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.
- Member for
- 4 years 4 months
ST. PAUL — Minnesotans would get tax breaks for repaying college loans, owning farmland being taxed for new schools and paying childcare expenses if House Republicans get their way. GOP representatives announced on Wednesday, March 22, how they would divvy up $1.35 billion in tax cuts they promised earlier in the week. The tax breaks would take most of the projected $1.65 billion surplus in the two-year budget that begins July 1. Senate Republicans call for $900 million in tax cuts, while the governor wants $300 million.
ST. PAUL—There is no debate about a need to infuse money into Minnesota transportation projects, but plenty of division among the major players in how to get that money. Little has changed in the past three years. Republicans in control of the state House and Senate have updated their plans of the past two years to take money now going to other state programs to boost spending on roads and bridges, and borrowing other funds. Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton still wants to raise the gasoline tax for roads and bridges and a Twin Cities sales tax for transit.
ST. PAUL—Reworked legislation to place state inmates in a west-central Minnesota prison is advancing in the Legislature, but Gov. Mark Dayton remains strongly opposed to it. A House committee heard arguments on both sides of the issue Tuesday, March 21, and it is expected to be included in a public safety finance bill to be unveiled in coming days. If it passes the House, as likely, the prison provision will be subject to negotiations as a budget is written during the next two months.
ST. PAUL—Minnesota representatives have moved legislation that would require insurance companies to usually fund medicine a doctor prescribes. A bill by Rep. Rod Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake, would limit the power of benefit managers, who control costs for insurance companies, to deny prescriptions during an insurance policy's term. On an overwhelming voice vote, the House moved the bill out of the Commerce Committee, whose chairman would not give the bill a hearing. It now is in a more friendly health and human services committee.
ST. PAUL -- Minnesota lawmakers plan to figure out their state budget plans in the next two weeks. With that deadline in mind, House Republicans announced Monday, March 20, they want to cut taxes $1.35 billion in the next two years. Later in the day, Senate Republicans said they want to spend $3.6 billion for transportation over 10 years.
ST. PAUL—A northwestern Minnesota business, already a success story, wants tax breaks and state aid so it can add to its Thief River Falls facility and hire 1,000 more workers in the next decade. Digi-Key President Dave Doherty told a Senate jobs committee Wednesday, March 15, that the company never has asked for state help before, but in an interview said its $307 million expansion project is so complex that it needs the state to participate in three ways:
ST. PAUL — The 1,700-population community of Osakis could find itself paying $11 million in sewage treatment plant work, a cost one city official told Minnesota lawmakers the city cannot afford. If the facility is built, Osakis Public Works Superintendent Kurt Haakinson said, his $100,000 annual wastewater budget would balloon by $80,000 a month to pay off construction costs. And, he said, there would be "zero benefit to be gained on the city side."
WASHINGTON—U.S. Sen. Al Franken is asking President Donald Trump to take action to fight bird flu before it reaches Minnesota and other states. Franken, D-Minn., wrote a letter to Trump Tuesday, March 14, after reports that avian influenza has hit poultry producers in Wisconsin and Tennessee. He told Trump that a 2015 bird flu outbreak cost the Minnesota economy nearly $650 million. Turkey and chicken producers experienced deaths of about 9 million birds.
ST. PAUL—It is personal for Rod Hamilton. The Minnesota state representative, a multiple sclerosis patient for 20 years, cannot get a committee chairman to consider a bill he says will help people like him who depend on prescription medicine.
ST. PAUL—Thousands of Minnesotans play daily fantasy sports, but it is not clear whether the activity is legal. Bills in the Minnesota Legislature would list them legal as well as place regulations on operators of the games. "It puts important guardrails around the industry," Scott Ward told a House committee Thursday, March 9, before lawmakers passed it on to another panel. Ward, who represents fantasy sports juggernauts FanDuel and DraftKings, said 10 states have passed laws similar to what Minnesota lawmakers are considering.