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Possible Koch ‘replacements’ coy

AFTERNOON EDITION ALSO: Collin Peterson targeted; Bachmann on payroll tax cut; state’s broadband status; Legacy grants; Lumberjack Days on hiatus; and more.
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The Strib’s latest on the Amy Koch scandal is a look at personal reimbursements and lineup of possible replacement candidates. Baird Helgeson and Jim Ragsdale say: “Senators from various factions within the Republican Party are being coy about who’s running for the top job, but several names are emerging. In addition to [Lakeville’s Dave] Thompson, they include Sen. David Hann of Eden Prairie and interim Senate Majority Leader Geoff Michel of Edina. Senators are racing to rebuild their leadership before the upcoming election, even as DFLers are poised to showcase the unrest in their bid to regain control in next year’s election. The leadership battle is likely to ignite a week of infighting as Republicans compete for control. … In response to a Star Tribune request, the Senate also released 2011 expenses for Koch. The Buffalo Republican was reimbursed for $30,006 in expenses this year, putting her among those receiving the largest reimbursements. Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, who lives 220 miles away in Cook, received the most — just over $40,000. Newly elected Sen. Chris Eaton, DFL-Brooklyn Center, received the least, at $250. The majority of Koch’s expenses went for her $14,000 housing allowance and $12,000 in daily living expenses, records show.”

Given the reaction of even the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page, all I can say is, “Good luck with this one.” Brett Neely of MPR writes: “After House Republicans rejected a bipartisan Senate bill that would extend the payroll tax cut for two months, the GOP’s campaign committee is launching calls in DFL Rep. Collin Peterson’s district trying to blame Peterson and other Democrats for the standoff. The call script, provided by the National Republican Congressional Committee, accuses Peterson of supporting a tax increase on the middle class because he voted against the House Republicans’ first attempt to offer tax extension, a bill loaded with unrelated legislative riders that pushed other Republican priorities. Still, it was House Republicans who voted to reject the Senate payroll tax bill, a measure that drew the support of 39 out of 47 Senate Republicans. With Senate leaders vowing not to bring the Senate back in session until January, the NRCC’s call campaign against Peterson appears to be part of a pre-emptive effort to spread the blame in case the payroll tax does rise on Jan. 1.” Now that, folks, is some world-class spinnin’.

Today in Bachmannia: You can always depend on Our Gal to explain the inexplicable. The Hill’s Daniel Strauss reports: “It was clear from the beginning that Democrats would not offer an acceptable payroll tax cut extension bill that House Republicans could accept, Michele Bachmann said Wednesday. ‘Harry Reid essentially threw a grenade over to the House and left and said, ‘Take it or leave it,’ so it was very difficult for John Boehner because this was just a two-month temporary gimmick and this leaves the entire United States business world in an uproar, because who can make any plans based on a two-month bill’?  Bachmann said on the “Today” show. … Bachmann said the two-month extension the Senate passed, 89-10, was just a political stunt, which is why she didn’t leave the campaign trail to vote on the bill when it reached the House. ‘It was obvious that nothing was going to happen,’ Bachmann continued. ‘President Obama wasn’t going to engage in the process. Harry Reid made a decision to throw over a two-month bill,’ Bachmann said. ‘I was fully prepared to go back if there was something that we could vote on, but it was very clear from the beginning that this was about politics.’ ” Which is the same reason she’s skipped every other vote for the past six months.

MPR’s Dave Peters looks at Minnesota’s broadband connectivity, and in terms of having access to high-speed Internet service, 97 percent of households can get it … if they want. But then you have to define “broadband”: “The percentage of households that have ‘broadband’ available to them has inched up from 96.6 percent in January to 97.1 percent now, according to Connect Minnesota, the organization charged with providing the best data on the subject. That means the number of households pretty much forced to deal with dial-up service or satellite wireless is down to 61,000. The problem is that definition of broadband (download speeds of 768 kilobits per second and upload speeds of 200 kilobits per second) looks less and less meaningful as every month goes by. The most meaningful number to look at it in the report Tuesday from Connect Minnesota is perhaps 57.4 percent. That’s how many Minnesota households can get download speeds of 10 megabits per second and upload speeds of 6 megabits per second. That number is meaningful for two reasons: 1) Minnesota lawmakers set a goal of making the speed available to everyone by 2015 and 2) as people want to use more video and other data-intensive applications, that speed is increasingly going to be considered normal.”

The out-of-control character of the day appears in an Emily Gurnon PiPress story: “The man’s 6-year-old daughter had drawn a picture of her mother and her mother’s new boyfriend. Enraged, Jerry Expose Jr. wadded up the piece of paper and shoved it into the child’s mouth, prosecutors said. ‘Expose then grabbed her by the throat with both hands and held her against the wall by her throat … threw her on the floor and stepped on her neck,’ according to a criminal complaint against the St. Paul man in Ramsey County District Court.” … And then it got worse.

The Minnesota Historical Society has doled out 48 grants from Legacy Fund money. Claude Peck at the Strib reports: “The grant amounts in this round are for $7,000 or less. One grant in Hennepin County will pay $5,625 to the website Twin Cities Daily Planet for researching Twin Cities theaters in the 1960s and 1970s. Daily Planet freelancer Sheila Regan, who applied for the grant, said she would use the money to launch an ongoing project to locate archives, conduct interviews, unearth archival information and digitize information of what she called a key time period in the creation of the modern theater scene here. … Other winners of the Minnesota Historical and Cultural Heritage Grants are spread throughout the state. Grant winners will use money to:
• fix a falling facade at the Lanesboro Arts Center in Fillmore County
• buy microfilm for the Freeborn County Historical Society
• videotape oral histories of Twin Cities dancers and dance groups
• conduct a photographic history of Minnesota railroads for a book
• assemble an exhibit of ghost towns of Mower County.”

What’s the point in summer if there’s no Lumberjack Days? We may find out now that Stillwater has voted to whack the contract for the company in charge of the summer blow-out. Mary Divine of the PiPress says: “The Stillwater City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to suspend the contract for Lumberjack Days festival, a move that could trigger the cancellation of next summer’s outdoor music event. The resolution, which passed by a 5-0 vote, suspends the festival contract until a police investigation involving worthless checks issued by the Lumberjack Days Festival Association is completed. ‘This is just kind of standing down,’ said Mayor Ken Harycki.”

In a scenario worthy of a B-movie, cops in Blaine busted a drug ring hauling marijuana in hockey bags. Paul Walsh’s Strib story says: “Two Twin Cities men and three others were part of a drug-smuggling plot that involved using several large hockey bags to sneak 132 pounds of marijuana into Minnesota on a plane that landed at an airport in the north metro, according to a federal indictment. Accused in an indictment unsealed Tuesday in federal court in St. Paul were Todd C. Skonnord, 26, of St. Paul, and Cameron L. Christensen, 23, of Andover; and Coloradans Boyd E. Wilkinson, 36, Robert L. Bowker, 33, and Anthony W. Raymond, 37. According to the indictment: On Sept. 30, Wilkinson and fellow Coloradan Martin M. Hecker landed a plane loaded with hockey bags at the Blaine airport at a time when the control tower was closed and the airport’s status was ‘uncontrolled.’ Tipped off about the cargo, a law enforcement officer met the plane on the taxiway. The plane’s door was opened and the hockey bags filled with the drug were discovered.”