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Capitol Chatter: Lots of broadband requests

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.

The department spent years studying and testing body cameras, as have other cities across the state. The state's most populated city follows many others in introducing the cameras.

"The full implementation of officer-worn body cameras delivers on an ongoing commitment to greater transparency and accountability," Mayor Betsy Hodges said, although critics are skeptical the public will know much more about police activities since state law does not allow the public to see most of the video.

DNR open longer

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is operating its telephone line more hours on weekdays and on Saturdays.

The Information Center phones will open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays, after years of closing at 4:30 p.m. And, for the first time, people can call on Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

"We want to be available when people may be off work and perhaps even out hunting, fishing, camping or snowmobiling," Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Landwehr said.

The phone number is (888) 646-6367.

Senators seek rail fairness

Four U.S. senators ask the federal Surface Transportation Board to take action to increase railroad competition and to ensure fair treatment for shippers.

Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Bill Cassidy, R-La., Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., and David Vitter, R-La., sent the letter, saying consolidation in the rail industry has put shippers at a disadvantage and increased rates.

"Our economy demands a system where railroads as well as their customers can proposer," the senators wrote. "To achieve this balance, rail service must be fair, efficient and cost effective, especially to captive shippers or those with access to only one rail service provider."

Railroads have exemptions from some anti-trust laws, the senators said, which hurts shippers.

Deer stands not allowed left overnight on wildlife management areas

With the Minnesota firearms deer season beginning Saturday, Nov. 5, hunters are reminded that deer stands cannot be left overnight on state wildlife management areas (WMA).

"Leaving stands overnight on these public lands is a fairly common violation," said Capt. Jon Paurus, education programs coordinator with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. "The reason for this rule is to prevent hunters from pre-empting hunting spots. At the beginning of each day, all locations on these public lands are available to anyone on a first-come, first-served basis."

Portable stands may be used on WMAs if they are removed each day at the close of shooting hours and do no permanent damage. Spikes or nails driven into trees are not allowed, but screwing or clamping devices are allowed if removed each day at the close of shooting hours.

"Hunters who use stands are reminded to always wear a safety harness, check climbing sticks or ladders for damage and always wait until safely in the stand before loading a firearm," Paurus said.

Minnesota has 1.3 million acres of land in WMAs, and an estimated 500,000 hunters are expected to hit the woods and fields in hopes of harvesting an animal. Hunters need to be familiar with hunting regulations, which are available at any DNR license agent or online at License questions should be directed to the DNR Information Center at (888) 646-6367, from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays.

Don Davis
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.