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GOP brings in Steve Sviggum to replace Brodkorb

MORNING EDITION ALSO: Hockey handshake incident; hospital charity care spikes; Strib backs Capitol rehab; pet deer shot; Wisconsin political maneuvering; and more.
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I gather the bench is a little light on fresh talent. The state GOP is bringing Steve Sviggum back for another round. The Strib story, by Baird Helgeson, says: “Republicans have selected former state House Speaker Steve Sviggum as the caucus’ new executive assistant and communications chief. ‘Speaker Sviggum served with credibility and honor for many years,’ said Senate Majority Leader David Senjem, R-Rochester, who asked Sviggum to apply for the position. ‘This unique opportunity gives us the ability to capitalize on Steve’s experience, knowledge of the press, successful decision making skills, and relationships he has created over many years of service.’ In his new post, Sviggum will help the Senate GOP navigate the legislative session and broker deals with DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and House Republicans. He is likely to find himself in the middle of the politically dicey push to build a new Vikings stadium. An initial critic of taxpayer-funded stadiums, Sviggum was House speaker when the Legislature approved a new ballpark for the Twins. Sviggum, 60, is a stark change from the sometimes combative Michael Brodkorb, a seasoned GOP operative who was fired from his post last month after his boss, Sen. Amy Koch of Buffalo, abruptly stepped down as majority leader after admitting to an affair with a male staffer.”

The incident in the handshake line after the Gophers defeated the North Dakota (formerly Fighting Sioux) continues to play out. The school released a statement Monday saying: “Head Coach Dave Hakstol announced today that he has revoked senior defenseman Ben Blood’s assistant captaincy due to an altercation that occurred during the post-game handshake following Saturday night’s game against Minnesota. ‘Regardless of any provocation, Ben’s actions in the post-game handshake were not acceptable,’ said Hakstol. ‘The handshake line is a traditional, gentlemanly part of our game where, at the end of a hard-fought battle, opponents show good sportsmanship and shake hands like men.’ Hakstol added that Blood will be subject to further internal team disciplinary actions. ‘I’m not proud of my behavior,’ said Blood. ‘That’s not how I want to represent our program, and that’s not how we handle ourselves here.’ ” … Except when we do.

Miss the video? Here you go. And yes, young Mr. Blood is 8 inches taller and 50 pounds heavier than the guy he goes after.

Didn’t a recent president, wondering what all the fuss was about, suggest that everyone could get care in America just by going to the emergency room? In the Strib, Jackie Crosby writes: “The cost of providing free or discounted hospital care for low-income Minnesotans rose 27 percent in 2010, driven by still-high unemployment and dwindling state coverage for public assistance, according to an industry group. The Minnesota Hospital Association said in a report Monday that the state’s hospitals provided $226 million in charity care last year. … In all, Minnesota hospitals contributed $2.28 billion to their communities, an increase of more than 8 percent over last year, according to figures that align with new Internal Revenue Service filing requirements. That number takes into account charity care, unreimbursed care for low-income patients covered by public insurance plans, residency training for doctors, clinical research and free programs for such things as immunizations, nutrition, weight loss or smoking cessation.”

The Star Tribune seems to be taking a “spend whatever it takes” attitude toward refurbishment of the Capitol building. In an editorial, it says: “Minnesota’s ‘people’s palace’ is in trouble. Decades of deferred maintenance have put the Capitol at what an expert consultant described as a tipping point. Act soon, said architect David Hart, or the problems will become too costly and complex to be fully solvable. The scaffolds will never come down. Minnesotans should recoil from that prospect. … Gov. Mark Dayton chaired the preservation commission and expressed support for its recommendation [of a $241 million project]. But he said that when he unveils a $775 million bonding wish list today, the Capitol won’t be on it. Rather, he said, he’ll address Capitol needs with a separate initiative. Here’s hoping he does so soon, and in a way that calls Minnesotans to higher stewardship.” Right. A “call to stewardship.” That’ll get ‘er done.

There’s still no accounting for the White Bear Lake couple missing in that Italian cruise ship disaster. At the PiPress, Sarah Horner writes: “A 24-hour vigil is under way at the Church of St. Pius X for the White Bear Lake couple missing since Friday, when the cruise ship they were traveling on crashed off the Italian coast. ‘It is the focus of prayers until we come to a resolution or some closure on this,’ said Larry Erickson, director of operations at the White Bear Lake church, where Gerald and Barbara Heil have attended services since 1973. … The tally of missing people dropped from about 60 Saturday to about 15 on Sunday. A message recording left at the home of one of the couple’s four adult children says the family is working closely with the U.S. embassy in Italy to try and locate their parents.”

Excuse me. What happened here? The Morris Sun Tribune reports that the Minnesota woman who disappeared from a South Dakota truck stop … has wandered back down from the hills. “According to family members, she was abducted outside the Coffee Cup and taken into nearby hills where she was robbed and thrown into a ravine. After managing to get out of the ravine and fighting freezing temperatures, Beyer walked back toward the roadway and the truck stop. At one point on Sunday afternoon she heard the search planes but was unable to get into a location where she could be seen. Sunday afternoon teams of approximately 30 fire fighters, including two dogs, combed the area throughout the day, but turned up no sign of Beyer. About 9 a.m. Monday morning. Beyer walked into the truck stop.”

The police shooting in Forest Lake of two deer, raised as pets since fawns, has some people quite worked up. Here’s the police version of events, courtesy the FLPD: “On the morning of January 14th at about 7 a.m. an officer with our department nearly struck two deer while driving a squad car in the road near the above location. The officer noticed the two deer were wearing collars as described in the Department of Natural Resources email. The officer removed his department issued shotgun and dispatched the first deer approximately 10 yards off of the roadway. When the first deer was dispatched the second deer ran into the backyard at the 10000 block of North Shore Trail. The officer followed the second deer to a safe location where it was dispatched. Both deer were dispatched approximately 50-60 yards from the residence. The photos that were circulated depict the location of the deer near a garage. The deer had been transported to that location to assist in loading it into the Conservation Officers vehicle. It was at this time that the homeowner came out of the residence and advised our officer that the deer were pets.”

The Capital Times in Madison has a story about Wisconsin unions trying to coordinate to choose a candidate to oppose Gov. Scott Walker in a recall: “With an election on the horizon, all that’s missing is a candidate. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett; former U.S. Rep. David Obey; state Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton; state Sen. Tim Cullen, D-Janesville; former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk and state Rep. Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, are on the short list of names being floated as possible candidates. To whittle down the list in an effort to make an endorsement, [public employee union executive director Marty] Beil says he and other union leaders have been meeting with possible candidates for weeks. That included a large meeting in December between Beil, Mary Bell, president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council, the state’s largest teachers union, plus building trade, steel worker and service employee unions. … The fact the unions plan to back one candidate doesn’t appear to bode well for Barrett. ‘It is clear that Barrett is an unacceptable candidate,’ Beil says. ‘From our perspective, Barrett has been doing the bidding of Walker.’ Barrett, who lost to Walker by 52 to 47 percent of the vote in the November 2010 election, is the only candidate Beil expressed an opinion on. He says union members for years have had a ‘difficult time’ working with Barrett.” There’s never a dull moment in Wisconsin.

Speaking of … Walker had a tough time even commemorating Martin Luther King. The story at in Madison (with video) tells of the governor being hissed at by the crowd in the Capitol rotunda. “Protesters hissed and chanted ‘shame’ at Gov. Scott Walker after he read a proclamation at the state’s official Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday ceremony in the Capitol rotunda. Walker spoke briefly at the event Monday afternoon that attracted hundreds of people and featured a gospel choir from Chicago, a youth choir from Madison and a keynote speech from University of Maryland law professor Sherrilyn Ifill. She elicited loud applause during her comments when she said that King would not have approved of laws requiring voters to present photo identification at the polls. Walker signed a photo ID law last year. Ifill also drew applause when she said King would have stood up for worker rights.” Apparently you reap what you sow.