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 - Legislators are close to making Minnesota the first state to endorse a compact to restrict use of Great Lakes water. On a voice vote, senators gave preliminary approval to the issue Monday, with a final vote expected Thursday. The House already overwhelmingly approved the compact and Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty is expected to sign the measure.
A statewide smoking ban could be headed for approval by the Legislature, but it won't get everyone's backing. "I highly doubt many (Iron) Rangers will be supporting the final bill," House Majority Leader Tony Sertich, DFL-Chisholm, said. Sertich was referring to his fellow Iron Range lawmakers, who may support a smoking ban that provides exemptions, such as for bars or private clubs. Bills being considered by the House and Senate don't include those exemptions. Sertich said he believes a statewide ban in public places will pass this year.
ST. PAUL - Minnesota forests could get a piece of the pie if legislators and voters approve raising sales taxes to fund outdoors and arts programs. A Senate committee on Wednesday decided to spend an estimated $25 million annually to buy or obtain easements on Northland forest land that private companies are ready to sell. It is the first time in the decade the tax proposal has been around the Capitol that forests were specifically included. However, the proposal has a long way to go.
ST. PAUL - Moorhead is a different city today in part due to state aid sent to five Red River Valley communities, Mayor Mark Voxland says. "We were losing businesses weekly," Voxland told a Senate committee Wednesday about the early-1980s. When a state aid program for five Red River Valley cities passed in the 1983, things began to change and those communities started to compete with North Dakota, he said. "It stopped the hemorrhaging to a great extent." Voxland said after years of Moorhead losing businesses and people, the population is beginning to rebound.
ST. PAUL - Many of Minnesota's 300-plus traffic accidents Tuesday morning - not to mention slow commutes - were due to the Pawlenty administration not adequately funding transportation, a key state senator says. Senate Transportation Chairman Steve Murphy, DFL-Red Wing, said roads were not cleared like they should be, blaming 290 property damage accidents and 48 that caused injuries on a shortage of money. He used the situation to renew a call for increasing the gasoline tax to better fund transportation. "We need new, real money," said Murphy, a frequent critic of Gov.
ST. PAUL - Minnesota's increasing wind energy emphasis could lead to 15,000 new jobs, a House committee heard Monday. Lynn Hinkle of the United Auto Workers suggested that the soon-to-be-closed St. Paul Ford Ranger pickup manufacturing facility become a wind turbine manufacturing plant. "For every one production job, there are 10 more (workers) standing behind those," Hinkle said, adding that Minnesotans from the Iron Range to southwestern Minnesota would benefit from a renewable energy expansion. "This is an opportunity of a lifetime," he said.
ST. PAUL - Opponents of a smoking ban charged supporters were "social engineers" who would hurt businesses - especially small, rural ones - but backers of a ban prevailed Thursday in the first legislative debate on the subject this year. After more than two hours of testimony and debate, the ban passed the Minnesota House Health and Human Services Committee on a surprisingly easy 12-6 vote. The bill would ban smoking in businesses such as bars and restaurants - including private clubs - much like it already is banned in public buildings.
ST. PAUL - Republicans fought a proposed multi-state compact designed to protect Great Lakes waters, saying it would give up too much Minnesota power, but the compact survived a Thursday Minnesota House vote. "This is a very, very troubled piece of legislation," Rep. Mark Olson, R-Big Lake, before the full House approved the measure 97-35 at the end of a two-hour-plus debate. Republicans tried to change the bill. But Rep. Tom Huntley, DFL-Duluth, said the proposed compact cannot be amended, so a vote to change it would kill it.
ST. PAUL - John Boughton's nursing home cannot compete when it comes to hiring nurses. For instance, his Kenyon Sunset Home paid one nurse $15 an hour less than she could earn in the nearby Twin Cities, and the Kenyon nursing home's health care coverage was far inferior, he told a House health committee Wednesday. This week, he started to offer a $2,000 signing bonus to replace the nurse, who quit after one day on the job. Boughton's testimony sounded like that from nursing home administrators in all rural areas.
ST. PAUL - Monte Bute grew up in the southwestern Minnesota town of Jackson, and didn't exactly have the best success there. He landed in what now is known as the Minnesota Correctional Facility-Red Wing, where the state sent juvenile delinquents.