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.
- Member for
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Many lawmakers hoped a Sept. 11 special legislative session would increase transportation funding, but after no agreement was reached in time for action then debate continues around the state. Gov. Tim Pawlenty used part of his Friday radio show to attack his transportation funding opponents. He particularly criticized people who oppose his proposal to borrow much of the money to build and fix roads. Many lawmakers, especially Democrats, want more funding to come from increased taxes and less from loans.
A dream of the Paul Wellstone may be approaching congressional passage five years after the Minnesota senator died. U.S. senators last week approved a bill that prohibits health insurers from treating mental health patients different than those with physical illnesses. An organization founded after Wellstone's death in a plane crash, which normally trains potential political candidates, has been active on the issue and one of the late senator's sons testified for the measure on Capitol Hill. Wellstone's opponent in his last election, GOP Sen.
ST. PAUL - Minnesota's pioneering 32-year-old anti-smoking law gets a facelift Oct. 1. That is when the Freedom to Breathe Act takes effect, banning smoking from almost all indoor areas other than homes and private vehicles.
Minnesota's two U.S. senators and one from South Dakota are among those who want to borrow $50 billion to improve the country's transportation infrastructure. Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.; Norm Coleman, R-Minn; and John Thune, R-S.D., say their "Build America Bonds" plan is a one-time federal borrowing program that could create 2.5 million construction jobs and save lives. "The Build America Bonds Act is about generating economic growth, improving transportation infrastructure and, ultimately, saving lives through enhanced transportation safety without a tax increase," Thune said.
ST. PAUL - Those who support a gasoline tax increase say a State Fair survey shows Minnesotans as a whole do, too. "The poll demonstrates again that Minnesotans understand that when it comes to important issues like transportation, you get what you pay for," Rep. Al Juhnke, DFL-Willmar, said. "Because the gas tax is constitutionally dedicated to pay for roads and bridges, people know that money is going to be used to build better and safer roads and bridges." A House survey showed 58 percent of those polled would back a dime-a-gallon gas tax increase.
Five energy and environmental groups say building a coal-fired South Dakota power plant - and constructing new power lines in Minnesota - will cost more after a new Minnesota law took effect. A legal document filed by the groups opposing the Big Stone II plant said the new plant would impede Minnesota's mandate to reduce global warming emissions by 80 percent by the year 2050.
ST.PAUL - Minnesota's Democratic legislative leaders Tuesday dropped most of their wish list for a special session, and pleaded with Gov. Tim Pawlenty to call lawmakers back to St. Paul to only work on issues related to a Minneapolis bridge collapse and southeast Minnesota flooding. Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller and House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, both Minneapolis Democrats, sent Pawlenty a letter asking that the session convene next Tuesday and go no more than two days.
FALCON HEIGHTS, Minn.
ST. PAUL - The Interstate 35W bridge collapse may have shattered a logjam that long has prevented increased transportation funding. But those logs remain floating and still could sink what on the surface appears to be clear sailing for a transportation funding infusion. Questions about how to raise transportation money and how much to raise remain unanswered, and in a large part undiscussed since the Aug.