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 - There is a political buzz this fall unlike any ever heard around Minnesota. Fourteen months before the next election, the state's political establishment is talking about the governor's race, talk that started the afternoon of June 2 when Tim Pawlenty announced he would not run for a third term. In a packed room just off his office, Pawlenty said the decision came early so others could get into the race. They did. Potential Republican candidates' names began to emerge as soon as Pawlenty was done speaking.
ST. PAUL -- The Minnesota House Capitol Investment Committee has started its tour of potential public works projects. A similar Senate committee also is making such a tour, looking over an expected $3 billion in requests to fund items ranging from new passenger rail lines to fixing college buildings' roofs. The House committee chairwoman said such public works projects, funded by the state selling bonds, will help create jobs. "Jumpstarting Minnesota's economy remains our highest priority in both the short and long term," Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, said.
ST. PAUL -- It was a strange Minnesota State Fair this year, politically at least. There generally is not much political activity in a non-election year, like 2009. But with a couple dozen candidates in or getting ready to jump into the 2010 governor's race, many were interested in getting face time with fair-goers. Candidates and potential candidates found plenty of reasons to be at the fair. Lt. Gov. Carol Molnau was one of them, although the farmer always spends a lot of time there.
FALCON HEIGHTS -- Two Minnesota state commissioners put on their best wild west sheriff impersonations, complete with cowboy hats, to show how to prevent flu from spreading. Lt. Gov.
FALCON HEIGHTS -- Minnesota 4-H officials sent 120 youths to their homes across the state from the State Fair today after some came down with the H1N1 flu. Four 4-H members and one staffer early today were confirmed as having the new flu. In all, 14 4-H'ers went home sick, but not all were tested to confirm whether their illnesses were of the flu that is affecting youths around the world. About 120 4-H members were sent home because they stayed in a fair dormitory with those who became ill. None of the ill 4-H members and one staffer are thought to be seriously ill.
ST. PAUL -- Minnesota's biggest anti-tax group bought billboard space to promote its cause to people headed to Minnesota's biggest get-together. The Taxpayers League of Minnesota bought billboards along streets leading to the state fairgrounds. "Our first billboards highlight Minnesota Speaker of the House Margaret Anderson-Kelliher and her efforts to raise taxes by $1.5 billion dollars," league President Phil Krinkie said. The billboards proclaim: "She thinks you're not paying enough in taxes." It refers to bills that would have raised taxes $1.5 billion.
FALCON HEIGHTS -- Most Minnesota State Fair visitors smile, but Laura Olson beamed. Olson stood outside a glass-enclosed, refrigerated booth containing one of her three daughters and a sculptor. It was a first-day-of-the-fair tradition Thursday, sculpting in a 90-pound butter block the likeness of Princess Kay of the Milky Way. For the Olsons, the fair itself is a tradition.
ST. PAUL - Gov. Tim Pawlenty has asked federal authorities to help the pork industry, mostly encouraging them to work out better international trade deals. The Minnesota Republican stopped short of what nine of his colleagues, including those from Iowa and Wisconsin, asked: increasing spending on pork for federal community programs. His office said he preferred to send his own letter, so he turned down an invitation to sign their letter. Pawlenty told U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack that pork is a $4 billion industry to Minnesota, supporting more than 55,000 jobs.
ST. PAUL -- Minnesota leaders are bracing for a fiscal fallout as federal policymakers debate health-care reform proposals costing $1 trillion. Most state governments, including Minnesota, faced huge deficits as they wrote new budgets this year. If major new federal health-care programs are implemented, it appears the states will be responsible for paying for a wide range of items, such as unemployment insurance for workers laid off due to higher employer health costs and running new health programs.
ST. PAUL -- Don't plan to attend a health-care reform meeting with U.S. Reps. Tim Walz and John Kline standing side by side. Kline's office questions the real reason for the Walz invitation for a joint public meeting. "That we received his invitation on the same day it was released to the press leads me to question if there was ever a good faith intent on Mr. Walz's behalf," Kline spokesman Troy Young said. "Frankly, it sounds like a publicity stunt." But Walz Press Secretary Sara Severs said the southern Minnesota congressman truly wanted the joint meetings.