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Outstate papers editorialize against GOP’s Voter ID bill

AFTERNOON EDITION ALSO: GOP legislator raises 2008 recount; a budget deficit commentary; a new drug abuse threat; a stray-voltage lawsuit; a Lake Superior survival tale; and a judge tells a Russian, “Nyet.”
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Several outstate papers editorialize today about the so-called “Voter ID” bill. The Austin Daily Herald writes: “Minnesota Republicans’ push for a voter identification law is one of the least worthy bills presented during this year’s legislative session. The measure is political grandstanding that will accomplish nothing except to add the myriad times, places and reasons that Americans must carry with them ‘proper identification’. … In short, the election identification bill is, like so many other measures this session, more about appearances than about realities. It does not deserve to advance into law.”

Tina Leibling at the Rochester Post-Bulletin says: “Minnesota is nationally recognized as having one of the best election systems in the nation. In recent years we have made voting even more secure and convenient. However, a national movement to play politics with voting systems has come to Minnesota. Republicans are pushing bills that make it harder for many elderly, disabled, young, and minority voters to vote. … Republicans say they want to cut bureaucracy and unfunded mandates, but this bill does the opposite. It would force counties to create — and pay for — a new layer of bureaucracy and give voters more delay and confusion at the polls and during recounts. Worst of all, many eligible voters could be discouraged from voting or be denied their right to vote.”

Mike Benson, one of the GOP legislators leading the charge, offers his defense, also in the Post-Bulletin: “[W]ho can forget the 2008 Al Franken/Norm Coleman U.S. Senate showdown. With nearly 2.5 million votes cast, Franken’s margin of victory was 225. During that recount, it was learned that 25 Minnesota precincts had more ballots cast than voters registered. During that same election, an organization known as ACORN went to great lengths to register first-time voters across this state and our nation. It was later found that some of these registrations were obtained illegally, and several ACORN leaders were convicted of election fraud. Did any of this impact the Franken/Coleman election? That’s impossible for anyone to answer. But does it make you question the integrity of our election system? If so, then it’s imperative that we ensure every vote is legal.”  Why does this ACORN hysteria always make me laugh?

A Strib editorial on the budget deficit and the wave of GOP proposals makes several sensible points. He emphasizes: “Around the country, politicians have been pinning blame for state budget woes on public employee unions. Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty has been outspoken about the ‘inflated benefits and compensation packages’ of public employees. In fact, during four of the eight years of Pawlenty’s watch, state employees worked under contracts that provided for no wage increases. A recent Minnesota Chamber of Commerce study that matched about a third of state employees with comparable private-sector workers found what a similar study by the Office of the Legislative Auditor determined a decade ago: In lower-skilled positions, public wages are slightly higher; in high-skilled positions, private-sector workers do better — sometimes much better. The same study found the state’s pension benefits outstripping those of the private sector in a majority of 41 positions examined. But public employee pensions are not lavish… and are financed by 50-50 matching contributions from both state government and employees.”

Oh, come on! What’s next, hair conditioner? According to a KARE story, Minnesota Poison Control officials are worried about bath salts being used in drug abuse. “Bath salts contain mephedrone, a synthetic form of the stimulant cathinone. It’s often sold under names such as Ivory Wave, White Lightning and Red Dove. Bath salts come in a clear capsule with white powder and it can be smoked, snorted, ingested or injected. Health care providers worry the new drug fad could have serious long-term effects. The synthetic drug can cause hallucinations, vomiting, rapid heart rates and cardiac problems. Since late last year Hughes said his office has seen seven cases of bath salt abuse.”

Yes, you can sue for stray voltage. Rupa Chenoy at MPR reports: “The Minnesota Supreme Court has ruled that two Wabasha County farmers who say stray voltage killed their cows can seek damages from an electric utility. The farmers are seeking $5 million from Northern States Power Company, a unit of Xcel Energy. Bob Lefebvre of the Minnesota Milk Producers Association said the ruling opens the door for other farmers to seek damages.”

Riding an ice floe in 8-to-12 foot waves on Lake Superior would be hairy enough if you were 25 … but 80 and 61? Sam Cook of the Duluth News Tribune reports on two ice fishermen and their wild  day on the high seas: “The 80-year-old ice angler, stranded on the lake Saturday after big waves undermined the ice in Saxon Harbor east of Ashland, knew his options were limited. ‘As I was standing there, the ice kept breaking up,’ said Wick, a retired shop teacher from Hurley, Wis. ‘There was a big roar, like a jet going over, and here would come a wave.’ The roar was the sound of the waves, later estimated by Ashland firefighters at 8 to 12 feet, lifting and grinding chunks of ice as far as Wick could see. The chunk he was on was about as long and wide as a car, he said.” Wow.

This story isn’t going to diminish the Hollywood caricature of hyper-violent Russians. Mark Stodghill, also of the News Tribune, reports on one Vladimir Vladimirovic Brik, accused of “using a knife to carve a 10-inch ‘X’ on a man’s chest and threatening to set him on fire.” The news is that the guy’s mother wanted a public defender for him, but the judge said, “No way,” in view of the fact that “according to Brik’s request for a public defender, he owns a $170,000 house that is paid for, two automobiles that are paid for, and he has money in the bank. Johnson said the public defender’s office is down at least seven attorneys and is overworked. They work for the indigent, not someone who has $200,000 in assets,’ he said.” Thank you, your honor.