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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The Minnesota Supreme Court rejected an appeal of the woman convicted in the death of 4-year-old Eric Dean three years ago. Wednesday's ruling says Amanda Lea Peltier's trial was fair and her life sentence, with the possibility of supervised release after 30 years, will stand. The case drew strong emotions because Pope County officials had received 15 reports warning that Dean was being abused.
Health care for Minnesotans with chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer, kidney failure and heart disease costs eight times more than for people without them.
Every Minnesota legislative session seems to produce one issue no one saw coming, at least to the scale it reaches. Perhaps that issue this year will be privacy. When Minnesotans hear comments like from Rep. Peggy Scott, it could attract attention. "In today's schools, the highly sensitive and personal information ... now is being uploaded up on third-party servers," the Andover Republican said when she and Democrats joined together Wednesday in announcing a series of bills designed to protect Minnesotans' privacy.
Democratic and Republican legislators agree on many goals for rural Minnesota, but often differ on how to reach them. House Democrats unveiled their rural legislative plan last week, mostly the same as they pushed a year ago, calling for better rural schools, improved roads and more jobs. "It's time to level the playing field for greater Minnesota and that won't happen unless this Legislature truly makes greater Minnesota a priority," Deputy House Minority Leader Paul Marquart said.
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton knows his $1.4 billion public works project plan cannot happen as proposed. "It's like pushing a boulder uphill," he said Friday in announcing his proposal, one of the largest such requests in history and a big target for Republicans who prefer spending much less. Knowing the opposition he faces, he began a campaign for the measure saying this is a good time to borrow money, through the state selling bonds. "Today is the day we talk about investing in the future of Minnesota," Dayton said.
Minnesota cities, especially small rural ones, ask the state for money almost every year to improve their sewage treatment systems. Same for their water treatment plants. Wadena is among the list. With a new law requiring farmers to separate cropland from water with vegetation, they also seek financial help. Those and other water-quality issues equal a big problem for Minnesota, Gov. Mark Dayton said as he proposed that the state borrow nearly $220 million to improve the state's water.
Most of the recent high-level discussions about rural Minnesota have centered on Iron Range problems created by a weak American steel industry, but even state leaders who live near where miners are laid off stay it is just part of a statewide rural problem. "There is an issue of our rural economy," Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, D-Cook said. "You go all across these rural towns and we are going to have to discuss what we can do." While broadband is important, Bakk added that extending high-speed Internet service is not a cure-all for rural Minnesota.
Americans may board commercial airlines for at least two more years with state identification cards that do not meet new federal guidelines, but it was not clear after Friday's announcement if a rush to change Minnesota law will continue. The federal Department of Homeland Security announced it will not require Real ID-compliant cards until Jan. 22, 2018. However, states making progress to distribute the enhanced IDs could receive extensions until Oct. 1, 2020, when everyone would be required to use Real ID cards or another form of ID such as passports.
There is no statewide Minnesota election this year, so naturally politicos turn at least some of their attention to 2018. Eric Ostermeier of the University of Minnesota's Smart Politics blog feeds some of that need with an entry that reminds readers: "Gopher state Democrats have never won back-to-back gubernatorial elections with different nominees."
Minnesota Democrats hope the flip-flopping of state House control continues through one more election. Democrats mostly dominated the House for years, until Republicans held control from 1999 to 2006.