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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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.
ST. PAUL — Molly O'Neill loves being back home, even though her home lacks running water. It is just that with $500 monthly college loan payments, she said that she cannot afford plumbing in her Lutsen home in far northeastern Minnesota. "This is a problem that is not going away in the foreseeable future," she told members of a Senate committee Tuesday, May 7, with the possibility of paying off loans until she is 48, which is 15 years distant.
ST. PAUL—The Republican-controlled Minnesota Legislature appears ready to ban bag bans. A House committee last week voted 10-7 to stop ordinances such as Minneapolis has enacted and some Duluth residents want that stop stores from putting customers' purchases in plastic bags. A Senate committee on Tuesday, March 7, heard arguments for and against the idea, laying legislation over for potential inclusion in an overall environment bill.
ST. PAUL—The Minnesota House wants to overhaul how U.S. Bank Stadium is governed. Representatives voted 122-7 Monday night, March 6, to change how board members who oversee the stadium are appointed and bans free use of stadium suites by family and friends of board members. "It was touted as a people's stadium, today we are returning it to the people," bill author Rep. Sara Anderson, R-Plymouth, said.
ST. PAUL -- Minnesota students, no doubt, think they are tested too often, and now the state legislative auditor says those concerns should be studied further The state Education Department "should gather information from school districts and charter schools on the local costs and impacts of administering state-mandated tests, and use these data to inform policy decisions," the Monday, March 6, report concluded.
ST. PAUL—U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions' Russia problems became big news the past few days thanks to Sen. Al Franken. The Minnesota Democrat asked Sessions about the Donald Trump presidential campaign's ties to Russia. Since Sessions was close to the campaign, Franken thought it a legitimate question as senators weighed whether to approve Sessions to be attorney general.