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‘New nukes’ bill passes Minnesota Senate

MORNING EDITION ALSO: Klobuchar helps plug “gap”; “underwater” help; no MLK dog park; possible Sunday booze sales; in search of a GOP Senate candidate; and Favre voted NFL’s “Most Disliked” player.
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‘New nukes’ bill passes Minnesota Senate

As promised, the new GOP Senate passed a bill lifting the ban on new nuclear power plants in Minnesota. Eric Roper of the Strib blogs on “Hot Dish Politics”: “The real fight has likely just begun. The Senate lifted the ban in 2009, but similar efforts failed in the House. The House voted last year to lift the moratorium with a variety of ratepayer protection clauses opposed by Republicans. Gov. Mark Dayton may be the deciding factor. On Wednesday, Dayton sounded at least open to signing the nuclear bill but set a very high bar for any measure to pass muster. He said the bill would have to have no impact on ratepayers, have no net increase on nuclear waste and have ‘no weapons grade or near weapons grade plutonium’ generated from any new reactors. ‘Those would be the three requirements I would have to consider it,’ Dayton said. ‘My opposition is based on the fact that there is no national storage site (for waste) … There’s no free lunch when it comes to energy production.’ ”  Just an opinion here, but a national waste site seems more likely than a multi-billion-dollar plant having “no impact on ratepayers.”

Brian Bakst’s AP story quotes DFL Sen. Ellen Anderson: “Anderson failed in her attempt to add language preventing power companies from billing customers for planning and construction before a plant comes on line. ‘Give them a guarantee they won’t be gouged because of this,’ Anderson, of St. Paul, said of ratepayers. [Sponsor Amy] Koch and her allies contended that making utilities shoulder the full cost of planning and construction would stop them from considering it, effectively extending the state moratorium.”

Businessweek reporter Michael Gormley has a story that involves Sen. Amy Klobuchar banding together with other senators to plug a weird gap between agencies that allowed federal prisoners to file bogus tax returns claiming millions of dollars in refunds: “Pressure from U.S. senators in New York, Ohio, Minnesota and Florida in January led to an agreement signed Wednesday between the Internal Revenue Service and the federal Bureau of Prisons to break down bureaucratic and regulatory barriers to end the practice. … According to the IRS, the number of bogus tax returns filed by federal and state prisoners doubled in five years to 44,944 as of 2009. The amount of fraudulent claims during that time rose to $295 million, up from $68 million five years before. Prisoners nationwide have used their own names or the names of friends and associates to submit the false claims.” And I’m worried about square footage on my home office …

Some stories spark a wave of intense skepticism. But the Strib’s Dan Browning says mega-bank Chase is actually planning on setting up a local shop to help “underwater” home-owners: “These counseling centers provide struggling homeowners with face-to-face advice and resources to help them stay in their homes, the bank says. ‘We want to reach as many homeowners as possible and try to help,’ said David Lowman, CEO of Chase Home Lending. ‘We educate borrowers on their options and help structure a solution that’s right for them. Our new centers will dramatically expand the reach of this program and we hope help keep thousands more homeowners in their homes.’ ” Given the big banks’ track record with mortgage modification, you’re excused if you suspect an influx of “robo-signers.”

An AP story puts the Twin Cities among the top five metro areas in terms of job growth: “The top three were Washington, Dallas and Boston — all home to industries that are poised to hire this year. Information technology companies, biomedical research firms and government contractors are growing industries that are likely to add to their payrolls in the coming months — and the federal government has plenty of jobs listed, too. The unemployment rate fell in 207 of the 372 largest metro areas in December, the most to report a decline since September, the Labor Department said Wednesday. In Minneapolis-St. Paul, the unemployment rate of 6.5 percent was the same as a month earlier and down from 7.2 percent in December 2009.”

Another AP story has a federal judge ordering Charles Hays of Minnesota to pay $84.7 million in fines and restitution for a Ponzi scheme: “The Commodity Futures Trading Commission said Wednesday it obtained the order from a federal judge in St. Paul against … Hays and his company, Crossfire Trading. The agency sued Hays in February 2009, accusing him of soliciting money to invest in stock and crude oil futures and instead taking it for his own benefit.”

That proposed dog park in Martin Luther King Park? Ain’t gonna happen. Randy Furst of the Strib writes: “The dispute over the proposal to construct an off-leash dog park at King Park erupted last summer, much to the surprise of dog owners in the neighborhood, who had been working for a year to build support and develop plans for the project. A group of older blacks who belonged to an AARP group that meets at the Sabathani Community Center in south Minneapolis heard about it and began circulating a petition against the idea. Many of them had lived through or been active in the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s and cherish the park as a memorial to King … The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board voted unanimously Wednesday night to remove … King Park from consideration.”

City Pages’ Rachel Hutton asks for comments on the bill to allow liquor sales on Sunday in Minnesota.  Says “AG”: “Well, if it’s a matter of smaller businesses not wanting to stay open on Sunday, let them stay closed. I’ve driven to WI for booze before out of last-minute necessity, and I’ll do it again if our brilliant elected officials can’t pull their heads out of their collective asses long enough to make their constituents happy.” To that, “boozefreedom” adds: “There is no good reason to prohibit Sunday sales of liquor. We all know the only reason its on the books is some midwestern cultural/religious values that once did, but no longer have a place in forming legislation. People need booze on Sunday even more than most days — there are sports to watch, family and friendly gatherings to be had.” And “valentine” says: “I would rather see beer and wine sales in grocery stores. I am burdened more often with stopping at two places on my way home than having nothing to get day drunk with on a Sunday.” Hey … she asked.

An opponent any opponent for Amy Klobuchar in 2012 has yet to make an appearance. Tom Scheck of MPR runs through a list of suspects: “ Minnesota Republican Party Chair Tony Sutton says he’s not worried that a candidate hasn’t emerged yet. He said he’s had private meetings with several potential candidates and has been ‘very aggressive’ in finding a candidate to challenge Klobuchar. ‘There are people definitely weighing their options,’ Sutton said. ‘I think you’ll start to see people emerge here and bubble up in the next 60 to 90 days, and it would be a very vigorous contest.’ Sutton said he thinks a candidate will still have time to campaign and raise money if he or she announces by the summer. Sutton insisted that Klobuchar is vulnerable. He called her support ‘a mile wide and an inch deep.’ ” As for you-know-who … “One wild card in this race is GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann. Bachmann, who appears to be gearing up for a run for the White House, could make a run for the U.S. Senate instead. Bachmann is a solid fundraiser and has high name recognition. One problem for her is that a recent poll shows her well behind Klobuchar.”

As you stock up on beverages, chips and obnoxious friends to watch Sunday’s Super Bowl, you might like to know that according to a poll, Brett Favre is rated the “Most Disliked” player in the NFL. The Hollywood Reporter writes: “[R]esults show that Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is the most disliked player going into Sunday’s game and the fourth most disliked player in the league — behind Brett Favre, Michael Vick and Tom Brady.”

But it gets more pathetic … “The poll, conducted by Penn Schoen Berland, shows that 78 percent of Americans plan to watch the game — up five percent from last year and ten percent from 2009’s game. The men make up the bulk of this ratings increase, with 89 percent of males polled saying they would watch the game. But the numbers show that 68 percent of America’s women will watch the game, up nine percent from 2009. A further finding in the poll shows that the Super Bowl is the second most important day in an American male’s life during the year. The poll results show that men get excited for the Super Bowl more than any other day, with the exception of Christmas, and look forward to it more than their anniversary, birthday or Thanksgiving.”