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Capitol Chatter: Wellstone would have been ‘so proud’ of marriage ruling

State Rep. Pat Garofalo of Farmington says on Thursday that businesses around Minnesota are putting decisions on hold over a tax to begin next year on warehouses. Don Davis | Forum News Service

ST. PAUL — U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone seldom took votes he later regretted, but his sons said that he would have liked to change one in 1996 to outlaw gay marriage.

Dave and Mark Wellstone told followers of the Wellstone Action political education organization that in 2001 their father wrote: "What troubles me is that I may not have cast the right vote on DOMA. When Sheila and I attended a Minnesota memorial service for Matthew Shepard, I thought to myself, ‘Have I taken a position that contributed to a climate of hatred?’ "

Shepard was a young Wyoming man who was tortured and killed, apparently because he was gay.

"Dad would be so proud," the two wrote in response to the U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning that law Wellstone supported.

The senator died in a 2002 northeastern Minnesota plane crash, and Wellstone Action formed in its aftermath to train candidates and other political activists in the Wellstone campaign method.

The sons said the gay marriage issue changed because of what they call the Wellstone triangle: "Sustained change happens only when grassroots organizing, electoral politics and public policy are combined to build a movement."

Last minute or not?

Republican state representatives who want a special legislative session to overturn a new tax say it popped up at the last minute.

Democrats say otherwise.

The debate is about the warehouse tax due to take effect next April. It is a tax on money businesses pay to store their goods.

Reps. Tim Kelly, R-Red Wing, and Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, said the provision was dropped on lawmakers just before they adjourned for the year in May. But Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton suggested the idea back in January with an extensive sales tax change that he later dropped.

A House Democratic spokesman said he does not know how long the issue was debated, but it came up on Feb. 27, March 1, April 11, April 23, April 29 and during several days in May.

Democrats say there is plenty of time to overturn or change the warehouse tax, if needed, before April. Lawmakers come back into session Feb. 25.

Dayton, the only person who can call a special session, rejected the idea.

However, Republicans say the decision needs to be made now because the pending tax is causing businesses to wait on making plans. And, they say, it could cause some businesses to opt to build warehouses in nearby states that do not charge the tax.

No path forward

Washington Capitol Hill news organizations report there was no progress on a new farm bill before Congress began its Independence Day break Friday.

Politico reports that House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, was upset over the farm bill collapse a week earlier.

The bill had been negotiated between House Agriculture Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., and Rep. Collin Peterson of western Minnesota, the top-ranking ag Democrat. But Peterson lost votes he expected from fellow Democrats when Republicans began tacking on amendments.

The bill would fund five years of farm and nutrition programs.

Klobuchar again

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s name continues to be tossed around as a presidential contender.

The National Journal is the most recent publication to mention the Minnesota Democrat’s possibility.

"Every now and then, Sen. Amy Klobuchar gets mentioned alongside potential 2016 presidential contenders like Martin O’Malley or Andrew Cuomo," the Journal reported. "But, given her workload, maybe we should be mentioning her more often."

The Journal says the former Hennepin County attorney now in her second Senate term "has been busy fundraising for fellow Democrats, using email pitches and event appearances to boost other candidates and her own political capital. ... If the time does come for Klobuchar to run for president, she’ll have plenty of friends in high places who remember her fundraising help."

Nearly two dozen candidates and state Democratic Party appearances and email pitches were documented, including a couple in Iowa. The Hawkeye state, of course, holds the first presidential caucuses, and Klobuchar raised some eyebrows when she addressed its delegation at last year’s Democratic National Convention.

Klobuchar several times has been mentioned as a possible presidential candidate, and others say she could end up on the Supreme Court.

Two out of race

A pair of state representatives who considered running for secretary of state are out.

Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, wrote on Facebook on June 4, the day Mark Ritchie announced he would not seek a third secretary of state term, that he might run.

"I am very interested in running for secretary of state and ask for your thoughts and prayers in the days ahead," he wrote.

Later, he decided against it.

"Rest assured that there are many ways to stay in active in the public debate, and I plan on doing exactly that," he wrote on Facebook.

Many missed his second post and did not realize he was out of the race.

"I didn’t even tweet it," the prolific tweeter said.

The second one out before he was in, another frequent tweeter, is Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley.

The Bemidji native got a lot of flak the other day when he called U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas "Uncle Thomas."

The comment came in a tweet after the court ruled in a voting rights case. He said the decision was made by "four accomplices to race discrimination and one Uncle Thomas."

That set off a social media exchange with some labeling the Winkler comments as racist.

Winkler said he had decided against pursuing the secretary of state office before the dust-up.

A Minnesota Packer?

Steward Mills wears his hair long, opposes abortion and strongly supports gun rights, but his political weakness as he gets into the 8th Congressional District race may be the fact that he is a Green Bay Packer fan.

City Pages newspaper, with the help of a Democratic source, found pictures of Mills wearing Packer colors at a Vikings game.

The vice president of family-owned Mills Fleet Farm stores is a Republican running against first-term U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan, a Democrat, in the northeast and east-central Minnesota district.

New ag leader

Perry Aasness is taking over as Minnesota Agri-Growth Council executive director.

He is leaving as Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation executive director to take the new job. He also has been deputy state agriculture commissioner and state executive director of the Farm Service Agency.

Aasness, his wife and three children live in Woodbury, but he continues to work on and manage his family farm near Fergus Falls.

The Agri-Growth council is a group meant to provide leadership to the state’s diverse agriculture industry.

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.