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 - The Minnesota legislative session could come to a smooth end if the Democratic-controlled Legislature and Republican governor could agree on a way to raise $1 billion. There is no sign that is about to happen. On Tuesday night, the costliest spending bills and revenue to fund them remained stumbling blocks to ending this year's session by Monday's constitutional deadline. But legislative leaders were determined to finish the outstanding budget bills - even without Gov. Tim Pawlenty's acceptance - and vote on them in what promises to be a marathon session today.
ST. PAUL -- Rep. Paul Marquart told fellow House-Senate tax negotiators that Jackson County, Minn., was named after territorial legislator Henry Jackson. "That's valuable information," Sen. Tom Bakk deadpanned, before informing the committee: "I spent a summer working for St. Louis County looking for old monuments." It is not exactly the conversation expected a week before the state constitution requires the year's legislative session to end -- at a time when lawmakers still must solve a $4.6 billion deficit as they write a $33 billion, two-year budget.
ST. PAUL -- Annette and Brian Swanson's son has been missing for almost a year, but on Thursday they paused from their search to watch a ceremony designed to help other Minnesotans. The couple and their daughter, Jamine, unsuccessfully held back tears as Gov. Tim Pawlenty signed a bill forcing law enforcement agencies to quickly act on reports of missing young adults. "This is a bittersweet moment for us," Annette Swanson said.
ST. PAUL -- Some American Indians threaten to stop efforts to build a pair of northern Minnesota oil pipelines. Native American activist Clyde Bellecourt on Wednesday said Indian pipeline opponents "definitely" will attempt to block construction any way they can. "We have our rights..." said Bellecourt, an American Indian Movement founder, "particularly when it is going to pollute our land." Environmentalists and Indian efforts to derail the pipeline project have failed to stop construction so far as Minnesota utility regulators and the courts have rejected their claims.
ST. PAUL - The House gave final passage to Brandon's Law, a bill requiring faster police response when young adults go missing. The measure passed 131-0 Tuesday, sending it to the governor, who is expected to sign it. Rep. Marty Seifert, R-Marshall, promoted the bill after one of his constituents, Brandon Swanson, disappeared. The bill requires law enforcement officers to take missing persons reports immediately and begin an investigation when there are circumstances that indicate the person may be in danger. Davis works for Forum Communications Co., which owns the Daily Globe.
ST. PAUL -- Minnesota's economic development programs fall victim to the state budget deficit. "We cut, we cut, we cut," Rep. Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia, said. "We can't create jobs when we are cutting, but we did the best that we could. ... I wish I had a lot better bill, but I had to cut." The Senate voted to cut economic development funding 38-28 Monday night. The House did the same on Tuesday, 74-57. In both cases, some majority Democrats joined Republicans in opposing the measure.
ST. PAUL -- Minnesota economic development takes a $21 million hit in a year when the economy itself is taking its biggest hit in 50 years. The Senate voted to cut economic development funding 38-28 Monday night. The House is expected to follow suit today. A House-Senate compromise funding proposal cuts state economic development funds from $284 million being spent in the current budget to $263 million in the two-year budget starting July 1. Included in the cuts are state and regional arts programs, Minnesota Historical Society, housing programs and tourism.
ST. PAUL -- The Minnesota Senate and House needed little time to approve a $4.3 billion transportation funding compromise. The Monday votes keep transportation just below current spending, and do not cut State Patrol operations. The House approved the measure 103-30; senators followed with a 63-4 tally House Minority Leader Marty Seifert, R-Marshall, said he expects Gov. Tim Pawlenty to sign the measure. "This transportation bill squarely addresses the difficult economic times we are facing in Minnesota," said Rep. Bernie Lieder, DFL-Crookston, House transportation finance chairman.
ST. PAUL - If Tuesday paints a picture of how the 2009 legislative session will end, it won't be pretty. An exchange between legislative leaders and a key Pawlenty administration official Tuesday morning was as tense of an exchange as seen in the Capitol this year. And things got worse a few hours later in the House chamber. Republicans shouted down the Democratic speaker when she ruled that time had expired on a transportation debate, with two GOP amendments not yet heard.
ST. PAUL - Negotiators assigned the task of funding public works projects across Minnesota have a common problem - money. The House and Senate don't agree on how much to spend, and Gov. Tim Pawlenty said both want to spend too much. The public works funding measure - commonly known as the bonding bill - was supposed to be wrapped up early this legislative session, but the dispute dragged on Monday when a House-Senate conference committee brought Commissioner Tom Hanson of Minnesota Management and Budget into a meeting to discuss the situation.