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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What happens in Washington doesn't stay in Washington. A new president and a stronger Republican Congress are expected to make major changes in the federal budget, which Minnesota state budget writers said on Friday, Dec. 2, will affect their work. But they do not know how. "There is probably more than the usual range of uncertainty here," said Chairman Jim Knoblach, R-St. Cloud, of the House Ways and Means Committee as state officials reacted to news of a projected $1.4 billion budget surplus.
The Nov. 8 election was unpredictable and the 2017 Minnesota Legislature likely will be, too. GOP candidates took many by surprise, including some fellow Republicans, and took over the state Senate. The GOP held a Senate majority in 2011-2012, but because of the election calendar this time it will be for four years, unless a Republican leaves office early.
The 2016 election still looms large in Minnesota's rear-view mirror so, of course, it is time for the 2018 campaign to begin. And it has. The first big name out of the gate was Ryan Winkler, a Bemidji native who for years served in the state House serving the Golden Valley area. He said he would run for attorney general if incumbent Lori Swanson doesn't. Both are Democrats. Swanson's name is being batted around for governor, to replace Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton, who says he will leave office when his term is up early in 2019.
High-speed broadband Internet is in demand. Lt. Gov. Tina Smith says that $70 million in requests have been made to expand broadband, mostly in rural Minnesota. That is twice as much as state lawmakers approved earlier this year. The $70 million in requests is from 60 grant applications. The available $35 million in state funding could add broadband to 12,000 more homes. Police snap on body cams Minneapolis has rolled out body cameras and all officers responding to emergency calls will wear them.
Individual health insurance policies have been hot sellers this week, but Gov. Mark Dayton says the allotment is nowhere near sold out. Insurance companies are limiting the number of new policies they sell this year to 152,000, and Dayton said on Friday, Nov. 4, that limits are not being approached. However, he offered no estimate about how long it would be before any of the three major health plans would reach their caps. When those caps are reached, insurance companies stop selling their policies and they disappear from the MNsure state health insurance sales website.
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.