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—Minnesota legislators express nearly universal agreement that state roads and bridges need an infusion of money, but a deep divide about where to get the funds prevented action the last two years. The same disagreement exists as the 2017 legislative session begins, leaving in question whether anything significant and long term will be accomplished in transportation. Minnesota's roads face an estimated $16 billion funding gap over the next 20 years, according to calculations from the state Department of Transportation.
ST. PAUL — High-level Minnesota state negotiations just are not working. As they tried to strike a special session deal — or tried not to, some say — the two key players continually could not agree on what they had agreed to. They could not agree if the other person had returned calls. They debated by letters and through the media instead of sitting down face to face. Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt used to say they liked each other. Now they all but call each other a liar.
ST. PAUL — The state entity that owns the new U.S. Bank Stadium is moving in the right direction in banning free luxury suite tickets for its officials' family and friends in Gov. Mark Dayton's view. "I think it is a very responsible way to resolve the matter," he said Tuesday, Dec. 13, after the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority announced it is working on a revised policy following Minneapolis Star Tribune stories revealing family and friends of authority officials received free access to a pair of luxury boxes.
WASHINGTON — Keith Ellison confirmed Wednesday, Dec. 7, that he would resign from the U.S. House if he is elected chairman of the Democratic National Committee. The Minneapolis Democrat earlier had said he has the energy to remain a congressman while running the party. In recent days, however, he backed down from that and on Wednesday released a statement saying that he would quit his congressional job if elected.
ST. PAUL—Minnesotans will be able to treat post-traumatic stress disorder with medical marijuana beginning next year. State Health Commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger announced the addition on Thursday, Dec. 1, along with saying that he will allow topical applications of the drug, such as in patches and lotions.
ST. PAUL—Soaring insurance premiums apparently jolted Minnesotans into seeking federal aid to pay for their policies. The state's health insurance marketplace, MNsure, announced on Tuesday, Nov. 29, that the number of Minnesotans getting financial aid for 2017 policies tripled over this year. Rural Minnesotans especially benefit from the aid, which comes from the federal government, MNsure Allison O'Toole said in a Forum News Service interview.
WASHINGTON—Many American farmers are thankful today for an Obama administration decision to boost the amount of renewable fuels, such as made from corn and soybeans, in the country's gasoline and diesel supply. The Wednesday, Nov. 23 announcement was a turnaround for the Environmental Protection Agency, which earlier planned to require less renewable fuel to be mixed with gas and diesel.
ST. PAUL—Turkey talk turned thoughtful Monday, Nov. 21, as a hunger fighter said she worries about feeding Minnesotans. Colleen Moriarty of Hunger Solutions Minnesota said the number of people in the state using food shelves has reached an all-time high, and now she is concerned about discussion in Washington to remove funding from Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps. "I am very worried," she said during the governor's office annual ceremony denoting Thanksgiving week and honoring the state's 450 turkey farmers.
ST. PAUL—Chronically ill Minnesotans are driving up health insurance premiums so much that state officials are rushing to deal with the problem. Commerce Department officials on Monday, Nov. 14, told a task force studying how to contain soaring health insurance costs that 2.2 percent of people who bought individual policies last year caused 50 percent of claims. That forced up prices for healthier people. As the task force looks at ways to reduce insurance costs, the Commerce Department advice was that any solution has to address that disparity.
ST. PAUL—Minnesotans looking to buy new Medica individual insurance policies, but have not already made the purchase for 2017, are out of luck. The state Commerce Department announced early Friday, Nov. 11, that Medica of Wisconsin and Medica Insurance Co. reached a cap on the number of new policies they are willing to sell. That means for most of the state, the companies stop selling policies to people who are not already customers.