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 - 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.
ST. PAUL - Minnesota legislators may be about to expand a war. And for battles they can't wage themselves, they may seek aid from Washington. The House Game, Fish and Forestry Division Monday approved a resolution asking Congress to authorize war on viral hemorrhagic septicemia, a disease that apparently does not hurt humans but kills fish.
ST. PAUL - Minnesotans who think they can cure the state's case of continually increasing property taxes have an outlet for those thoughts. "We want ideas and solutions," said Rep.
ST. PAUL - U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann's "death grip" (as the New York Times called it) on President Bush last week drew national attention. "MN congresswoman can't keep her hand off Bush," one headline read. "How Not To Get Your Picture Taken with the President," said another.
ST. PAUL -- A Minnesota legislative proposal to help Duluth city officials cover a retirement benefits fund deficit could expand into one to help other local governments in similar positions. "We can use their bill as a vehicle to help us with our statewide problems," Rep. Gene Pelowski, DFL-Winona, said Wednesday after his government operations committee unanimously sent the Duluth measure to another panel. That's not what Duluth wants. It wants to solve its $309 million deficit soon. "There ought to be a bigger bill," Rep. Tom Huntley, DFL-Duluth, said.
ST. PAUL - Minnesota sportsmen, environmentalists and arts supporters say paying a penny, or a little more, on every $4 purchase is a good investment in their interests. Debate on a bill raising the sales tax to support those programs began Wednesday in a Minnesota Senate committee. In the Senate alone, five bills are being considered, although they could merge into one as early as next week. Two major questions must be answered: How much would taxes rise and what special interest groups would share in the bounty?
ST. PAUL - State and local government pension plans face $4 billion in deficits because they paid too rich benefits in good times, but did not cut them back in lean times, the Minnesota Legislative Auditor's Office reports. While Duluth has gained the most publicity on the issue, other cities and schools face similar problems keeping enough money to pay for retirement benefits Most of the problem is with health care provided retirees. One out of five local governments providing benefits beyond pensions faces financial problems, the audit indicates.