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—Republican Minnesota lawmakers want a law requiring able-bodied Medicaid recipients to work. They said the bill they unveiled Monday, March 12, would not force disabled people or those who need to stay home to care for a dependent to give up Medicaid, known in Minnesota as Medical Assistance. Rep. Kelly Fenton, R-Woodbury, said her bill would "lift Minnesotans out of poverty by encouraging them to get work." If they do not have jobs, they would be required to look for work or be enrolled in a job-training program.
ST. PAUL—Minnesotans know farmers are upset about state-mandated buffers next to water, but that is nothing compared to what many rural legislators are hearing about state regulation of highway ditch mowing.
ST. PAUL—It's a safe bet that few Minnesotans knew about fake service animals until recently. Some national news about people trying to take what they call service animals onto airplanes attracted attention, followed by Minnesota legislative hearings in which people who use service dogs told lawmakers that untrained dogs other owners pass off as "service dogs" distract trained animals and force people who manage buildings to think their real service dogs could cause trouble.
ST. PAUL—Jessica Goodwin was holding her 1-year-old in a Lifetime Fitness Center last November with her four other children next to her and husband not far away when a "man walked up behind me and fully groped my buttocks." The Columbia Heights, Minn., woman talked to managers at the fitness center and police, only to learn the man's action was perfectly legal. She also learned that four other women said he groped them the same day, she said in written testimony given to Minnesota state senators.
ST. PAUL — A state office that exists to protect vulnerable Minnesotans, such as those in nursing homes, is dysfunctional and fails to safeguard people in its charge, a watchdog agency reports. The Office of Legislative Auditor issued one of its most critical reports ever on Tuesday, March 6. Legislative Auditor James Nobles called it "a serious problem in state government." Nobles and Deputy Legislative Auditor Judy Randall told of poor Health Department management, lost case files, lengthy delays and failure to communicate with vulnerable people.
ST. PAUL—Minnesota state government's aging computer systems' problems could be a common issue unless the information technology agency steps up its game. Legislators frequently bring up that prospect as they discuss the problem-filled Minnesota License and Registration System. Lawmakers from both parties say MNLARS is a disaster, with Republicans often also mentioning the ill-fated rollout of MNsure a few years back.
ST. PAUL — Minnesota's state budget has flipped from being in deficit to surplus, but the added money is less than legislative leaders expected. Minnesota Management and Budget, the state finance agency, projects a $329 million surplus for the current $46 billion budget, which ends July 1, 2019. However, Minnesota legislative leaders told a Forum News Service forum two weeks ago that they expected a surplus of $600 million to $1 billion.
ST. PAUL — Some Minnesota lawmakers say they can be more effective in fighting childhood hunger if they regularly meet with organizations in and out of government who deal with the situation. So state Reps. Rod Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake, and Erin Maye Quade, D-Apple Valley, launched the Child Hunger Caucus. "We cannot allow childhood hunger to continue to be a silent issue," Maye Quade said.
ST. PAUL—A couple of businesses are moving to Windom, a 4,646-population community in southwest Minnesota, but the mayor there worries that the city cannot handle much more growth. The limiting factor may be the city's need for a new sewage treatment plant to meet state and federal guidelines. Mayor Dominic Jones, who in his private life is director of the Red Rock Rural Water District, said the mandated sewage plant would cost $15 million if it could be built now, but the city cannot afford it.
ST. PAUL—The University of Minnesota wants the state to help fund routine repairs and for the first time in years is not seeking new buildings. "There are no new bright shiny projects in this," university President Eric Kaler said Wednesday, Feb. 21, about the school's public works funding requests. "We want to renew what we have." With buildings across the state that combined are about the same size of five Mall of Americas, Kaler said many facilities are more than 50 years old and built in times when students and professors had different needs.