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 — A former Olympic hockey player led the Minnesota Senate Monday, Feb. 27, in honoring the U.S. gold medal curling team. State Sen. David Tomassoni, D-Chisholm, and his colleagues gave Team Shuster a standing ovation. John Shuster, the skip of the team, learned how to curl a half block from Tomassoni's home, and Shuster's father and Tomassoni graduated together from Chisholm high school. "This is really a special gold medal, not only for Chisholm, but for the United States and myself," said Tomassoni, a player on Italy's 1984 Olympic hockey team.
ST. PAUL—States across the country want to update their sexual misconduct rules after lawmakers, including in Minnesota, have been forced out of office. "We have seen an unprecedented amount of attention to this topic," Jon Griffin of the National Conference of State Legislatures said on Monday, Feb. 26, to a Minnesota House committee established to set up new rules in the next three months. Monday was the first meeting of the committee, which expects to prepare recommendations for how sexual misconduct is handled by the time lawmakers adjourn for the year on May 21.
ST. PAUL — Some Minnesota lawmakers say they can be more effective in fighting childhood hunger if they regularly meet with organizations in and out of government who deal with the situation. So state Reps. Rod Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake, and Erin Maye Quade, D-Apple Valley, launched the Child Hunger Caucus. "We cannot allow childhood hunger to continue to be a silent issue," Maye Quade said.
ST. PAUL — Minnesota legislators wasted little time appropriating funds so they can remain in business. The House passed the budget 77-50 Thursday night, Feb. 22, the third day of the 2018 legislative session, with the Senate following 38-28. The budget replaces one Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed in late May. He signed the state's $46 billion, two-year budget into law, except for $164 million that funded the Legislature. Included in the legislative budget is legislator pay, staff wages, rent and other expenses.
ST. PAUL—An anti-gun violence rally scheduled before last week's Florida school shooting packed more than 1,000 young and old Minnesotans into the state Capitol Thursday, Feb. 22, encouraging lawmakers who work under the dome to enact legislation to keep guns out of the hands of people who should not have them. Sen. Ron Latz, D-St. Louis Park, gave an example of what he sees as a problem: A store clerk job applicant may undergo a criminal background check, but not all gun buyers do.
ST. PAUL—A couple of businesses are moving to Windom, a 4,646-population community in southwest Minnesota, but the mayor there worries that the city cannot handle much more growth. The limiting factor may be the city's need for a new sewage treatment plant to meet state and federal guidelines. Mayor Dominic Jones, who in his private life is director of the Red Rock Rural Water District, said the mandated sewage plant would cost $15 million if it could be built now, but the city cannot afford it.
ST. PAUL—The University of Minnesota wants the state to help fund routine repairs and for the first time in years is not seeking new buildings. "There are no new bright shiny projects in this," university President Eric Kaler said Wednesday, Feb. 21, about the school's public works funding requests. "We want to renew what we have." With buildings across the state that combined are about the same size of five Mall of Americas, Kaler said many facilities are more than 50 years old and built in times when students and professors had different needs.
ST. PAUL — The chance of winning a special election, and thus taking control of the Minnesota Senate, will be a major factor as Democrats decide if and when to sue the Senate president, who also is lieutenant governor. On the first day of the 2018 legislative session Tuesday, Feb. 20, one senator protested the fact that Michelle Fischbach, R-Paynesville, remains in the Senate after she automatically became lieutenant governor when that job opened. No formal action was taken against Fischbach.
ST. PAUL — Karla Bigham says she will work with people of both parties as she begins her term in Minnesota's closely divided state Senate. The Cottage Grove Democrat took the oath of office as senator Tuesday, Feb. 20, an hour before the Legislature convened for 2018. The special election she won last week kept Democrats just one vote behind Republicans, 34-33. Bigham said voters in a Feb. 12 special election sent the message that they want a bipartisan senator.
ST. PAUL — Wellstone Action has trained thousands of "progressive" candidates and campaign workers, and claimed to have helped 1,000 get elected. Their website describes the group's mission: "Founded to carry forward the work of Paul and Sheila Wellstone, we arm progressives with the strategies and skills to win. We develop political leaders. We strengthen movement organizations. We ignite change." In 2012, the group's then-executive director, Ben Goldfarb, told Forum News Service that the late U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone's name was a key.