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Capitol Chatter: Unified groups have clout

People often complain about what their elected officials do, or do not do, but the Catholic Advocacy Network is trying to drive home the point that Minnesotans in general have the real say in government.

"Many Catholics are experiencing a sense of political homelessness," the group said in an email. "Neither major political party seems to embrace a consistent ethic of life rooted in Gospel values. And if we let the presidential race color our view of politics, it can be easy to think there's no room for Catholics of principle in the public square."

Words like "Catholics" and "Gospel" can be replaced with other words for other interests. But the answer is the same, as the Catholic group says: "But we can change this dynamic. And it starts by making a difference where it matters most, in your own backyard."

While this particular group wants Catholic-favorable decisions, its argument can be applied elsewhere. With the entire state Legislature, all 201 seats, on the ballot this year, a unified organization can make a difference and "have a real impact on our state's political landscape."

"Minnesota Catholics can influence our state's political process not only by voting, but also by interacting with the candidates who are running for office prior to November's elections," the advocacy group tells voters. "These candidates are trying to earn your vote and represent you in the state Legislature. Connecting with them and letting them know what issues are important to you and Catholics across the state can help change the way our elected officials govern. ..."

Uniform GMO system praised

Agriculture groups are a happy bunch now that a genetically modified organism labeling bill is about to become law.

The House voted 306-117 to join senators in backing the bill that takes GMO labeling duties away from states. The bill, which President Barack Obama's spokesman said will be signed into law, establishes a weak labeling requirement that does not require food companies to specifically say the food product was genetically modified. Instead, it requires labels to let people know how they can find out.

"Science tells us that foods and ingredients from GE crops are safe to eat," U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., said on the House floor. "This technology allows farmers to protect natural resources and provide an abundant food supply. Unfortunately, there is a lot of public confusion around these issues, but labeling products is really more about marketing than any safety concerns."

Peterson said the legislation is needed to avoid each state setting its own labeling requirement.

Study eyes stadium bird deaths

The Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority announced it will study how many birds die when they fly into a massive west wall on the U.S. Bank Stadium.

A study will begin next spring, with results to be released two years later. The Audubon Society and other environmentalist groups complain that the wall of glass will kill many birds.

"Window collisions are one of the leading causes of bird mortality and they are largely preventable," Audubon Minnesota's Joanna Eckles said. "This study will help fill in gaps in our knowledge and continue to improve our ability to generate and promote solutions."

The facility authority agreed to reduce light use during spring and fall migration, which bird experts hope will reduce the number of birds that crash into the stadium.

Franken quoted nationally

U.S. Sen. Al Franken hit the news in a big way in recent days.

On Tuesday, the Minnesota Democrat wrote a letter about his concern that the new Pokemon GO smart phone game could endanger users' privacy.

He said that he is concerned that the game developer "may be unnecessarily collecting, using and sharing a wide range of users' personal information without their appropriate consent. I believe Americans have a fundamental right to privacy, and that right includes an individual's access to information, as well as the ability to make meaningful choices, about what data are being collected about them and how the data are being used."

Technical websites across the country picked up Franken's comments, as they have other things the senator has said about his belief that technology is eroding Americans' privacy.

Speaker can silence members

One of the most-discussed issues in the Capitol complex in recent days is that House Speaker Kurt Daudt has a button that can shut up fellow representatives.

MinnPost's Briana Bierschbach reported the Daudt this year, for the first time, has a "master mute" button he can push to turn off all members' microphones.

He used it at the end of the legislative session in May when there was a lot of loud discussion, then "the shouting abruptly stopped," Bierschbach wrote. "Then it started back up, until suddenly voices were cut off again, some midsentence."

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

Don Davis
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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