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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Contractors handed the new Minnesota Vikings stadium over to the state Friday, six weeks earlier than planned. Construction of U.S. Bank Stadium is considered "substantially complete," so main contractor Mortenson Construction gave the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority a large key during the state board's June meeting. The symbolic handoff means all but some detail work is completed on the $1.1 billion stadium. Mortenson had planned to turn it over July 29.
The big question politicos discuss these days is how a Hillary Clinton-Donald Trump presidential race would affect races such as for the state Legislature. The answer, of course, is that nobody knows, especially given the fact that the two are pretty unpopular. On Minnesota Public Radio on Friday, House Speaker Kurt Daudt said Republican polling shows expected GOP nominee Trump leads Democratic candidate Clinton in rural Minnesota. So if Trump sweeps rural Minnesota, does that mean rural districts will follow for Republicans?
Minnesota legislators introduced 7,763 bills in the 2015-2016 legislative period, most of which went nowhere. Here is a look at some of the bills that passed or did not pass this year, including some still awaiting Gov. Mark Dayton's approval. Animal trusts: Minnesotans will be able to put money away in trusts so after they die there will be money to care for pets. Autocycles: Law allows operators of a new type of three-wheel motorcycle that drives like a car to only need a car driver's license, not one for motorcycles.
Minnesota drug overdose deaths have jumped four-fold since 2000, the Minnesota Health Department reported Friday as state legislators made attempts to slow the increase. Opioid pain relievers such as Vicodin, OxyContin, Percocet, morphine and codeine have become the drugs most associated with overdose deaths, the department said. Of 572 overdose deaths last year (compared to 129 in 2000), 216 were from opioids. More than half of the deaths were associated with prescription drugs rather than illegal street drugs.
House and Senate leaders are far apart about how much to spend on public works projects. Nearly $1 billion apart. Minnesota Democratic senators Monday unveiled a plan to borrow money for $1.5 billion for public works projects, things such as finishing the project of bringing water to southwestern Minnesota, fixing state buildings and constructing water treatment projects in small rural communities.
Minnesota lawmakers do more than legislate; they also sometimes ask people to investigate, and they want to see those reports. Such is the case in a couple of recent issues: a state worker who seemingly emailed opposition to a northern Minnesota oil pipeline and a Commerce Department official accused of improperly ordering destruction of documents.
Warning bells figuratively clanged Friday when a Minnesota state Senate committee held its first hearing on new legislation to force railroads to release more information about hazardous materials they haul. Even some Republicans who generally support railroads warned that railroads need to work better with public safety officials.
A Minnesota Senate committee supported a pilot project for vehicles that drive themselves, but on the same day Reuters news service reported that things are not going well for some of the vehicles in California. "Volvo's North American CEO, Lex Kerssemakers, lost his cool as the automaker's semi-autonomous prototype sporadically refused to drive itself during a press event at the Los Angeles Auto Show," Reuters reported. "'It can't find the lane markings!' Kerssemakers griped to Mayor Eric Garcetti, who was at the wheel. 'You need to paint the bloody roads here!'"
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton wants to increase education spending $77 million in the next year, mostly for his plan to offer classes for four-year-olds. But there is a catch. Many school officials say they are running out of room, especially after lawmakers last year passed a Dayton proposal to expand kindergarten to full days. If Dayton's new pre-kindergarten program is approved, schools would need to fund any expansion they need themselves. "We could not squeeze it into this," Dayton said.
Packed precinct caucuses, and reports that thousands left in frustration due to overcrowding, are leading more Minnesota political leaders to push a presidential primary election. The latest is Chairman Ken Martin of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, who on Friday said he would support a modified primary system, connected to the state's traditional caucuses. Republican state Chairman Keith Downey said he is open to looking at change.