Minnesota Republicans are claiming they have a shot at re-taking majority control of the Legislature in this fall’s election. That at least is the take-away of a piece by Betsy Sundquist at Politics in Minnesota: “State party deputy chair Michael Brodkorb, [founder of the Minnesota Democrats Exposed blog], no stranger to bold pronouncements, makes this one: ‘With the quality of candidates we have, plus an electorate that is trending more center-right … it’s conceivable for Senate Republicans to pick up 13 to 15 seats.’ “
Sundquist continues, saying: “[D]istricts being targeted this year by the Republicans — all held by first-term legislators — include Senate District 10, where Sen. Dan Skogen, DFL-Hewitt, will be challenged by small-business owner (and former nurse) Gretchen Hoffman; Senate District 38, where Sen. Jim Carlson, DFL-Eagan, will face the GOP’s endorsed candidate, Ted Daley, an Eagan CPA; Senate District 56, currently held by Kathy Saltzman, DFL-Woodbury, who will face off against third-generation newspaper publisher Ted Lillie of Lake Elmo; Senate District 17, where Sen. Rick Olseen, DFL-Harris, ousted Republican Sen. Sean Nienow in 2006 by only 436 votes (and only 1.2 percentage points), and where Nienow hopes to return the favor this year; and Senate District 53, in which two Republicans — Blake Huffman of Shoreview and Roger Chamberlain of Lino Lakes —have lined up to knock off Sen. Sandy Rummel, DFL-White Bear Lake.” Given a run of the table in those races, Brodkorb may be operating on a 50 to 75 percent inflation factor, at minimum.
A Bloomberg News story, picked up by Finance and Commerce, says the new health care bill is going to cost Xcel Energy $17 million in the first quarter. “Companies including Caterpillar Inc., Deere & Co. and AT&T Inc. have disclosed charges related to a tax on a retiree drug-benefit subsidy after President Barack Obama signed the almost $1 trillion health care overhaul this month. Health care costs may shave as much as $14 billion from U.S. corporate profits, according to an estimate by benefits consulting firm Towers Watson.” Just a guess here, but Xcel will probably muddle through.
By now even the minutiae in the Denny Hecker case have become fodder for popular conversation. As in, “Who gave him that $125,000”? Hecker’s refusal to say is apparently one of the reasons why he is sitting in jail this morning. But Rochelle Olson’s Strib story today says Judge Jay Quam is considering the mysterious donor’s request, a “beseech,” to remain private and not get sucked into the Black Hole of Everything Hecker. She writes, “[The attorney for the benefactor] ‘beseeches’ the court to allow ‘him/her’ to remain private. Hecker has testified that those who help him are questioned by federal agents and prosecutors.” Some of us are obviously into serious junkie-dom over the Hecker debacle. But whoever gave Hecker the dough had to know he/she would never get a nickel back. Which is to ask, “Who loves Denny that much?”
The guy who used to fly 175,000 miles a year on Northwest is upset, because Delta isn’t giving him the top-tier respect he’s used to getting. The Strib’s Suzanne Ziegler files a good read on the guy, and an “elite” facet of the merger. She says the guy, Michael Kaldenberg of Green Bay, began getting in Delta’s face: “[W]hen he noticed that travelers in lower categories — silver, gold and platinum — were getting those upgrades ahead of him, he was angry. Kaldenberg said he has been told that Delta is giving priority to SkyMiles members who paid the most for their ticket, not based on their level. With Northwest, its highest platinum level trumped everything, he said. ‘I want my old Northwest Airlines back.’ ” Kaldenberg is “Delta Diamond,” allegedly the best of the best customers. But Delta rules say, “After the full-fare passengers are placed … diamonds are ranked according to how much they paid for their ticket, followed by platinum, gold, then silver. If the medallion level and fare class are equal, the time of ticketing is the tiebreaker.” As you might expect, American Airlines has offered him top-tier status if he’ll switch.
Stop the killer Zambonis! There’s now a bill in the Legislature — and a Capitol rally today — to protect Minnesota’s rink rats and fans from CO2-belching Zambonis. An AP story says that St. Paul Sen. Ellen Anderson’s bill “would require indoor ice arenas to install air monitoring devices and keep carbon monoxide levels below a set point. Zambonis and other ice-grooming machines give off carbon monoxide. Anderson’s proposal comes after youth hockey players and ice skaters have gotten carbon monoxide poisoning after rinks are groomed. A former professional ice skater who suffers from chronic carbon monoxide poisoning will also appear at the rally.” But when are we getting a bill to protect kids and fans from bad officiating?
Let Freedom Ring, the conservative blog, can’t love Michele Bachmann enough. News that challenger Tarryl Clark said nice things about old-school Republicans like Arne Carlson, Al Quie and Jim Ramstad left LFR unimpressed. “Tarryl is running a pretty traditional DFL campaign thus far in some respects but getting the endorsements of liberal Republicans like Carlson, Quie and Ramstad is a definite departure from a typical DFL campaign. When the primary winner is determined, CD-6 voters won’t pay much attention to Carlson’s, Quie’s or Ramstad’s endorsements. They’ll pay more attention to Michele Bachmann’s commitment to stopping Washington’s reckless spending, repealing and replacing the Democrats’ unpopular health care legislation and her commitment to America’s energy independance [sic] by drilling in ANWR and on the OCS.” Now, if Clark could just get Glenn Beck to endorse her …
Ramsey County tax bills for 160,000 property owners are going to be delayed two weeks because of a computer glitch. The Strib’s Chris Havens explains: “The … glitch has to do with some discrepancies in property values used in tax calculations, and that has resulted in inaccurate tax bills. County staff and employees of Manatron, which created the computer system, are doing detailed checks of values and working to fix the glitch. ‘As anybody who has turned on an electronic gizmo knows, it doesn’t always go as planned,’ said Commissioner Victoria Reinhardt, chairwoman of the Ramsey County Board.”
Aware of today’s date, I approached the Heavy Table story by Soleil Ho about rabbit-breeding on Nicollet Island with higher-than-normal skepticism. But until someone ridicules me for falling for it, I’ll continue to be intrigued. Says Ho of the folks involved, the “low-income housing co-op worked to turn it and a nearby vacant lot into a fruit and vegetable garden and barnyard populated by a sundry congregation of ducks, geese, chickens, and rabbits. The residents are just as diverse, ranging from artists to cooks to musicians, and many of them hold at least an amateur-level interest in low-impact living. Soon, their operation won’t be the only one: Two more rabbitries will be starting up on the island this year. While it’s fairly easy for a hip urbanite to understand the appeal of raising laying hens in the city (or the suburbs), the practice of raising and slaughtering meat rabbits, which is known as cuniculture, can be somewhat off-putting.” And then there’s this, “Killing a rabbit is a piece of cake, as absolutely terrible as that sounds. You could go for a swift blow to the back of the neck with your hands or a broomstick, which also correlated to an illegal move known as the ‘rabbit punch‘ in boxing circles.”
Dunn Bros. is taking over a prime Nicollet Mall location in the Young Quinlan Building in downtown Minneapolis vacated by Starbucks. John Vomhof Jr.’s Business Journal story says, “Dunn Bros. President and Chief Financial Officer Kim Plahn said the Minneapolis coffee company was drawn to the Nicollet Mall site because of its proximity to Target Corp.’s headquarters and other nearby businesses, as well as community events such as the farmer’s market and Holidazzle Parade. ‘It’s a great building with beautiful architecture, and we can’t wait to start marketing to the businesses in the area,’ she said.”
Good piece by James Walsh in the Strib on “straw buyers” of guns. There apparently is a fairly brisk market in guns purchased legally and then sold off to people who couldn’t have bought the things on their own … which is illegal, but tough to check. “One way federal officials can spot straw buyers is when they buy a lot of guns in a short period of time. Licensed gun dealers are required to file paperwork when people buy three handguns or more in a period of seven days. That may be what first got [one “straw buyer”] on investigators’ radar. For example, in September 2002, he bought 11 handguns at Polar Bear Ordinance in Woodbury, including six from Sept. 3 through Sept. 8 and three more on Sept. 15, 16 and 17. In all, Murphy bought 39 guns from Polar Bear from August through December 2002. Which raises a question: Didn’t the dealers get suspicious? The folks at Polar Bear Ordinance, located in a beige split-level home in a quiet Woodbury neighborhood, did not return calls seeking comment.” A gun retailer in a Woodbury split-level? Are you kidding me?