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 — Jessie Diggins won a historic Olympic medal on Feb. 21, and Minnesota's leaders gave her a hero's welcome when she visited the "people's house." Diggins, from Afton, landed back in Minnesota for the first time since she won the first Olympic medal of any American woman cross-country skier and hours later was in the Capitol on Thursday, April 12. Holding her medal next to her face, she said: "I am here to celebrate this and cross country skiing in Minnesota."
ST. PAUL—The mummified monkey mystery may remain unsolved. On Thursday, April 12, two potential answers surfaced to how the remains of a monkey got in the 116-year-old former Dayton's department store building in downtown Minneapolis. Gov. Mark Dayton, who worked at his family's store in the summer of 1968, told reporters that the store put together a rainforest display with monkeys and birds to attract customers. However, he said, "somebody did not figure out that monkeys were carnivores. I won't get into graphic details."
ST. PAUL — A wealthy Minnesotan who signed up for food stamps to prove people could get them even if they did not need assistance should be ashamed of himself, Gov. Mark Dayton said. "He finagled the system," Dayton said Thursday, April 12, about Rob Undersander of Waite Park, who says he is a millionaire and took food stamps for 19 months to make a point. "How easy it is? He's a smart guy, a millionaire, he obviously figured out. I mean, one person can game the system."
ST. PAUL—Millionaire Rob Undersander sat at a Minnesota House witness stand saying he received food stamps for 19 months to prove a point: Not everyone who gets the aid needs it. Democratic legislators did not like his Wednesday, April 11, testimony, particularly Rep. John Considine, D-Mankato. "You knew this was wrong and you did it anyway," Considine said while staring at Undersander. "I find it pretty despicable. .... I am just sorry there is no way we can prosecute you."
ST. PAUL—Minnesota's lieutenant governor, who says her main job is state senator, is being sued a second time for holding both positions. A constituent of Sen. Michelle Fischbach, R-Paynesville, filed suit, saying the state Constitution clearly says that one person cannot hold offices in two branches of government. The lieutenant governor is in the executive branch with the governor, while a senator serves in the legislative branch as one of 201 lawmakers. Fischbach is Senate president.
ST. PAUL — Mexicans eat nearly $23 million worth of Minnesota turkey products a year, and Canadians consume about half that. The two United States neighbors and Hong Kong are, by far, the major importers of Minnesota turkey. At the same time, Canada sells $364 million of wood to Minnesota and Mexico collects $365 million from Minnesotans for electrical machinery. The state has strong economic connections with Canada and Mexico, with a large variety of goods going back and forth across the borders.
ST. PAUL — Tensions have ramped up in the past couple of years between law enforcement officers and some communities they serve. Some states have passed laws meant to discourage attacks on police and many in the Minnesota Legislature want to join them. Legislation awaits action by the full House; a similar bill has not been considered by any Senate committee.
ST. PAUL—No one argues about one aspect of a proposed change to the Minnesota Constitution. "If it goes forward, it will affect every single person in Minnesota," Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, said about his proposal to dedicate sales tax revenue collected on vehicle parts and repairs to road and bridge programs. The two sides argue how the proposal would affect Minnesotans. Newman says the amendment, which would go in front of the public at the Nov. 6 general election, would help all Minnesotans.
ST. PAUL—The Minnesota Legislature has left the building. Lawmakers started their traditional Easter-Passover break on Good Friday, set to return on April 9 with a lot left to do. Most of the record 8,207 bills they introduced last year and this year never will even see a committee hearing (last year's bills remain available for action this year). But in the time left before the May 21 mandatory adjournment date, lawmakers will be busy.
ST. PAUL—Shauna Reitmeier sat at a Minnesota Senate committee table telling lawmakers the bill they were considering would hurt mentally ill patients she serves. Sitting inches to her right Thursday, March 29, was Sen. Mark Johnson, author of the bill she pleaded that senators defeat. It would require some able-bodied people to work if they receive government-funded health care.