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 - House Democrats support retaining Minnesota's main rural economic development program and even would start a similar one aimed at farmers. A Democratic-Farmer-Laborite proposal keeps the Job Opportunity Building Zones mostly intact, except for a provision designed to stop businesses from moving from one Minnesota community to another. Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty wanted to extend JOBZ, which gives expanding and new rural businesses a variety of tax breaks. Senators voted to kill the program. The House bill introduces a new program, FARMZ, that Rep.
ST. PAUL - The Taxpayers League of Minnesota plans to spend tens of millions of dollars to tell Minnesotans that Democrats want to raise taxes. "Hopefully, the ad campaign will generate hundreds of calls and e-mails to legislators about their liberal tax and spend agenda," league President Phil Krinkie said. The league's "Liberalism 101" campaign with billboards, newspaper and other types of advertising follows a fund-raising effort by Republican Gov.
ST. PAUL - Nuclear power plants either are the answer to the country's power and environmental problems or they create worse problems. That is the range of opinions Minnesota legislators face as they consider whether to alter state laws dealing with nuclear plants. While a Senate committee held meetings on the matter this week and the House energy chairman promises hearings before lawmakers adjourn on May 21, it is not clear whether anything actually will happen this year. Sen. Steve Murphy, DFL-Red Wing, has two bills that would lift a Minnesota moratorium on building new nuclear plants.
Minnesota's minimum wage increases under a bill that received preliminary approval Wednesday in the Senate. On a 40-23 vote, senators approved an increase for both large and small employers. Businesses with annual sales of $625,000 would have to pay workers at least $7.75 per hour by August 2008. Smaller firms would be required to pay workers at least $6.75 an hour by that time. Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, called the bill "another job-killing bill brought to you by the Senate Democrats." "I don't want to lose this great economy," he said. "But we're working in that direction."
ST. PAUL - Minnesota representatives struggle through marathon sessions passing budget bills this week and senators give final passage to more than 60 bills a day during what could be the most hectic week of the 2007 legislative session. The House faces a Saturday deadline to pass bills funding state programs. It spent 10 hours debating an environmental spending bill Tuesday afternoon into Wednesday morning. Then it turned to a public safety bill that took nearly four hours, ending at 5:30 a.m.
Minnesota shoppers who buy some gift cards would be protected under a bill passed Wednesday in the Senate. The bill, authored by Sen. Katie Sieben, DFL-Cottage Grove, eliminates expiration dates and service fees on gift cards not issued by federal banks. "I urge the governor to listen to Minnesota consumers and sign this legislation into law when it reaches his desk," Sieben said of the bill, which passed 43-16 in the Senate. A similar bill awaits a floor vote in the House.
Western Minnesota will receive more than $11 million of agriculture federal funds for conservation programs, U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson says. The Detroit Lakes Democrat said the funds will be used to install conservation practices on farms in his 7th Congressional District. "Being such good stewards, it is important that they (farmers) have the financial and technical assistance needed to maintain the profitability of their farming operations and at the same time protecting our environment and supporting sustainable rural communities," Peterson said.
ST. PAUL - Minnesota policymakers earlier this year decided 25 percent of the state's electricity should come from renewable sources, but now the movement is expanding to include motor vehicle fuel and other energy sources. Part of an agriculture funding bill the House passed 131-2 Tuesday would put that requirement into law. For instance, it would require 25 percent of fuel used in cars to be made from renewable sources such as plant-based ethanol by 2025. The mandate is in a $91 million appropriation for state agriculture programs in the two-year budget beginning July 1.
ST. PAUL - Hired hands may not be able to smoke in farm buildings if Minnesota lawmakers adopt a statewide smoking ban. "This seems to be more overreaching than people think," House Minority Leader Marty Seifert, R-Marshall, said during a Monday committee hearing. Seifert and Rep. Torrey Westrom, R-Elbow Lake, said they fear farmers would have to enforce the smoking ban. "Do we want a big brother government making decisions for them?" Westrom asked. Bill author Rep.