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—Reworked legislation to place state inmates in a west-central Minnesota prison is advancing in the Legislature, but Gov. Mark Dayton remains strongly opposed to it. A House committee heard arguments on both sides of the issue Tuesday, March 21, and it is expected to be included in a public safety finance bill to be unveiled in coming days. If it passes the House, as likely, the prison provision will be subject to negotiations as a budget is written during the next two months.
ST. PAUL—Minnesota representatives have moved legislation that would require insurance companies to usually fund medicine a doctor prescribes. A bill by Rep. Rod Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake, would limit the power of benefit managers, who control costs for insurance companies, to deny prescriptions during an insurance policy's term. On an overwhelming voice vote, the House moved the bill out of the Commerce Committee, whose chairman would not give the bill a hearing. It now is in a more friendly health and human services committee.
ST. PAUL -- Minnesota lawmakers plan to figure out their state budget plans in the next two weeks. With that deadline in mind, House Republicans announced Monday, March 20, they want to cut taxes $1.35 billion in the next two years. Later in the day, Senate Republicans said they want to spend $3.6 billion for transportation over 10 years.
ST. PAUL—A northwestern Minnesota business, already a success story, wants tax breaks and state aid so it can add to its Thief River Falls facility and hire 1,000 more workers in the next decade. Digi-Key President Dave Doherty told a Senate jobs committee Wednesday, March 15, that the company never has asked for state help before, but in an interview said its $307 million expansion project is so complex that it needs the state to participate in three ways:
ST. PAUL — The 1,700-population community of Osakis could find itself paying $11 million in sewage treatment plant work, a cost one city official told Minnesota lawmakers the city cannot afford. If the facility is built, Osakis Public Works Superintendent Kurt Haakinson said, his $100,000 annual wastewater budget would balloon by $80,000 a month to pay off construction costs. And, he said, there would be "zero benefit to be gained on the city side."
WASHINGTON—U.S. Sen. Al Franken is asking President Donald Trump to take action to fight bird flu before it reaches Minnesota and other states. Franken, D-Minn., wrote a letter to Trump Tuesday, March 14, after reports that avian influenza has hit poultry producers in Wisconsin and Tennessee. He told Trump that a 2015 bird flu outbreak cost the Minnesota economy nearly $650 million. Turkey and chicken producers experienced deaths of about 9 million birds.
ST. PAUL—It is personal for Rod Hamilton. The Minnesota state representative, a multiple sclerosis patient for 20 years, cannot get a committee chairman to consider a bill he says will help people like him who depend on prescription medicine.
ST. PAUL—Thousands of Minnesotans play daily fantasy sports, but it is not clear whether the activity is legal. Bills in the Minnesota Legislature would list them legal as well as place regulations on operators of the games. "It puts important guardrails around the industry," Scott Ward told a House committee Thursday, March 9, before lawmakers passed it on to another panel. Ward, who represents fantasy sports juggernauts FanDuel and DraftKings, said 10 states have passed laws similar to what Minnesota lawmakers are considering.
ST. PAUL — A letter to the editor could lead to ethics charges against a Minnesota state senator. Sen. Kent Eken, D-Twin Valley, said on Thursday, March 9, that he is considering asking the Senate Ethics Committee to find that Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen violated rules that ban misleading or untrue comments about a colleague.
ST. PAUL—Minnesota's poultry industry is on high alert. This week marks the second anniversary of the beginning of a bird flu outbreak that ended with more than 9 million turkey and chicken deaths. Added to that, two American poultry operations are infected with bird flu. And to top it off, the 2017 weather is eerily similar to 2015. "It is starting to feel like two years ago," State Veterinarian Beth Thompson said Wednesday, March 8.