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.
- Member for
- 3 years 11 months
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.
Minnesota joins Super Tuesday this year, but the question is whether the day will be super for any of the presidential candidates. It has not always been. Super Tuesday, March 1 this year, is the day when several states hold primaries or caucuses, in part to pick delegates to the two major parties' national conventions. It is dubbed "super" because generally more states are picking delegates that day than any other. This year, Minnesota joins a dozen states.
Two relatively obscure special legislative elections Tuesday confirmed what many politicos already knew: The Minnesota Legislature election is attracting lots of attention. After Republicans won House and Senate seats to replace lawmakers who resigned, the national Republican State Leadership Committee issued a news release saying it already had named the Minnesota House and Senate "top targets for 2016." Republicans already hold a majority in the House, but Democrats control the Senate. The national committee says the Senate is "a top offensive target for pickup."
U.S. Sen. Al Franken is taking on rural health care in his second term. The Minnesota Democrat is co-chairman of the Senate Rural Health Caucus and has traveled the state discussing the topic. "The conversations were vivid and personal, but also immensely practical," Franken told the National Rural Health Association. "What became clear is that access to care, or lack thereof, was the top issue for folks in my state." Franken told the association about what he and his staff members discovered in their tour of the state.
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.