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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Forum News Service file Gov. Mark Dayton signed an agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to pay landowners, mostly farmers, $500 million to preserve 60,000 acres by enrolling them in the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program. Washington would provide $350 million; the state would add $150 million, nearly $55 million of which has been appropriated. Don Davis / Forum News Service
ST. PAUL — The first new law of 2017 came nine days into the annual legislative session. Now, that's zippy in a process that often drags on until May, especially when the issue is taxes, like the legislation Gov. Mark Dayton signed Friday. And a couple other issues are moving fast, sort of. A bill to provide relief to Minnesotans paying high health insurance premiums passed the Senate and should pass the House in a few days. However, it probably will hit a speed bump because the Dayton administration says some of its provisions would delay the aid.
ST. PAUL — Rural Minnesota may never have been mentioned so often in a state Senate debate not about a specific rural issue. Small towns and farmers were featured Thursday before senators passed 35-31 legislation to help Minnesotans afford individual health insurance policies. Rural residents like farmers tend to rely on individual policies more than do those living in cities.
ST. PAUL — Jose Sanchez says his immigrant community fears living without driver's licenses. "Our community needs licenses to get around, to get to work, to get to school," he told a Minnesota House committee Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017. "I ask that you listen to us and deal with your heart," he pleaded before the Republican-controlled committee voted 8-6 along party lines to keep in a provision that would enact a law banning immigrants to the United States without legal documentation from getting a license.
ST. PAUL—Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton is bringing back a public works funding bill much like he offered last year, proposing to spend $1.5 billion on projects ranging from water treatment plants to fixing college buildings. "These projects have a direct economic benefit," the governor told reporters in a conference call Wednesday, Jan. 4.
ST. PAUL — A new report says $100 million in state money is needed every two years to help expand broadband high-speed internet throughout Minnesota, but rural lawmakers have said relatively little about it leading up to the 2017 Legislature. In a series of Forum News Service lawmaker interviews before the session, none brought up the issue. When asked, rural legislators said more state aid is needed, but there was a feeling that the issue is less of a priority than in past years.
ST. PAUL—Minnesota let out a sigh of relief Tuesday, Jan. 3, after a federal appeals court decided a lower court erred in tossing out a state law that put some of the worst sex offenders in prison-like facilities after they complete their sentences. Had the original ruling stood, the state would have scrambled to release many of the 700 sex offenders now confined in state hospitals.
ST. PAUL—2017 dawned on the Minnesota Capitol with bright sun Sunday, illuminating the newly renovated building. But the sparkle dimmed as clouds moved in Sunday, followed by a dreary, wintry Monday for most Minnesotans. Was that a forecast of things to come in the 2017 state Legislature, which begins at noon Tuesday? That is impossible to predict, but Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton and Republicans who control the Legislature have a stormy past. "I think it will be a difficult session because we have very stark differences," Dayton said.
ST. PAUL—Minnesota legislators express nearly universal agreement that state roads and bridges need an infusion of money, but a deep divide about where to get the funds prevented action the last two years. The same disagreement exists as the 2017 legislative session begins, leaving in question whether anything significant and long term will be accomplished in transportation. Minnesota's roads face an estimated $16 billion funding gap over the next 20 years, according to calculations from the state Department of Transportation.