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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Many rural Americans, who are heavily Republican, are not happy with how President Barack Obama has dealt with their issues as he nears the end of eight years in office. The Democratic president says he has done well. "I've spent most of my life living in big cities," Obama recently wrote. "But the truth is, a lot of what's shaped me came from my grandparents who grew up on the prairie in Kansas. They taught me the kind of values that don't always make headlines, let alone the daily back-and-forth in Washington."
A recent drive through Cheyenne, Wyo., included a familiar scene to a Minnesota Capitol insider: a Capitol building undergoing renovation. At least eight state Capitols, as well as the U.S. Capitol, are undergoing renovations or the work was completed recently. Kansas City-based JE Dunn Construction Co. is overseeing, or at least has a hand in, a majority: Minnesota, Wyoming, Kansas, Oregon, Oklahoma and North Dakota.
Minnesotans must be eager to vote in the Nov. 8 election. Nearly 47,000 registered to vote online last week, with about 27,000 on Friday, Sept. 23, alone, smashing the one-day record of 7,602. The big interest in registering, as well as early voting, bodes well for high voter turnout in the 2016 election. Secretary of State Steve Simon announced the figures on Monday, Sept. 26.
Minnesota is about to increase its campaign warning about the dangers of pain killers known as opioids. State officials also plan to work with medical and pharmaceutical professionals about the risks of over prescribing the drugs. The state announced Monday, Sept. 19, it is receiving $2.5 million from the federal government to fight heroin and prescribed pain killers such as morphine, codeine, methadone, OxyContin, Percocet, Vicodin, Fentanyl and buprenorphine. Federal and state officials say dependence on those drugs is increasing.
No link has emerged between terrorist groups and the man who stabbed 10 people in a St. Cloud mall Saturday night, Sept. 17. St. Cloud Police Chief Blair Anderson told reporters Monday that he will let the public know quickly if investigators find a connection between the suspect in the stabbings, identified by fellow Somali-Americans as Dahir Adan, and terrorist groups such as ISIS. An ISIS-related news agency called Adan a soldier of the organization, but did not indicate he had prior contact with it.
Minnesotans, those who care about such things at least, figured special legislative session talk was dead. They could be wrong. Gov. Mark Dayton said at the Minnesota State Fair that if local money could be found to support a southwestern Twin Cities light rail project, and the Legislature did not need to take action on the issue, he would talk to key lawmakers about calling a special session to take up a tax bill and funding public works projects.
Some headlines and social media posts made it sound like Donald Trump's name might not be on the Minnesota ballot on Nov. 8. That remains a possibility, but only if a judge orders his name removed. Former state Republican official Michael Brodkorb, now a blogger, warns that "voters should prepare themselves for lawsuits to be filed to challenge if Minnesota Republicans followed the law to get his name on the ballot."
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton says he plans to campaign for clean water in coming months instead of against Republicans he blamed for torpedoing a special legislative session over a southwestern Twin Cities light rail proposal. The Democratic governor has been very strong in his statements against Republican opposition to the rail project, which he says is needed to move commuters from places like Eden Prairie to Minneapolis. No bus line can do that, he says.
Farmers can forget about tax breaks to lighten their burden in funding new schools. Drivers on some of Minnesota's most dangerous highways will not see immediate safety improvements. New state aid cities expected is not coming. Those are three of many issues impacted as Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton and legislative leaders failed to agree on a special session agenda. As it has been since the regular session adjourned in May, the final stumbling block was whether to build a light rail project in the southwestern Twin Cities.
A look at two Republican U.S. House candidates shows different ways of handling a loss. John Howe dealt with his third-place finish with humor. "Character building day," he tweeted with a photo of him removing campaign signs. "Taking down signs and keeping a positive attitude." He blamed no one and eventually said Lewis has to retain retiring U.S. Rep. John Kline's 2nd District seat for Republicans.