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 lawmakers found a few things they could agree on Tuesday as they began the 2008 legislative session by opening the last chapter of a decade-long outdoors program funding saga and honoring a Minnesota Nobel Prize winner. A House-Senate conference committee unanimously passed a proposed constitutional amendment to slightly raise the sales tax to fund outdoors, clean water and arts programs.
ST. PAUL -- Not much has changed in the nearly nine months since Minnesota lawmakers wrapped up their 2007 legislative session. One of the issues at the forefront of the 2008 session, which begins at noon today, is a prime example. Democrats plan to unveil a transportation funding plan that includes a higher gasoline tax and a Twin Cities-area sales tax increase. Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty twice vetoed transportation funding bills similar to the one Democrats plan to introduce today.
ST. PAUL - Minnesota Democrats say an $8.4 billion road and bridge funding package they wrote would provide jobs in addition to improving the state's transportation system. Sen. Steve Murphy, DFL-Red Wing, and Rep. Bernie Lieder, DFL-Crookston, announced the package this morning, hours before the 2008 legislative session was scheduled to begin at noon. Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party legislative leaders say they plan to pass the bill by month's end. The 10-year package would borrow $2.2 billion for state highways.
ST. PAUL - Barack Obama and Mitt Romney rode a desire for change in Washington as Minnesotans packed Tuesday precinct caucuses. Obama, an Illinois U.S. senator, maintained a nearly 2-to11 margin over New York U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton for most of the night. The two will split Minnesota's votes at the Democratic National Convention late this summer. Obama led Clinton 67 percent to 32 percent with 58 percent of the precincts reporting. Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, won a closer Republican contest.
ST. PAUL -- Ironically, Minnesota Republicans and Democrats moved their caucuses up to Tuesday in hopes of having more say in who wins the nomination. Minnesota's original March 4 caucuses date may end up being close to the time candidates receive enough delegates to win their parties' nominations. Minnesota is one of 22 states to hold primaries and caucuses Tuesday, a day variously known as Super Tuesday, Super Duper Tuesday and Tsunami Tuesday because it is expected to have a major impact on Republican and Democratic presidential races.
ST. PAUL -- Minnesota legislators will be trapped indoors for most of the next few months, but for many their minds will be outdoors. They will debate establishing a new state park, cleaning the state's water, limiting how many walleyes may be caught, whether to raise the sales tax to support outdoors programs and how to preserve forests. Like with most other issues, outdoors advocates realize there is not much money available this year - due to shrinking state revenues blamed on a sputtering economy. "This year we may be more focused on the regulation and the mandates," said Rep.
ST. PAUL -- Finding where to attend political caucuses should be easy for Minnesotans. Secretary of State Mark Ritchie's office launched an online caucus finder on its Web site, www.sos.state.mn.us . Democratic-Farmer-Labor and Republican party caucuses are scheduled for Feb. 5. Information for Green, Constitution and Independence party members also is on the site. The DFL and Republicans will vote for presidential candidates on Feb.
ST. PAUL -- State government should focus on helping unemployed workers, not trying to stimulate the economy for a short-term gain, one of the Upper Midwest's most prominent economists says. "I don't think our record to eliminate recessions is very good," Art Rolnick, senior vice president and director of research at the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank, said in an interview.
Minnesota voters will have more say about who runs for president this fall than ever. State branches of presidential campaigns are springing up in the wake of politically exciting caucuses in Iowa and a primary in New Hampshire. Most candidates will only fly over Minnesota en route to places like California and New York, states much richer in national convention delegates, but when Democrats and Republicans attend caucuses Feb.
ST. PAUL - A design error in the Minneapolis bridge that collapsed Aug. 1 prompted Minnesota officials to look at the original plans of 59 similar bridges. The $500,000 re-evaluation follows Tuesday's preliminary report blaming gusset plates that connect bridge beams for the Interstate 35W bridge collapse. Bridges Minnesota officials gave priority status for the re-evaluation include U.S. 63 over the Mississippi River at Red Wing, U.S. 61 over the Mississippi River at Hastings, and the Blatnik Bridge in Duluth.