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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The Minnesota Environmental Partnership, a coalition of more than 80 groups, set its sights high for the 2008 legislative session, a year most everyone agrees will produce little new money for programs. Atop the partnership's agenda is passage of a proposed constitutional amendment to increase sales tax slightly, with the new money going to outdoors and arts programs. It also wants legislation to lower pollution and to require cleaner-burning cars and more use of home-grown fuels. The group also calls for more transit and outdoors funding. The 2008 Legislature, which begins Feb.
ST. PAUL - The Minnesota biodiesel industry is in the slow lane. "Things have kind of slowed down," the University of Minnesota's Doug Tiffany said. "The excitement of ethanol has had has not been shared with biodiesel." Corn-based ethanol is part of the reason biodiesel hit a rough patch. Farmers last year put more acres into corn to feed the booming ethanol market, taking land away from soybeans. That, in turn, cut the soybean supply and helped force soybean oil prices to soar.
ST. PAUL - Opponents are attacking Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty's pet rural economic development program as being too secretive. The Job Opportunity Building Zones concept that gives big tax breaks to some new and expanding rural businesses does not allow the public to see tax benefits received by individual companies. "Access to information about spending increases the public's trust in government," according to a report from the Democratic-leading Growth and Justice think tank. "For that reason alone, tax incentives should be transparent to the broad population of tax payers.
ST. PAUL - Gov. Tim Pawlenty is on the offensive about a legislative investigation into the Aug. 1 Minneapolis bridge collapse. "I think, frankly, that somebody's concerned that somebody else's conclusion doesn't fit into their story line," Pawlenty said. The GOP governor said he would not name names, but it was clear he referred to Sen. Steve Murphy, DFL-Red Wing, who last week claimed the federal bridge investigation is being tainted because its investigators are working with a private firm the state hired to run its own investigation.
ST. PAUL - All state highway bridges have been inspected since the Aug. 1 Minneapolis bridge collapse, missing by three weeks Gov. Tim Pawlenty's deadline. Seventeen of more than 4,000 bridges needed repairs or other actions after the inspections, Minnesota Department of Transportation officials said Friday. Pawlenty originally said he wanted all 13,026 Minnesota bridges to be inspected. However, he has no authority to order inspections for most local bridges, so that duty was left up to counties.
ST. PAUL - Solo the one-eared bear received a Christmas present of life. "We are going to give the black bear a reprieve, a pardon," Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty announced on his weekly Friday radio show. "It is a good pre-Christmas, pre-holiday announcement. State Department of Natural Resources officials had considered putting Solo down because she had become too friendly with people, which could be dangerous. But now state officials say she will live out her life in a wildlife sanctuary, but no decision about where to send the bear family will be made until next week.
ST. PAUL - Those behind a nationally recognized program helping smooth soldiers' return from combat on Wednesday earned honors from the state. "None of it happens without a team of hundreds or even thousands," Gov. Tim Pawlenty said before pinning awards on 22 civilians and military personnel. Minnesota's "Beyond the Yellow Ribbon" campaign has become "the national standard for troops returning from war," Gen. Joe Kelly said during a Wednesday ceremony. Major John Morris of Afton, the Minnesota National Guard's No.
ST. PAUL - A Minneapolis-based law firm will lead what is described as a Watergate-like investigation into the Minnesota Department of Transportation. "We need people who are highly skilled in the art of extracting information," Sen. Steve Murphy, DFL-Red Wing, told the Senate Rules Committee Wednesday before it voted along party lines to approve the request. The committee gave $250,000 to the probe, which will be added to a like amount from the House. The $500,000 will go to Gray Plant Mooty law firm, which once employed Democratic Sen.
A Minnesota Senate committee will have the specific task of looking into immigration issues. Sen. Ann Rest's State and Local Government Operations and Oversight Committee will take on those responsibilities, which previously did not fall under any committee chairman's jurisdiction. "Policies that concern the daily lives of immigrants to Minnesota seem to be an appropriate addition to the committee's jurisdiction," said Rest, a New Hope Democrat. "Overall reform of U. S.