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
- 5 years 3 months
ST. PAUL — A state office that exists to protect vulnerable Minnesotans, such as those in nursing homes, is dysfunctional and fails to safeguard people in its charge, a watchdog agency reports. The Office of Legislative Auditor issued one of its most critical reports ever on Tuesday, March 6. Legislative Auditor James Nobles called it "a serious problem in state government." Nobles and Deputy Legislative Auditor Judy Randall told of poor Health Department management, lost case files, lengthy delays and failure to communicate with vulnerable people.
ST. PAUL—Some lawmakers fear state agencies will drain funds away from a lawsuit settlement with iconic Minnesota business 3M, which is accused of dumping dangerous chemicals in the southeastern Twin Cities. The state sued 3M for $5 billion, and last month settled on an $850 million payment to the state Department of Natural Resource and Pollution Control Agency. "My No. 1 concern is that the dollars being put into this fund are dollars that actually get out to projects on the ground in this area," Rep. Dan Fabian, R-Roseau, said.
ST. PAUL—Minnesota state government's aging computer systems' problems could be a common issue unless the information technology agency steps up its game. Legislators frequently bring up that prospect as they discuss the problem-filled Minnesota License and Registration System. Lawmakers from both parties say MNLARS is a disaster, with Republicans often also mentioning the ill-fated rollout of MNsure a few years back.
ST. PAUL — Minnesota's state budget has flipped from being in deficit to surplus, but the added money is less than legislative leaders expected. Minnesota Management and Budget, the state finance agency, projects a $329 million surplus for the current $46 billion budget, which ends July 1, 2019. However, Minnesota legislative leaders told a Forum News Service forum two weeks ago that they expected a surplus of $600 million to $1 billion.
ST. PAUL—States across the country want to update their sexual misconduct rules after lawmakers, including in Minnesota, have been forced out of office. "We have seen an unprecedented amount of attention to this topic," Jon Griffin of the National Conference of State Legislatures said on Monday, Feb. 26, to a Minnesota House committee established to set up new rules in the next three months. Monday was the first meeting of the committee, which expects to prepare recommendations for how sexual misconduct is handled by the time lawmakers adjourn for the year on May 21.
ST. PAUL — Some Minnesota lawmakers say they can be more effective in fighting childhood hunger if they regularly meet with organizations in and out of government who deal with the situation. So state Reps. Rod Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake, and Erin Maye Quade, D-Apple Valley, launched the Child Hunger Caucus. "We cannot allow childhood hunger to continue to be a silent issue," Maye Quade said.
ST. PAUL—A couple of businesses are moving to Windom, a 4,646-population community in southwest Minnesota, but the mayor there worries that the city cannot handle much more growth. The limiting factor may be the city's need for a new sewage treatment plant to meet state and federal guidelines. Mayor Dominic Jones, who in his private life is director of the Red Rock Rural Water District, said the mandated sewage plant would cost $15 million if it could be built now, but the city cannot afford it.
ST. PAUL—The University of Minnesota wants the state to help fund routine repairs and for the first time in years is not seeking new buildings. "There are no new bright shiny projects in this," university President Eric Kaler said Wednesday, Feb. 21, about the school's public works funding requests. "We want to renew what we have." With buildings across the state that combined are about the same size of five Mall of Americas, Kaler said many facilities are more than 50 years old and built in times when students and professors had different needs.
ST. PAUL — The chance of winning a special election, and thus taking control of the Minnesota Senate, will be a major factor as Democrats decide if and when to sue the Senate president, who also is lieutenant governor. On the first day of the 2018 legislative session Tuesday, Feb. 20, one senator protested the fact that Michelle Fischbach, R-Paynesville, remains in the Senate after she automatically became lieutenant governor when that job opened. No formal action was taken against Fischbach.
ST. PAUL — Minnesota lawmakers will be drawn into a gun debate that has blossomed since last week's Florida school shooting that left 17 dead. Protect Minnesota, an anti-gun violence group, will lead a Capitol rotunda rally at 2 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 22. Among legislation those art the rally will oppose are giving gun owners more freedom to defend themselves and to carry guns without permits.