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Capitol Chatter: Governing by the letter

So it now is negotiation by letter.

The governor and various legislative leaders have taken to sending letters to each other, copying the media, instead of actually talking.

"I have received too many letters to respond to each one individually," Gov. Mark Dayton joked when he opened a Friday news conference. "I wanted to restate my position."

And that is what he did, adding little new to what he had said and written earlier in the week. But he did field questions from reporters who may not have had a chance to talk to him.

"I wanted to clarify my position," Dayton said, adding that he received three legislative leaders' letters Thursday alone.

"We can have a special session next Monday," the Democratic governor proclaimed, although it apparently had been days since he actually talked to Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt.

Daudt regularly said, and wrote, that he only would talk to Dayton about a special session after the governor took action on a tax bill that contained a $101 million mistake.

Daudt sent Dayton letters on Wednesday and Thursday. House Taxes Chairman Greg Davids and Senate Minority Leader David Hann sent letters Thursday.

A Thursday Daudt-to-Dayton letter illustrates the tone of the exchange:

"Thank you for your letter today. I would kindly ask you to re-read my letter from yesterday. I did not accuse you of holding tax relief for farmers, parents, students and small businesses hostage. I simply reminded you that those were your words, and I was letting you know I agree with your position."

Dayton said Friday that he was shut out of late-session negotiations last month, as Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk and Daudt did the talking, along with some of their key chairmen and aides.

While Dayton was not personally involved in the final talks, he now holds an advantage as lawmakers want a special session to approve $1 billion worth of construction projects, and to fix the tax bill.

Only a governor can call lawmakers into special session, so he has a list of demands of things—mostly new spending—that must pass a special session. If legislative leaders do not agree, he will not call a session, he said.

That list of demands came in a Wednesday letter to legislative leaders.

Vet cards OK

A military veteran identification card now can be used by Minnesota voters to register on election day.

Secretary of State Steve Simon made the announcement, saying that since a vet ID card does not contain an address, it must be accompanied with a proof of residence.

"We should be doing everything we can to make it as easy as possible for the men and women who have served our country to vote, and that's what we're doing today," Simon said. "In many cases, a veteran identification card may be the only form of current identification veterans may have in their possession."

Thompson new state vet

Dr. Beth Thompson took over as Minnesota state veterinarian and Board of Animal Health executive director Thursday.

Thompson was picked by the five-member board to succeed Dr. Bill Hartmann, who is retiring after leading the agency for 15 years. She has been with the board since 2008.

Davis covers Minnesota government and politics for Forum News Service. Read his blog at capitolchat.areavoices.com/ and follow him on Twitter at @CapitolChatter.

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