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GOP gun-permit bill draws fire from cops, safety advocates

MORNING EDITION ALSO: Dupre abandons mountain climb, and a legislative ban on studying an LRT route? Plus Chipotle’s undocumented workers, a congressional hot-dish champ, and Bachmann’s off-camera speech delivery.
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MORNING EDITION

The state GOP’s push to move a less-stringent gun permitting bill quickly through the House is drawing protests, from both cops and DFLers. Mike Kaszuba posted last night on “Hot Dish Politics”: “Groups opposing the repeal pushed back hard at the hearing. ‘Whose side are you on?’ said Heather Martens, executive director of Protect Minnesota. ‘Are you on the side of the criminals who want to get easy access to guns? Or are you on the side of the public that expects to be protected by its law enforcement?’ [Rep. Tony] Cornish, who is the chief of police in Lake Crystal, called her questions ‘rude.’ “

Kaszuba adds: “Sgt. Mark Elliott, a Bloomington police officer, testified before the panel that the state law is not strictly duplicative of federal law, but has provisions that are slightly more restrictive. He said that anyone convicted of gross-misdemeanor crimes in Minnesota, including false imprisonment, fourth-degree burglary and crimes committed for the benefit of a gang, would be barred under state law from getting a gun permit, but would not have their data show up in the federal system.” Note to Ms. Martens: Be sure your tabs are renewed before driving through Lake Crystal.

Here at MinnPost, Doug Grow writes: “In a session in which Republicans are attempting to say that jobs and the economy are the only big issues that matter, Drazkowski tried to wrap this gun bill in a ‘mandate-reduction’ package. Minnesota, he said, should dump its background checks because they are ‘duplicative’ with federal background check laws. Drazkowski said he didn’t know how much local government bodies could save by doing away with the background checks. ‘But I did ask a county sheriff in my district how much it could save, and he said it could save a half to a full hour a week [of staff time]’. DFLers on the committee shook their heads in wonder at Drazkowski’s ‘data.’ Republicans all kept a straight face.” Thirty minutes to an hour … that’s kind of “fact-y.”

Jennifer Griswold of KSTP-TV says Minnesota adventurer Lonnie Dupre — trying to be the first to climb Mount McKinley in January alone is calling it quits. “Dupre began his descent Tuesday in hopes to gather strength, but after spending a cold and “miserable” night at 14,200 feet, he has decided to continue down the mountain. He told his manager that spending days at an extreme altitude made him weaker than he had expected. Dupre will spend Wednesday night at 10,000 feet. He hopes to make it to base camp at 7,000 feet where aircraft can land.”

Wait a minute. There’s a law that says you can’t study the possibility of building light rail from Northfield into the cities? Dan Olson at MPR says it exists, and pro-LRT forces want it to go away: “State Rep. Mike Beard, R-Shakopee, and chair of the House Transportation Committee, said he’s no fan of commuter rail, but said there’s no reason to prohibit discussing the idea. ‘Prohibiting even consideration or discussion of any one corridor just doesn’t make any sense to me,’ Beard said. ‘In fact, I find it really annoying.’ But state Rep. Ann Lenczweski, DFL-Bloomington, doesn’t see it that way. Lenczewski was a co-sponsor of the prohibition, and she says she’ll work to keep it in place. ‘To take it out of prohibition of study and say, ‘Let’s start studying something that we don’t even have money for and the communities that abut it are vehemently opposed to,’ I think is just sort of an exercise in futility, and I hope we keep the prohibition on,’ she said.” For the record, that’s Beard for LRT study, Lenczewski against.                 

Have you followed the story of the two buddies drinking and watching football Sunday? The one where one of them ended up shooting the other? Have you heard what Michelle Knoll of KSTP-TV is reporting? “According to the criminal complaint, [Robert] Thomas had invited [Edward] Koenig, Koenig’s girlfriend and another man over to watch the Packer game January 23. After the game ended, Thomas told police he found his 13-year-old son in a bedroom taking pictures of Koenig in body building poses with his shirt off. Koenig’s girlfriend told police, she and Thomas confronted Koenig about what he was doing. She says Koenig told them he asked the boy to take the pictures because he wanted a new Facebook picture.”

Sen. Amy Klobuchar won the First Annual Minnesota Congressional delegation hot dish cook-off. MinnPost’s Derek Wallbank was one of the judges. (He gave equal votes to Klobuchar and runner-up Tim Walz.) The Strib’s Jeremy Herb blogs: “The members in attendance, Franken, Bachmann, Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Reps. Tim Walz, Betty McCollum and Keith Ellison, shared some lighthearted laughs the day after they all had a late night for the State of the Union. ‘If there’s a tie, we’ll have an eight month recount,’ Franken joked before the judging began.”

MPR’s Sasha Aslanian delivers a remarkably comprehensive story on the recent firing of hundreds of undocumented workers by Chipotle restaurants in the Twin Cities. She talks to the company’s co-CEO, Monty Moran: “Moran said employers are caught in a bind. Immigration law requires them to check the identity and work authorization of all employees. But under federal labor laws against discrimination, they can’t scrutinize one group of employees’ documents more closely than others. Moran calls that balancing act ‘threading the needle.’ “

She goes on to say: “The company’s action also calls into question the methods employed by immigration authorities, said Javier Morillo, president of the Service Employees International Union local 26. In 2009, Morillo said, a quarter of his membership turned over when 1,200 ABM janitors lost their jobs in the largest worker audit in Minnesota. Morillo said most of the fired janitors didn’t leave the country, but simply went deeper into the underground economy. ‘They are pushed out of jobs where they are being paid above the table … they are being moved to the bad employers. They are pushed out of jobs where they are being paid above the table,’ he said. ‘They pay taxes, Social Security taxes, etc. They are being moved, many of them, to precisely the bad employers that pay cash, that pay less than minimum wage.’ ”

Michael Tomasky, blogging for The Guardian of London, asks his readers for theories about what’s up with Michele Bachmann.  He writes: “The general reaction [to her comments about the founding fathers and slavery] has been: what a dope. But I don’t think she can possibly be that stupid. It just isn’t possible, is it. She went to third grade. She went to high school. She obviously possesses an IQ somewhere north of 100. So she can’t be this dumb. My alternative theory is that she, like many people on the right, just says s–t. She just says it and doesn’t care. She said the thing about ‘skin color’ because she doesn’t care if she offends anyone with a skin color different from hers. She says J.Q. Adams was a founding father because, well, close enough. And she said the founders eradicated slavery because, you know, some of them wanted to and it happened eventually. She’ll just say anything. If it pisses off liberals, so much the better. Of course, even right-wingers who know something about history will find these kinds of things embarrassing eventually.”

Ms. Bachmann’s unfortunate choice of which camera to address during her big response to President Obama’s State of the Union produced lots of snickering. Sheldon Alberts of the Montreal Gazette writes: “Bachmann, 54, delivered her remarks looking away from the very camera that was broadcasting live into the living rooms of millions of Americans. The effect was more than a bit off-putting to both professional TV critics and armchair observers. ‘Bachmann seemed to be looking off-camera at a tall statue of George Washington, or maybe of Darth Vader,’ wrote Entertainment Weekly television columnist Ken Tucker. ‘The effect was unsettling,’ added Time’s James Poniewozik. ‘What was she staring at? A silent audience? A ghost that only she could see? Someone standing over my shoulder with a knife?’ “