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Capitol Chatter: Voter photo ID law faces court challenge

ST. PAUL -- A law Republicans in Minnesota and other states badly want faces a Wisconsin court challenge. Requiring voters to produce photographic identifications before voting is a fundamental Republican principle nationwide these days, but the ...

ST. PAUL -- A law Republicans in Minnesota and other states badly want faces a Wisconsin court challenge.

Requiring voters to produce photographic identifications before voting is a fundamental Republican principle nationwide these days, but the League of Women Voters has sued to stop the Wisconsin law. It is to become effective in 2012, although it was tested during legislative recall elections this year.

Minnesota Republicans failed to get their version of the proposal into law, mostly due to opposition from Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton, but are talking about asking voters to put the concept into the state Constitution.

Minnesota Republicans want the measure in the Constitution, where courts or future legislatures cannot simply overturn it as they could a law.

Reaction was mixed when Wisconsin elections officials tried out the photo ID concept during the recall elections. In some places, lines moved fine. But elsewhere there were reports of delays and fears that there will be even longer waits during bigger elections, such as next year's presidential vote.


Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker spearheaded the ID law and said that it only makes sense since the state already requires an identification to obtain a library card, cold medicine and other goods and services.

"I will continue to implement common sense reforms that protect the electoral process and increase citizens' confidence in the results of our elections," Walker said.

The League of Women Voters counters that the state Constitution only bars children, felons and the mentally incompetent from voting, but is silent about requiring photo IDs.

Opponents of the concept argue that minorities, elderly, disabled and poor people often do not have photos IDs, so Republicans would make voting more difficult for them.

Carp move north

A new test shows Asian carp appear to be moving north on the Mississippi River, which could threaten waters in most of northern Minnesota.

Water samples in the Twin Cities tested positive for genetic material from silver carp, one variety of Asian carp. That indicates the carp likely are in the area, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Recourses.

Similar DNA traces have been found in the St. Croix River between Minnesota and Wisconsin. The St. Croix joins the Mississippi near Hastings, Minn.


Tim Schlagenhaft, a Mississippi River biologist, said the tests are sensitive and usually indicate fish are in the area. "In other states where DNA testing has resulted in positive samples, the fish have proven very difficult to subsequently capture, and we expect this to the case in the Mississippi River if the fish are in present in low numbers."

"These eDNA results are like a smoke alarm blaring," said Superintendent Paul Labovitz of Mississippi National River and Recreation Area in the Twin Cities area. "Until we find the source, we have to assume there is a fire. We have to assume Asian carp are here."

Experts fear that the invading carp, which eat so much that little food is left for native species, will move up the Mississippi into streams throughout northern Minnesota.

The Legislature and Gov. Mark Dayton earlier this year agreed to spend $16 million to update a dam in the northwestern Twin Cities to prevent carp from going north, but that work is far from being completed.

Environmentalists blamed

State Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, blames environmentalists for a delay in the state allowing mining companies to explore under some northeastern Minnesota lands.

"The environmentalists, I think, are behind this because they want to slow down any type of mining up there," said Ingebrigtsen, Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee chairman.

Gov. Mark Dayton led the all-Democratic Executive Council recently in voting to delay for six months considering a proposal to allow mining companies to explore land with state mineral rights in northeastern Minnesota, including under private property.


It was the second delay this year.

Dayton and Secretary of State Mark Ritchie said too many people are unaware of state laws and regulations that allow the state to own mineral rights under people's homes and cabins.

The proposal the council delayed only would give mining companies the right to see if minerals are present. It would not be a mining permit.

The dispute comes at a time when mining companies want to see if copper and other valuable minerals are in plentiful supply in the Ely and Isabella areas.

The so-called nonferrous mining could be a boon for the area, Ingebrigtsen said, comparing it to the current North Dakota oil boom.

Humphrey named

Hubert "Skip" Humphrey III will be assistant director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's new Office for Older Americans.

Humphrey, son of the late vice president, will be in an office that helps senior citizens deal with finances, protects the elderly against deceptive businesses and deals with other similar matters.


"His advocacy for Minnesota's consumers in his time as attorney general and his history of hard work on behalf of our nation's seniors have given him the skills necessary to run this important new office," U.S. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., said.

Humphrey was a state senator, attorney general and president of the Minnesota chapter of the American Association for Retired Persons. He is on the national AARP Board of Directors.

Unemployment down

Minnesota's unemployment rate dropped a bit in September, to 6.9 percent, after a July 7.2 percent mark.

It is well below the national 9.1 percent unemployment number.

The number of jobs fell by 7,400 jobs last month while in the past year state businesses added 27,700 jobs.

"Minnesota is slowly pulling out of the recession, gaining 53,600 jobs over the past two years," said Commissioner Mark Phillips of the Department of Employment and Economic Development. "Declining requests for new unemployment insurance claims, strength in the temp help sector and other positive data are hopeful signs that the recovery will continue."

Pawlenty works


Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty wanted multiple jobs, and now has two board of director positions.

In the past few days, Miromatrix Medical Inc. of Eden Prairie, Minn., and RedPrairie of suburban Atlanta announced he will serve on their boards.

GOPers for gay marriage

Minnesota state Reps. Tim Kelly of Red Wing and John Kriesel of Cottage Grove are not keeping quiet their opposition to a proposed constitutional amendment promoted by fellow Republicans that would ban gay marriages.

Kelly and Kriesel, who voted against putting the amendment on the 2012 general election ballot, said Republicans should focus on "reducing government regulation and removing burdensome taxes for entrepreneurs and employers. This amendment does nothing to solve our jobs crisis to rein in the power of government in our lives."

Businesses will find it harder to hire workers if gay marriages are banned, they said.

State law already defines marriage as between a man and a woman, but amendment supporters say they fear a law could be easily overturned by a court or future lawmakers, unlike a constitutional amendment.

Wind backed


U.S. Sen. Al Franken wants to give tax credits to people constructing small wind-power projects.

The Minnesota Democrat co-sponsors a congressional bill to provide those tax breaks that he said could especially help rural communities.

"Locally owned wind projects are an important part of our nation's energy future and they're a great investment for rural communities in Minnesota because their profits go right back to farmers and members of rural communities," Franken said. "Unfortunately, these projects often have difficulty getting financing. This legislation would make it easier for community wind projects to get up and running and help communities all over Minnesota and all over the country invest in the future."

Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.

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