ST. PAUL - State and local governmental decisions often are felt more than things happening in Washington, but not in recent days.
Minnesotans, especially rural ones, are focused on Congress, the White House and other locales in the country's capital. The farm bill, foreign trade, taxes and countless other issues have people worried, or at least curious, about what may happen out East.
One bit of good news out of Congress is that a $1.3 trillion federal budget contains a fix for the "grain glitch," a provision in the Republican tax law that gave farmers a strong fiscal incentive to sell products to cooperatives instead of businesses.
"Fixing the so-called 'grain glitch' 199A problem is simply an issue of fairness," federal Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said. "We should not be picking winners and losers through the federal tax code by favoring one side over another."
The secretary also praised a couple other parts of the budget bill: supporting broadband high-speed internet in rural areas and cutting some red tape for participating in conservation programs.
The 2,232-page budget legislation also increases money spent on opioid abuse, a problem prevalent in rural America where there are fewer resources for those who become addicted.
While saying there are good things in the bill, Minnesota Republican U.S. Reps. Jason Lewis and Tom Emmer said the bill simply spends too much. They could not vote for something that raises the national debt $143 billion.
Two things not in the budget measure are worrying rural residents.
One is President Donald Trump's desire to slap tariffs on good imported into the country. Those around northeastern Minnesota's Iron Range like his plan to put a 25 percent tariff on steel imports. Others back his plan to charge tariffs on Chinese products imported by the likes of Target (which says tariffs would raise prices in its stores).
But famers and others in the agriculture community are worried that the tariffs will launch a trade war, and countries forced to pay tariffs no longer will buy American products. Much of the Minnesota ag industry depends on exports.
The Washington news source Politico reports that China wants to put its own tariffs on American projects, with pork one of them.
The other federal issue is the farm bill. That is legislation Congress writes every few years governing farm programs as well as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program aid for poor families (it used to be called food stamps).
Republicans want to restrict food stamps, but lawmakers like U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota say that without aid like that it would be hard or impossible to get urban support that is needed to pass the farm bill.
Daudt run unlikely
House Speaker Kurt Daudt tells Forum News Service that he is leaning toward remaining in the state House.
"As of right now, I am staying where I am," he said.
The Crown Republican has looked at a governor's race, but said that is not likely, especially if former Gov. Tim Pawlenty gets in, as expected. He also discounted a run for the U.S. House to replace retiring Rick Nolan.
"I never had a huge desire to go to Congress," Daudt said.
Pence to Minnesota
Vice President Mike Pence plans visits to North Dakota and Minnesota.
He is to be in Fargo Tuesday, March 27, and Minneapolis the next day. Taxes will be on his mind, particularly the Republican-written tax cut that recently became law.
President Brian Walsh of America First Policies says Pence will be at the Minneapolis Convention Center for a 9:30 a.m. appearance.
Free tickets to the Minneapolis appearance are at www.americafirstpolicies.org/events/minneapolis-mn. Fargo tickets for his 2 p.m. Tuesday appearance are at www.americafirstpolicies.org/events/fargo-nd.
Familiar names on court list
A governor usually appoints people to the state Supreme Court who few around the state know, but Gov. Mark Dayton could name someone who has been in the news. A lot.
Former House Speaker Paul Thissen and ex-Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson are by far the best known among four names on a list of potential justices released by the Commission on Judicial Selection. While Dayton does not have to pick one of the four people, he often has praised the commission and sticks with its suggestions.
Thissen has been a state representative and was speaker for two years beginning in 2013 and was minority leader for two years before and after that tenure. He was running for governor, but pulled out of that race.
Jesson is an Appeals Court judge now, but in her time as human services commissioner she often earned Dayton's praise for saving the money in running the state's biggest department.
Also on the list are Ramsey County District Judge Jeffrey Bryan and Chief Tax Court Judge Bradford Delapena.