For journalists, Michele Bachmann is truly the gift that keeps on giving, providing today’s talker and a wonderful Strib headline: “Bachmann is pro-choice on bulbs.” Kevin Diaz reports on the congresswoman’s “Light Bulb Freedom of Choice Act” which would undo the energy-saving phase-out of conventional incandescent bulbs by 2012, in favor of compact fluorescents. One complaint: CFLs contain mercury, a neurotoxin, but an environmentalist notes that “there is 200 times more mercury in each filing in Congresswoman Bachmann’s teeth.” Burning coal to power energy-hogging bulbs puts more mercury into the air — greenhouse gases too, though Bachmann is quoted calling human involvement in global warming “voodoo, nonsense, hokum, a hoax.” This particular issue may transcend ideological lines, however; the Glean household is split between a CFL-loving husband and wife who hates the warm-up and the light quality.
Today’s mesmerizing photo: the roadmap of stitches on Gopher hockey player Tom Pohl’s noggin. His skull was fractured earlier this month, but surgery was successful. Check out this.
If you think 47,000 more Minnesotans should be able to afford the kind of care Tom Pohl got, you’ll be bumming about the Strib’s report that Gov. Pawlenty backed away from health care reform. The plan would cost $49 million more next year, but proponents claim it would save 20 percent by 2015. A committee Pawlenty helped appoint produced the plan, which relies on a MinnesotaCare surplus that’s a guv budget-balancer. No House Republican — not even the Override Six — supports it, according to GOP leaders. Still, it would have been good if the Strib talked to a GOP moderate. There’s a nice bill rundown here.
Speaking of the Override Six, the PiPress reports Republicans in Rep. Jim Abeler’s Anoka district may convene a second endorsing convention. Abeler, one of the GOP transit-tax backers, was not endorsed at a convention earlier this month, even though there were no opponents. Now, two have emerged. DFL and GOP officials say a convention “re-do” is unprecedented. No state GOP official is quoted, though a district officer backs the move.
The PiPress features, and the Strib buries, news about DFL U.S. Senate candidate Al Franken’s State Capitol rally yesterday. Republicans denounced Franken as Anger Man last week, but he says his rally comes between that GOP “screed” and Coleman’s formal campaign kickoff today. The PiPress sticks to Franken’s issue recitation, including his criticism of “irresponsible tax cuts” for the nation’s wealthiest; the Strib includes the news that Franken was hit with another $832 in penalties for failing to provide disability benefits for workers of his New York corporation. He’s already paid a $25,000 fine.
Pay more, get more: Anoka and Ramsey county boards say “aye” to the quarter-cent transit sales tax, by 5-2 and 6-1, respectively. Carver County, as expected, voted no, unanimously. Metro-wide, the tax should generate $100 million annually, but the PiPress reports that the Met Council wants to hoover up $47.5 million to make up for Gov. Pawlenty’s proposed budget cuts. As in the past, a DFL legislative leader flatly rules that out. The Strib reports that Scott County, the other probable tax holdout, may decide to jump in later. KSTP-Channel 5 anchors stress costs, not benefits. The tax kicks in July 1.
Attention, assignment editors: the guy who ripped off a duck’s head in St. Paul last year is being sentenced today.
The ongoing headscratcher about why some unions support union-hazing A.G. Lori Swanson continues. The Strib’s Mike Kaszuba reports that the state AFL-CIO president has asked union officials not to contribute to Swanson as long as her office’s organizing fracas continues. It seems like a reasonable request given the current controversy, but the AFL-CIO’s spokesperson acknowledging some member unions aren’t “thrilled with the letter.” Solidarity ain’t what it used to be.
The state will pay a consultant $100,000 to analyze the recently closed St. Cloud bridge. KARE-11 reports that St. Cloud DFL state Sen. Tarryl Clark thinks repairs are unlikely and drivers will have to wait for a replacement.
A Woodbury developer receives a presidential pardon and tells the Strib he’s “thrilled that I’ve finally been exonerated.” But the dictionary defines exoneration as later being proved innocent. That’s not what a pardon does. By the way, according to the Federal Elections Commission, 48-year-old Timothy Alfred Thone has made no contributions to President Bush, who has issued fewer than half as many pardons as other two-term presidents. In 1987, Thone made false statements to the feds to obtain a mortgage.
Forest Lake follow-up: after the local high school canceled yesterday’s seminar/pro-war teach-in by traveling Iraq War vets, about 50 students turned up at the event’s new location, a local VFW. They had permission from administrators. Vets group leader Peter Hegseth tells the PiPress that he had agreed not to discuss “finishing the mission” at the high school, but that was a focus at the VFW. Turns out school officials fielded about two dozen antiwar phone calls before canceling the school appearance, but the Strib says phones were “ringing off the hook” after the decision was made. A PiPress editorial praises the vets group. By the way, the Forest Lake schools are cutting 17 teachers. Guns or butter?
A fascinating City Pages piece on how The Current is shrinking its sprawling playlist. Eclectic by design, the public radio music station is playing some tunes 15 to 17 times a week; not a heavy rotation compared to commercial stations, but rigid compared to past Current practices. (From this corner, we only wish the station would lower the whine/drone and rock out more.) Why change? CP says the station’s audience is down 24 percent since 2006. In the past, Current officials have challenged such numbers.
While home values are cratering, Finance and Commerce reports that St. Paul developer Jerry Trooien’ is offering his one downtown Minneapolis office building at twice the price he paid in 2005. Then, the TriTech office center was 65 percent leased; now, it’s 91 percent. More stories on just why the office space market is flourishing in a recession, please.
Both papers report that The Securities and Exchange commission is investigating St. Louis Park’s MoneyGram International. The company lost $1.6 billion on mortgage-related investments and was recently sold at a hefty discount. The Strib says the investigation will “revolve around whether the company had been candid with investors about its financial losses.” The company’s top four execs reaped a combined $1.26 million for negotiating the sale, but lost $37 million in severance payments if (when?) they are terminated.
WCCO-Channel 4’s Caroline Lowe has a lengthy interview with the St. Paul cop in charge of Republican National Convention policing.
Sara Jane Olson might suffer “lasting psychological damage” from being put back in prison, according to supporters quoted by the Strib’s Curt Brown. Attorneys say she was “literally snatched in the dark of night.” Probably not; Olson was taken into custody at the L.A. airport, where she was enjoying a midnight meal of chicken wings with her husband in what we can only surmise were well-lit surroundings.