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 — Minnesota's state budget has flipped from being in deficit to surplus, but the added money is less than legislative leaders expected. Minnesota Management and Budget, the state finance agency, projects a $329 million surplus for the current $46 billion budget, which ends July 1, 2019. However, Minnesota legislative leaders told a Forum News Service forum two weeks ago that they expected a surplus of $600 million to $1 billion.
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—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—Ice seems simple enough: Get water cold enough and it freezes. True, but the science of ice is much more complex, especially when it is in real world bodies of water. Scientists agree on a couple of things: No ice is fully safe and the thickness, and thus safety, of ice can vary greatly in a very short distance.
ST. PAUL — The 2018 Minnesota Legislature opens at noon Tuesday, Feb. 20, and there are plenty of questions about what topics might be debated. A few things are given:
ST. PAUL—Joel Schaberg can be forgiven if shivers go through his body when he thinks back to that early December 2017 day. "We got sick of waiting for the lakes to freeze over," Schaberg recalled about an early-season ice-fishing adventure. "It felt safe and it was shallow, so if you fell in it was no big deal." But Forest Lake, in a Minnesota town of the same name, was not ready for ice anglers, as he and a friend discovered. They thought they were ready, knowing the dangers. They did not just walk onto the lake, but used kayaks instead.
ST. PAUL — Last week's precinct caucus governor straw poll has taken its second victim: former St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman. "I am grateful for the support and encouragement I have received," the Democrat said Monday, Feb. 12. "So, it is with a heavy heart that I announce today the suspension of my campaign for governor of Minnesota." State Rep. Paul Thissen of Minneapolis dropped out of the race the day after the Feb. 6 caucuses.
ST. PAUL—Rebecca Otto won the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party's straw poll for governor in the 8th Congressional District. Three days later, U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan announced he would not seek re-election. There could be a thread connecting the two. The 8th is a massive district, stretching from Canada to the northern Twin Cities suburbs, covering northeastern, north central and east central Minnesota.