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Voter ID clears state Senate

AFTERNOON EDITION ALSO: Court throws last Vike lineman for a loss; miserable winter good for Xcel; stadium hearing — and taxes; job gains — and losses; Wisconsin fallout; and more.
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By a 37-26 vote, the  Minnesota Senate today passed the  much-needed, long-awaited Voter ID bill you, me and everyone you know has been clamoring for. The AP story says: “Republicans who sponsored the bill say it will boost confidence in state elections after two recent statewide recounts. But there’s no evidence of widespread voter fraud problems in Minnesota, and Democrats say the stricter requirement will make it harder to vote for the elderly, disabled and low-income people. The bill provides free picture IDs to all voters, but to get one requires a birth certificate or other form of identification.” A birth certificate? Well, we know someone who’ll never vote in Minnesota.

With ex-Viking Alan Page recusing himself, the Minnesota Supreme Court has handed two current Vikings a defeat in their anti-doping case. Steve Karnowski of the AP reports: “The Minnesota Supreme Court has cleared the way for the NFL to suspend Minnesota Vikings defensive lineman Pat Williams, perhaps the final chapter in the closely watched anti-doping case. In a one-page order without comment, the court declined to consider Williams’ appeal of a decision that had gone against both Pat Williams and teammate Kevin Williams … [who] gave up the fight last month because his attorney said he was tired of the litigation.”

I’m surprised this story hasn’t gained any traction with the local dailies. Minnesota filmmaker Wendy Weiner Runge who in February pled guilty to a federal fraud charge in Iowa — essentially for ripping off the Iowa Film Tax Credit Program — has now filed a civil suit charging defamation. The Des Moines Register’s Lee Rood writes: “Runge says the state has defamed and damaged her in name, reputation and business because of statements state employees have made to reporters, colleagues and the general public. Her lawsuit does not name individuals or specific instances in which she was allegedly defamed. She also says Iowa’s Department of Economic Development failed to understand the law that created the Iowa Film Tax Credit Program. … The state has filed a civil lawsuit seeking to recoup state money lost to Runge and her partners. As part of her lawsuit, Runge seeks to dismiss the state’s civil lawsuit.”

Our long, miserable winter has been good for one thing … electric company profits. The PiPress story, by Leslie Brooks Suzukamo, says, “Xcel Energy today reported that interim electric rate increases in Minnesota and North Dakota and a colder than normal winter helped boost profits in its first quarter this year. The Minneapolis-based utility reported revenue for the period ending March 31 of $2.8 million, essentially flat from last year. Profit rose from $167.1 million, or 36 cents a share, to $203.6 million, or 42 cents a share, in line with the consensus expectation of analysts polled by Thomson Reuters.”

I was rarely ever happier than when my boys grew out of their obsession with sports team merchandise. Those $45 J.R. Rider jerseys added up fast. MPR’s Tim Nelson explains the significance of a sports merchandise tax on Vikings stadium talk: “[A] new analysis by the state’s revenue department is clear on one thing. About 60 cents of every $1 the state pays for a stadium would come from one source: a 10 percent tax on sports memorabilia. That includes hats, shirts, jackets, balls, and all sorts of other licensed merchandise that sports fans buy. But the tax wouldn’t just be on Vikings merchandise. It would also be collected on Minnesota Twins items — like Joe Mauer jerseys and autographed baseballs. And anything with Timberwolves and Wild logos, too.”

Speaking of … the stadium plan, such as it is, will at long last get a hearing … next week. Mike Kaszuba of the Strib writes: “Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, said the legislation would probably have its first hearing before the Senate Local Government and Elections Committee. The committee, chaired by Sen. Ray Vandeveer, R-Forest Lake, includes Sen. John Harrington, DFL-St. Paul, a freshman state senator and co-author of the Vikings legislation. More importantly, the 14-member committee includes five freshman Republican state senators and would be an early test of how the new Republican Senate majority, made up of a large contingent of first-time senators, stands on the controversial issue of giving public subsidies to the Vikings while the state faces a $5.1 billion budget deficit.”

If you’re keeping score, that’s 268 (jobs) out at Medtronic, and 450 in at Comcast. Dee DePass’s Strib story says: “Comcast Corp. will open a call center in Minnetonka this summer with 450 new hires bent on improving customer service, company officials said late Wednesday. Hiring will begin immediately, raising Comcast’s Minnesota employment from 1,900 to 2,350. The new workers will handle calls from Western cities such as the Twin Cities, Houston, Denver, Sacramento, San Francisco, Salt Lake City, Portland and Seattle. The new call center, with one of the largest job gains the metro area has seen from one employer in years, may help soften the blows dealt to Minnesota this week. Medtronic Inc. said Wednesday that it will cut 268 local jobs.”

An editorial in the Wisconsin State Journal, indignant over those bogus “sick notes” written by doctors for teachers and other public employees during the Madison protests, has been picked up by the Strib: “ If you’re too sick to go to work, then you’re too sick to go to a loud, crowded public protest in Downtown Madison. You don’t need a doctor to determine that — just common sense. The doctors were dishonest, and so were their “patients” for using the flimsy medical excuses to skip work. Madison School District officials told teachers who turned in fraudulent sick notes to rescind them by last month or face discipline. The district still needs to tally how many notes were rescinded. The district is docking pay for teachers who missed work without a legitimate excuse. The district received sick notes from hundreds of teachers during four days of protests in mid-February. It’s important to note that most teachers and the vast majority of local doctors didn’t participate in this sham.” There is, after all, no record of any Koch Brothers lobbyist taking a fake sick day.

So, according to various sources, Wisconsin grocers will be on high alert for an outbreak of sticker-activism, or vandalism, depending on your point of view, come Sunday, May 1. Doris Hajewski of the Milwaukee Sentinel-Journal writes:“Opponents of Gov. Scott Walker for months have been urging people to boycott companies linked to donations to Walker’s campaign. Now there is an effort under way to expand the boycott nationally to encourage people to go into stores and place stickers on products. Among products targeted for stickers are Johnsonville brats, AngelSoft toilet paper, Sargento cheese and Coors beer. … The identity of the backers of the sticker effort is unknown, although many assume it is being orchestrated by public employee unions. … Public employee unions also have promoted boycotts against companies linked to donations to Walker’s campaign, including Kwik Trip, Sargento Foods Inc., Johnsonville Sausage, M&I Bank and many others.”