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 remaining partners in a South Dakota coal-fired power plant that was to provide electricity to Upper Midwestern states announced Monday they were killing the project. Big Stone II participants were Central Minnesota Municipal Power Agency, Heartland Consumers Power District, Missouri River Energy Services and Montana-Dakota Utilities Co. Otter Tail Power Co., coordinator of the project, dropped out this summer. Environmentalists who fought the plant were happy with Monday's announcement.
ST. PAUL -- The news release begged the question: Why spend up to $40 million on roadway congestion relief in the Twin Cities and only up to $5 million on improving safety of rural roads, where 70 percent of traffic fatalities occur? It is a natural question from a reporter whose work goes to 20 newspapers outside the Twin Cities. "I knew you were going to ask that question, Don," Gov. Tim Pawlenty responded. The governor quickly moved to quell any hint of urban favoritism, saying transportation spending is pretty evenly divided between the Twin Cities and the rest of Minnesota.
ST. PAUL -- Relations between American Indian tribes and the federal government have turned around since Barack Obama became president, tribal leaders said Thursday night after a two-day St. Paul conference. "A breath of fresh air," Judge Theresa Pauley of the Colville Confederated Tribes in Washington state said about the Obama administration's pledge to work closer with American Indians and fulfill federal promises.
ST. PAUL -- Minnesota health officials confirmed two more deaths from H1N1 flu Wednesday as more schools report flu outbreaks and the number of people hospitalized continues to rise. While the Health Department will not provide specific identifications, the family of Oliver Franklin Finley, 11, of Hastings reported he died of H1N1. He had other health problems. Also, Mike Milbrath, 54, a south-central Minnesota hospital administrator who had no other health conditions died in Mankato.
ST. PAUL -- Minnesota transportation officials want more private companies to pay part of the construction bill for highway projects. Transportation Commissioner Tom Sorel Tuesday said his department is working on a formal method for the state and private companies to work together to fund projects such as interstate exchanges. Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Sorel's boss, ordered the Minnesota Department of Transportation to increase the use of public-private partnerships, which he called P3.
EAGAN -- If a product dreamed up by an 11-year-old boy and manufactured in a 900-population community known as the Moose Capital of the North can successfully be shipped around the world, other small Minnesota businesses could do the same. That was the message Monday from Glen Brazier, Mattracks founder and chief executive officer, to a couple hundred small business officials. At the top of the list of how to replicate his accomplishment: Use federal government programs designed to expand the country's exports.
ST. PAUL -- A darling of conservative media will not run for president in 2012. U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann waited until an Iowa newspaper asked before she took herself out of the race. "Goodness, I've only been in the House for three years, so, no, I'm not considering anything like that," the Minnesota Republican told the Sioux City Journal. Previously, she left the door open for a presidential campaign, saying she would run if God sent her a message.
ST. PAUL -- Flu-stricken Minnesotans are finding a shorter wait for medical advice when they call a state hotline. "The wait times have improved," Buddy Ferguson of the Minnesota Health Department said Friday afternoon. "Right now, it is looking like two to four hours for a nurse to get back to you." On Thursday, there were reports that Minnesota FluLine operators told callers they may not receive return calls for up to 13 hours. And many who called the line heard busy signals.
ST. PAUL -- It was a rough summer for Alyssa Courneya. The young Alexandria woman did not know where she would go to school this fall. Then, near the end of summer, she received the news she wanted to hear: A federal Pell college grant was headed her way, meaning she could continue her studies at the College of St. Scholastica instead of a bigger school in the same city (the University of Minnesota Duluth) or a technical school that would not give her the background she needs to become a doctor. "I jumped up and down and I ripped up my UMD application," Courneya said.
ST. PAUL -- Callers to Minnesota's new flu hotline reported no answers, busy signals and long waits today as the Health Department said three more people died from H1N1 flu. The deaths were in Martin, Steele and Freeborn counties, all in southern Minnesota. Two were children younger than 7, while the Martin County death was a woman in her early 60s. The three died within the past two weeks, but the department waited for medical confirmation that H1N1, also known as swine flu, was the cause. With today's report, 10 Minnesotans have died of the pandemic flu, with 611 others hospitalized.