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Capitol Chatter: Bachmann looking ahead

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Don Davis

Forum News Service

ST. PAUL —The most colorful member of Minnesota’s congressional delegation does not sound like she is retiring.

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Republican U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann’s column looking back at 2013 and ahead to 2014 reads all the world like someone running for re-election, thanking folks around her district from the northern and eastern Twin Cities suburbs to St. Cloud.

Looking ahead, the tea party favorite took on her favorite target: President Barack Obama’s health care law.

“Obamacare’s numerous failures and broken promises also took center stage (in 2013), and my bill to repeal the president’s health care law passed the House in May,” she wrote. “With each passing day, the Obamacare train wreck keeps unraveling, and we must continue fighting to scrap this government takeover and replace it with patient-centered, market-oriented solutions.”

She mentions that she is not seeking re-election, but adds: “I am committed to working harder than ever this year to represent the great people of Minnesota’s 6th District and help create a better future for our children and grandchildren.”

Speculation is that Bachmann will land a job such as a Fox News Channel commentator, but it only is speculation. She also could earn good money making speeches to conservative groups around the country or she could launch another presidential campaign.

In any case, her column did nothing to convince readers that she is stepping away from the spotlight.

Smartphone ‘kill’ switch?

Stolen or lost smartphones could be rendered inoperable under a bill to be introduced in the Minnesota House.

State Rep. Joe Atkins, D-Inver Grove Heights, said California and New York lawmakers also are considering such smartphone “kill switch” legislation.

“Smartphone theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in Minnesota and across the country, and these crimes are becoming increasingly violent,” Atkins said. “We cannot continue to ignore the availability of existing technology to stop cellphone thieves in their tracks. It is time to act on this growing and violent threat to Minnesotans.”

The Federal Communications Commission reports that nearly one in three robberies in the country involve a telephone theft.

A well-publicized Minnesota robbery occurred a couple of weeks ago when Minneapolis politician Mark Andrew was beaten when he fought a phone thief at Mall of America.

Illegal Campaign help

A Republican Minnesota senator says campaign practices later determined to be against the law helped Democrats take the Senate majority away from the GOP.

Sen. Scott Newman of Hutchinson wrote that the 2012 illegal activities occurred in 13 Senate races that were considered close, and Democrats won 11 of them.

The state campaign finance organization found that an independent Democratic Senate committee improperly worked with the candidates and it leveled $100,000 in penalties.

Newman said that the improper activities helped Democrats.

“A success ratio of 85 percent in close elections is a distinct anomaly that I believe directly correlates to the Senate DFL caucus and its candidates having employed the win-by-any-means mantra, even if it requires cheating,” he said.

Democrats have denied any wrongdoing, but said they accepted the state penalty so they could move on.

Newman said the issue is important because for Republicans to have held the majority in the 2012 election, they would have needed to win six of the 13 contested races.

“While there is no way to definitively state the outcome if the DFL caucus and candidates would have conducted their campaigns in a fair, legal and honorable manner, it is not beyond speculation that had they done so, today Minnesota would not have the travesty that is MNsure, the government oppression that forcibly created day care unionization or the onerous weight of $2 billion in new taxes, none of which would have ever passed with a majority held by the Republicans in the Senate,” Newman said.

Broadband gets attention

Broadband, otherwise known as high-speed Internet service, is getting attention around Minnesota.

State Sen. Matt Schmit, D-Red Wing, continues an effort he calls “Border to Border Broadband Tour” that he started last year. He is travelling greater Minnesota to gather input about broadband.

“Minnesota has spent the past decade talking about the importance of broadband access,” the senator said. “We’ve formed three separate governor’s task forces, we’ve established speed goals and we’ve identified policy recommendations. There’s been a lot of talk, but very little action.”

Schmit said statewide broadband investments “aren’t keeping pace and we’re lagging increasingly behind the curve.”

He has a dozen meetings planned in all parts of the state this month.

Fellow Sen. Lyle Koenen, D-Clara City, has traveled with Schmit and agreed that high-speed Internet needs improving.

“What I and other senators have heard from these conversations is that the price of doing business now includes the cost of broadband,” Koenen said. “When broadband is simply not available, rural businesses are at a severe disadvantage, and businesses aren’t the only stakeholders. Doctors and patients, high school students and college students alike all can benefit from increased information when broadband is readily available.”

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Don Davis
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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