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 gentle harmonica concert by Rep. Bob Loonan did not provide quite enough calm late Thursday, May 25, as a relatively minor issue stalled the Minnesota Legislature's drive to finish passing the state budget. The second-term state lawmaker from Shakopee played his harmonica as lawmakers gathered for what they hoped was the third and last day of what was supposed to be a one-day session. But instead of harmonica calm, lawmakers heard a screech as work stopped over a Bloomington walking and biking trail.
ST. PAUL—The 2017 Legislature may do pretty well by greater Minnesota. "We got there because it was a bipartisan effort. both parties brought real strengths to the table," Deputy House Minority Leader Paul Marquart, D-Dilworth, said hours before a special session was to adjourn Wednesday morning. "I use the tax bill as an example."
ST. PAUL—Minnesota legislators missed their second deadline in two days Wednesday morning, May 24, leaving much of the state's $46 billion, two-year budget undone. And House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, mentioned the possibility that the special legislative session that was to end at 7 a.m. Wednesday could extend for days. Frustrated and tired legislators began shouting and had trouble communicating through the night.
ST. PAUL — Rural Republican lawmakers say Minnesota's governor is waging a war on agriculture. Many farm groups also object to some of Gov. Mark Dayton's stances, although may not use language that strong. A coalition of 18 farm groups and 10 county commissioners on Thursday, May 11, sent the governor and lawmakers a letter saying a Dayton clean water program, requiring plant buffers between cropland and water, needs to be delayed.
ST. PAUL — Work on the Minnesota state budget slowed Wednesday, May 10, to allow a senator to be with her dying father. House members pressed ahead, passing a tax-cut bill and another funding transportation. Budget negotiations between the Republican-controlled Legislature and Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton stopped after the GOP began pushing their budget bills to full House and Senate votes Tuesday.
ST. PAUL—Republicans who control the Minnesota Legislature are moving their budget plan over Democratic claims that their actions are illegal. And the governor said he would veto each of the 10 bills making up the GOP's $46 billion, two-year spending proposal. Budget talks among legislative leaders and Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton began late last week, and continued early Tuesday afternoon, May 9, but leaders put their budget legislation in front of lawmakers late afternoon with little notice.
ST. PAUL — Minnesota legislation to battle female genital mutilation now includes penalties requiring up to 20 years in prison and fines of up to $30,000. A bill offered by Rep. Mary Franson, R-Alexandria, on Monday, May 8, was amended to spell out higher penalties for the crime, starting at five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. The measure also would make parents liable for charges. The bill, which passed on a voice vote out of a House public safety committee, "makes penalties graduated based on level of harm," Rep. Debra Hilstrom, D-Brooklyn Center, said.
ST. PAUL — President Donald Trump nominated a Minnesota Supreme Court justice to a St. Louis-based federal appeals court. The White House announced that David Stras received the Trump nod Monday, May 8, for the appeals court in the Eighth Circuit, which hears cases for Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa and Arkansas. Before Trump was elected, Stras was reported to be on the short list of potential Supreme Court nominees. Instead, he is one of several apparently headed to the appeals court.
ST. PAUL—Minnesota senators are sending a pair of abortion restriction bills to the governor, who promises to veto them. A mostly Republican Senate majority voted Thursday, May 4, to require many abortion clinics to be licensed and to ban state funding for abortions. The House earlier passed the bills. "I oppose both of them," Gov. Mark Dayton said as the Senate began its debate, promising to veto both. Republicans have passed similar bills in the past, always meeting Democratic resistance.
ST. PAUL—Farhio Khalif brought a "hush hush" religious ritual often called female genital mutilation into the open, saying the procedure is very painful to girls and parents should know it is illegal. Khalif said she should know, because it happened to her as a child. "It is not our will as little girls," she said, but parents make the decision for their daughters to undergo what also is called female circumcision.