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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ST. PAUL—Election day may be Tuesday, but 568,196 Minnesotans already have voted. That is the word this morning from the secretary of state's office and represents the most early voters ever. This is the first presidential election in which a state no-excuse, early-voting law is in effect. The figure represents the absentee vote count plus mail-in ballots used in some rural predicts.
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton blames state House Republicans for blocking $105 million in federal highway funds, but the House transportation chairman said the governor's key aides said there would be no harm in delaying the money. The Democratic governor said on Wednesday, Oct. 26, that road and bridge projects in 28 communities across the state could have been completed with the federal funds, but now will be delayed.
Voters will face more than two choices for president on Nov. 8, even though just two are well funded enough to have a chance. Minnesota voters see candidates from the Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Green, Constitution, Independence, Legal Marijuana Now, the Socialist Workers and the American Delta parties. Other than Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton, the candidates lack enough money to make much of an impression. Libertarian Gary Johnson has signs sprinkled around the state and the Green Party's Jill Stein has campaigned in Minnesota.
"The reality is the Affordable Care Act is no longer affordable for increasing numbers of people." Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton had not even finished the sentence when political reporters knew they had a story. After all, Dayton has been a strong proponent of the federal health care law, better known as Obamacare, and pushed to establish a state online health insurance sales portal. That MNsure operation is Minnesotans' connection to Obamacare.
Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton do not talk much about rural issues on the campaign trail, but there is plenty of evidence showing they differ greatly on the subject. Trump generally buys into traditional Republican ideas and Clinton embraces Democratic principles. And perhaps nothing illustrates the contrast better than how they stand on federal government regulations, an issue common among farmers and miners, energy workers and homeowners. Both sides say they will work with those who affected by regulations, but that is about where the agreement ends.
The shooting deaths of two young black men at the hands of Twin Cities police officers has prompted Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton to establish a council looking into how to improve law enforcement-community relations. Dayton signed an executive order establishing the 32-member council on Wednesday, Oct. 12, giving it a deadline of next February to produce recommendations that legislators could consider.
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.