Everyone hits on the Huffington Post’s scoop that the FBI has interviewed locals in Norm Coleman’s SuitGate. Like HuffPo’s Sam Stein, the PiPress’ Dave Orrick and Rachel Stassen-Berger talked to an anonymous source whom agents interviewed. (Of course, we can’t know if the sources are the same person.) The main topic: clothing that Coleman pal Nasser Kazeminy allegedly bought for Norm and spouse at Neiman Marcus. As you may remember, Coleman’s spokesperson said the senator reported every gift he’s ever received.
More SuitGate: The PiPress source, who lacks first-hand knowledge of SuitGate, says other Minnesotans have been talked to. Stein’s source says agents also asked about payments a Kazeminy-owned company made to Laurie Coleman’s employer, but her attorney calls the new information baseless and inaccurate.
The Capitol press corps notes a $3 billion disparity between the Legislature’s spending bills and revenue. Forum’s Scott Wente and Don Davis term passage “rushed” and note Pawlenty won’t sign off on spending until revenue has been identified. DFLers played cute by taking $1.8 billion in education shifts off the table, but not for long, the PiPress Bill Salisbury writes. The Mankato Free Press’ Tim Krohn notes most outlays received bipartisan support.
Anticipating stalemate, Krohn says the governor might veto a “lights-on” bill that would keep the state functioning; the just-passed one is too expensive. Pawlenty will sign the ag bill that cuts funding 8.4 percent, and military-related outlays that rise about 6 percent, the Forum duo notes. The guv will line-item veto a $343 million public works spending bill that could provide 3,000 construction jobs.
Speaking of: The PiPress’ Dave Orrick has the man-bites-dog news that construction activity is still happening, in the academic- and health-care-industrial complexes. At least four major hospitals — Regions, St. Joseph’s, Children’s and United — are building even as we prepare to slash their state support. Sorry, web link was unavailable this morning.
Meanwhile, E-12 education spending was held flat, the PiPress’ Megan Boldt and Doug Belden write, and college funding will slip 1 percent after stimulus funds kick in. The Strib’s Kevin Duchschere and Mark Brunswick quote Pawlenty’s education commissioner predicting her boss will veto the bill, citing inadequate “reform.” (Q-Comp?) In any event, teacher pay freezes are the next big thing, Boldt adds.
On a related note, MPR’s Sea Stachura surveys 10 state districts who collectively laid off 6 percent of their teachers this year, so expect more of that. A younger teaching generation is being “hollowed out.” Seems like only yesterday we were worried about a wave of teacher retirements.
In a bit of enterprise amid the late-session hustle and bustle, MPR’s Tom Scheck reports that despite Gov. Pawlenty’s much-ballyhooed hiring freeze, 5,100 people actually entered state employ since the February 2008 order, for a net gain of 273 jobs. Another document says the net gain was 12 people. The Swiss-cheese stricture draws criticism from normally labor-friendly DFLers;TPaw’s spokesman says their attention-getter was only supposed to slow the growth rate.
The Red Wing Republican-Eagle’s Ruth Nerhaugen says the Prairie Island nuke plan fell off the nation’s “most safe” list after two 2008 incidents involving human error. Someone left a valve closed that caused a cooling pump to fail, and a trucker improperly secured radioactive materials being shipped off-site. Both violations are considered the least-serious, but the feds grade harshly. The incidents won’t affect the plant’s license renewal, however.
Related: The state legislature keeps a nuke-plant construction moratorium in place, Salisbury notes.
Meanwhile, the Strib’s Matt McKinney says legislators approved an $8 million tax break for a $300 million, 855-megawatt gas-fired plant in Chisago County. I was curious what environmentalists think, but none were quoted. Gas is often touted as a less-noxious coal alternative, despite their fossil fuel kinship.
Another exurb gets hip to this thing we call transit; the Forest Lake City Council reversed itself and will spend $275K for a bus link to Minneapolis, the Strib’s Kevin Giles writes. It’ll cost your $200,000 homeowner about $25 a year. The route’s survival was contingent on Forest Lake joining a new metro transit district.
So it turns out Minneapolis cops run license plate info for civilians all the time, the PiPress’ David Hanners reports. That nugget came out during the trial of an officer accused of taking a $200 bribe from a criminal. A witness for the defense says the searches — which we hope are typically free — are part of “community policing.” And oh yeah, cops get spiffs all the time: meals, sports tickets — even free bus rides. The $200 was sorta like that.
Elsewhere in the world of security, the PiPress’ Dennis Lien notes it was just fine for A.G. Lori Swanson to install $15,000 security doors in her office. And oh by the way, Capitol security is sieve-like, lacking metal detectors and enough officers to effectively patrol the place. One legislator notes there are fewer cops there than at some high schools.
The dude who drove his car into a Planned Parenthood clinic was sentenced to the 111 days he served, the PiPress Emily Gurnon reports. Not only is Matthew Derosia free, he can have his felony knocked down to a misdemeanor if he’s trouble-free for five years.
In the PiPress, a St. Thomas business prof says increasing upper-income Minnesotans’ effective state/federal income tax rate from 43 percent to 44 percent is a bad idea. Instead, we should broaden the sales tax and lower business taxes, floated at session’s start. But reform won’t happen without compromise, including on total revenues collected, and such flexibility is in short supply right now.
One thing we may soon have less of: wolves. The Strib’s Tom Meersman details a state plan to kill the newly unendangered predator from livestock-heavy areas beyond its natural range. Critics charge the state with “depopulating” the wolf in central Minnesota, but state officials say they’ve policed the wolfpack with as few as 10 kills a year.
The PiPress’ Christopher Snowbeck heralds a new website that shows you how much a local home’s price has been reduced. Realtors sniff that such information is only skin-deep, and doesn’t tell you much about a home’s baseline value, but I suspect buyers will be clicking. The Strib’s David Shaffer says construction workers and employers are finding creative ways to avoid taxes and insurance costs. Trouble is, the workers can also lose benefits.
AP reports that a film co-written by Iranian ex-detainee Roxana Saberi will be screened at Cannes today. She won’t be there.
Nort spews: So I went to bed around midnight after Jesse Crain balked in Detroit’s 13th-inning run, only to discover Joe Crede’s walk-off grand slam produced a 14-10 victory. Sore Loser here. Mind-bogglingly, Minnesota is a game out of first. Pat Reusse notes the bullpen still stinks.