on Thursday, Dec. 1, along with saying that he will allow topical applications of the drug, such as in patches and lotions.
ST. PAUL—Soaring insurance premiums apparently jolted Minnesotans into seeking federal aid to pay for their policies. The state's health insurance marketplace, MNsure, announced on Tuesday, Nov. 29, that the number of Minnesotans getting financial aid for 2017 policies tripled over this year. Rural Minnesotans especially benefit from the aid, which comes from the federal government, MNsure Allison O'Toole said in a Forum News Service interview.
WASHINGTON—Many American farmers are thankful today for an Obama administration decision to boost the amount of renewable fuels, such as made from corn and soybeans, in the country's gasoline and diesel supply. The Wednesday, Nov. 23 announcement was a turnaround for the Environmental Protection Agency, which earlier planned to require less renewable fuel to be mixed with gas and diesel.