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Capitol Chatter: Broadband not a top 2017 topic

A new report says $100 million in state money is needed every two years to help expand broadband high-speed internet throughout Minnesota, but rural lawmakers have said relatively little about it leading up to the 2017 Legislature.

In a series of Forum News Service lawmaker interviews before the session, none brought up the issue. When asked, rural legislators said more state aid is needed, but there was a feeling that the issue is less of a priority than in past years.

Getting enough money to expand broadband will be tough, "given the fact that there are other issues that get more attention," Sen. Kent Eken, D-Twin Valley, said when asked.

The senator said that broadband is not a high priority for the general public when compared to improving roads and spending money on other issues.

"In some of our rural communities, you don't know what you are missing if you don't have it," he said.

A governor's task force recommends a range of actions, including establishing a legislative cyber security commission, requiring housing funded with public money to have broadband cabling installed, setting up computer donation programs for people who cannot afford them and subsidizing broadband service for low-income households.

"The recommendations in our report will continue to move us closer to the border-to-border broadband access we need to succeed now and into the future," task force Chairwoman Margaret Anderson Kelliher said.

Klobuchar in the news

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar has been featured in stories from Oklahoma City to England, on National Public Radio and CNN, in the past few days.

Just after saying she will run for a third Senate term, the Minnesota Democrat headed to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Georgia and Montenegro with Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, both Republicans. There, the trio assured the countries along the western Russian border that the United States will continue to stand beside them and while near Russia they took the chance to criticize alleged computer attacks during the presidential campaign.

Before flying overseas, The New Yorker published a story putting her at the top of the list of "13 women who should think about running for president in 2020."

The publication called Klobuchar "popular, practical, appealing, progressive."

It added: "Picture her, for a moment, on a debate stage with Donald Trump, cheerfully taking him down. Why shouldn't she beat him?"

Also in recent days, Klobuchar put out a news release touting her success in passing more than 30 bills with Republicans in the past year.

"As we head into the new Congress, I'm committed to finding common ground and working on solutions to our toughest challenges: from reducing prescription drug costs and improving infrastructure to bolstering rural America and reforming campaign finance laws," she said.

Sieben pick 'disappointing'

Rep. Dan Fabian, R-Roseau, says he is not happy that Gov. Mark Dayton picked a fellow Twin Cities Democrat to join the state Public Utilities Commission.

Dayton named retiring Sen. Katie Sieben of Cottage Grove to the commission, which Fabian said continues to give the Twin Cities power in the regulatory body.

"It's very disappointing to me and the people I represent that once again Gov. Dayton has declined to appoint a greater Minnesota voice to serve on the Public Utilities Commission," Fabian said.

Fabian said the five commissioners live an average of 17 miles from the Capitol. He lives 356 miles away.

"There are zero who live north of the seven-county metro, and the lone member outside metro lives less than 45 miles south of St. Paul," he said.

Trio of governors

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown stopped by for a holiday coffee with Dayton, allowing two of the three governors raised in Minnesota to get to know each other better.

The third governor is Jack Dalrymple of North Dakota, who was born in Minneapolis and graduated from Blake School there, as did Dayton.

Brown, the first openly bisexual person elected governor in any state, was born in Spain but raised in Minnesota. She graduated from Mounds View High School in Arden Hills.

She became governor early in 2015, replacing John Kitzhaber when he resigned amid controversy.

So for most of 2015 and 2016, three people raised in Minnesota governed states.

Dayton and Dalrymple knew each other at Blake private school. They also played Yale University hockey at the same time.

Baby, it's cold outside

Klobuchar checked in with Forum News Service from Riga, Latvia, while on a trip dealing with tensions between several small countries and Russia.

When asked about the weather, she replied: "It is dark most of the time now," adding, "It is not as cold as North Dakota, but it is cold."

Let's tweet this out

Just in case anyone thought Dayton plans to run for president after his second term ends early in 2019, he says that won't happen.

"Proof positive that I don't plan to run for president is I don't tweet," he said, although he does post to Facebook now and then.

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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