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DFL Rep. Steve Simon’s speech is a YouTube sensation

AFTERNOON EDITION ALSO: Block E casino draws attention; more gambling news; Dayton cool to ‘Shoot First’ bill; 20 state firms make Fortune 500 list; and more.
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DFL Rep. Steve Simon has become something of an Internet sensation with his speech opposing the latest ban on gay marriage legislation, a speech in which he confronted the “nature vs. nurture” question. The Fox9 story says:‘How many gays must God create before we accept that he wants them around?’ That’s the take-home line in a powerful speech by Minnesota State Rep. Steve Simon against banning gay marriage in the state. Video of Rep. Simon’s speech had more than 170,000 YouTube views by Thursday morning after getting linked on national websites and blogs, including Simons’ speech came during a Capitol hearing on Monday.” Here’s the link.

The Block E Casino proposal continues to draw attention, specifically to its potential revenue and to who gets how much. Eric Roper and Jennifer Bjorhus of the Strib report: “Gov. Mark Dayton said Wednesday a proposed casino project in downtown Minneapolis would have to split more of its revenue with the state, suggesting half of the proceeds should go to government coffers. The share is substantially more than what casino-backers rolled out Wednesday morning at a celebratory press conference on Block E in Minneapolis, heralding an initiative to transform the beleaguered downtown mall into a glassy, Las Vegas-style casino. The enabling legislation, which two Republican lawmakers are expected to introduce Thursday, caps the state’s take at about 25 percent and sends about 70 percent of the estimated $400 million in annual revenues to whoever develops and operates the facility. Dayton dismissed the state’s 25 percent take as ‘low and unacceptable.’ “

And while we’re talking (more) gambling, a story in the Princeton Union-Eagle says: “An electronic-linked bingo and pull-tabs bill that charitable gambling officials look to [revive] their flagging industry passed a Senate committee [yesterday]. In addition to the provision on electronic bingo and pull-tabs — the Gambling Control Board estimates some 3,500 sites in Minnesota could offer these ‘21st Century’ electronic games by 2014 — Sen. Mike Parry’s bill also cuts state taxes on charitable gaming. ‘Quite frankly, charitable gambling is at a crossroads,’ said King Wilson, Executive Director of Allied Charities of Minnesota, to the Senate Government Innovation and Veterans Committee. King depicted the charitable gambling industry as in decline. About 2800 sites in Minnesota still offer charitable gambling, he explained. But there seems about one termination a week, he said. Indeed, the charitable contributions made by the some 1,200 licensed non-profit organizations offering charitable gambling in 2009, some $43 million, was the lowest amount since the mid-1980s, Wilson explained.” You can practically see the neon signs hanging off the Basilica.

“Stand Your Ground” or “Shoot First,” whatever you call it, the latest gun advocacy legislation is not getting any support from Gov. Dayton. Bob von Sternberg of the Strib is saying: “Gun control advocates and organizations representing the state’s police chiefs, sheriffs and officers reiterated their opposition to the bill, which, they say, could endanger their members. ‘To us, this is a huge officer safety issue,’ said Dennis Flaherty, executive director of the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association. Dayton, himself a gun owner, said he will ‘listen carefully to the concerns of the law enforcement community.’ He added: ‘I understand and believe that somebody has a right, if somebody enters their home and is threatening their spouse or their children or themselves, to take preventive action, and I recognize the police are not going to always be able to be on the scene immediately. I’m sympathetic to those concerns, but this goes way beyond that.’ “

Resolute Vikings stadium opponents will find no champion in Dayton. Says the AP: “Dayton said Wednesday he wouldn’t let unfinished state budget business get in the way of a new Minnesota Vikings stadium, offering to sign a stadium bill even if lawmakers blew a deadline to finish the budget. The Democratic governor said during a Capitol news briefing that the stadium project was ‘a separate standalone matter for the Legislature to consider’ and would bring several thousand jobs. ‘Get it completed, I’ll sign it,’ Dayton said. ‘Yes. Get it done. Get people to work.’ ” Not sure if that’s the optimum negotiating position, but it is where he’s at.

A particularly good piece by our Doug Grow on “government by amendment.” Noting the barrage of amendment legislation served up by the GOP majority (so far) this session, Grow writes: “Throughout the first months of the session, House and Senate leadership had downplayed the notion that their caucuses would come forward with controversial amendments this year. ‘Focused like a laser’ on the budget and job creation, leaders had said. With a straight face, [GOP Rep. Steve] Gottwalt actually used those very words as he presented his explosive marriage amendment to the committee. ‘Why are we taking up constitutional amendments when we have this huge deficit that we haven’t dealt with?’ Rep. Lyndon Carlson, DFL-Crystal, asked Gottwalt. ‘I think it’s clear we’re focused like a laser on the budget,’ Gottwalt said. There were snickers in the room. But stop for a moment and consider: Are the Republicans practicing good politics? If it is a good idea, why didn’t DFLers try the same approach when they were the majority in the Legislature but Tim Pawlenty was governor?”

Jordana Green of KARE-TV files a report on ice house trash floating ashore on Mille Lacs: “Wood blocks and beams from ice shanties, empty beer cans and bottles pollute a 4-mile stretch along the northeastern shore on Lake Mille Lacs, Minnesota’s second-largest inland lake. Local resident Art Howard says the trash makes him mad because the fishermen aren’t respecting the lake as a valuable resource. ‘The problem is that people aren’t properly attending to their houses and leaving blocking in place when they’re supposed to be picking it up,’ Howard told KARE 11 Wednesday. ‘I picked up several pieces of 6 x 6 that are several feet long. You really don’t want to hit one with your boat or while you’re waterskiing.’ Conservation officer Scott Fiztgerald says it’s the responsibility of the ice shack owner to remove any blocking under the shanty or any trash. Those responsible for the trash could be fined but at this stage are hard to identify.”

Twenty Minnesota companies made this year’s Fortune 500 list. The highest revenue of our bunch? You guessed it. UnitedHealth. Tom Webb of the PiPress reports: “UnitedHealth Group was the largest Minnesota company on the list, ranked No. 22. Other Minnesota giants include Target (No. 33), Best Buy (No. 47), Supervalu (No. 61), and 3M (No. 97). Minnesota’s roster of 20 companies on the Fortune 500 is down one from last year, due to the purchase of Minneapolis-based bottler PepsiAmericas by New York-based PepsiCo. But the rest of Minnesota’s power lineup remains largely unchanged. The list provides an annual reminder of how much corporate might this region has. Only seven other states — all with significantly large populations — have more. Two other states, New Jersey and Virginia, also have 20 corporations on the list. The rankings are determined by annual revenues. For the second straight year, Wal-Mart captured the top spot. It was followed by the three largest American oil companies: Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp. and ConocoPhillips.”

Speaking of Target, the big bull’s-eye was off projections by 0.1 of 1 percent. The AP story says: “Target Corp.’s April revenue increased 13.1 percent at stores open at least a year, as customers flocked there for basics like groceries and clothing. Much of the increase was a result of a later Easter that pushed more holiday-related spending into April. Still, CEO Gregg Steinhafel said in a statement that April sales were ‘somewhat below our expectations,’ and they were slightly below analysts’ predictions of 13.2 percent. Steinhafel says customers are feeling squeezed by the rising costs of gas and groceries. Groceries drove the sales increase, rising more than 30 percent. Clothing, especially for children, also did well, the company said.”