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 senators voted to chop public school budgets $273 per pupil Tuesday while opting to expand a program that pays teachers based on performance instead of seniority. Those on the winning side of the 37-29 vote were not happy to be cutting schools, but said a massive state budget deficit left them no choice. "This bill expects more from our educational system and gives them less resources to carry it out," said Sen. LeRoy Stumpf, DFL-Plummer, chairman of the Senate education finance committee. "There is no way to sugar coat this," Stumpf added.
ST. PAUL - Minnesota senators want to lift some mandates the state places on local governments, all in the name of saving money. Senators Monday gave the measure tentative approval on a voice vote, including doing away with long-standing truth-in-taxation hearings local governments are required to hold as a way to give citizens a chance to comment on their budgets. Instead, the bill requires local governments to notify citizens that they can appear at a regularly scheduled meeting during which local officials will consider future budgets. Sen.
ST. PAUL -- American Indian leaders fear their native languages are being lost, calling the situation a crisis. "When a person passes away, it is like a whole dictionary that is gone," Lillian Rice told a Minnesota House committee. A Native American's language, she added, "is the very sense of who we are. ... Without that, we are lost." Indian leaders are working to save languages, and now the Minnesota Legislature is considering helping the cause.
ST. PAUL -- Minnesota senators Thursday voted to end a long-time moratorium on nuclear-power plant construction. The long-divisive issue passed 42-24 as an amendment to an overall energy bill that later received tentative Senate approval. "Nuclear power is clean," Sen. Steve Dille, R-Dassel, said. "Nuclear power is good and we need to continue it." Dille said he was surprised that his amendment passed. But he was not confident the provision would remain after House-Senate negotiations on the overall energy bill.
ST. PAUL -- The governor would increase public school education funding 2.2 percent. Minnesota House leaders propose keeping education spending the next two years about the same as in the budget that ends on June 30. And on Wednesday Senate Democrats proposed cutting education funding 3.2 percent, setting up parameters for a school-funding debate that will share the spotlight with taxes and other issues as Minnesota legislators and Gov. Tim Pawlenty get down to serious budget-writing work in the coming weeks.
ST. PAUL - Cities can accept a large property tax reform bill, counties don't know what to think about it and non-profit organizations love it. And its chief author is optimistic that he can convince Gov. Tim Pawlenty to accept at least part of the measure. The bill written by Rep. Paul Marquart and others features a provision allowing Minnesota counties to institute a half-percent sales tax instead of raising property taxes.
ST. PAUL -- Minnesotans are fighting flood waters along the Red River and elsewhere while their lawmakers are fighting about the cost of preventing prevent future floods. The fight spilled over into other areas, too, as House leaders Monday introduced a much smaller public works bill than senators passed earlier this month. Rep. Alice Hausman, chairwoman of the House public works funding committee, said the proposal "is a taking-care-of-basics bill." The St.
ST. PAUL -- The Minnesota Legislature is looking for ways to help unemployed workers, a task made tougher given its own economic challenges. As the ranks of out-of-work Minnesotans swell, legislators say more should be done to assist people without a paycheck. "We're trying to do whatever we can to help people get through this downturn and get people back to work and get them back on the benefits they're used to," said Sen. David Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm.
ST. PAUL -- Minnesotans can use computers to find out that their governor's office spent $60 at Saint Agnes Baking Co. for "supplies." Dig a little deeper and a computer user can find it was for "food," but that's about it. Still, learning about the $60 expenditure to a firm that claims "there's nothing ordinary about Saint Agnes' bread" is more than Minnesotans could have done a couple of days ago. Gov. Tim Pawlenty Thursday announced launch of a new Transparency and Accountability Project for Minnesota Web site at www.mmb.state.mn.us/tap .
ST. PAUL - Students across Minnesota suffer bullying in school, a leading cause of suicide, say backers of a bill requiring schools to write new anti-bullying policies. The Senate education committee Tuesday approved the measure on a split voice vote telling schools to write policies prohibiting "harassment, bullying, intimidation and violence" related to a student's race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, disability, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age or physical characteristics.