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Legislative bonhomie lasts … about all of 90 minutes

The (kind of not) eagerly awaited return of the Minnesota Legislature produced maybe 90 minutes of harmony, say Dennis Lien and Megan Boldt of the PiPress. “Some of last year’s rancor surfaced on the first day of the 2012 legislative session when Republican leaders outlined a plan to erase the Senate’s $2.7 million budget shortfall, including $440,000 in staffing cuts for Democratic-Farmer-Laborites and none for their own caucus. ‘Members, this is a dangerous precedent we’re taking,’ warned Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook. That confrontation marred what had been a day of relative fellowship, as lawmakers again left homes and families to renew their annual ritual of drafting and passing bills and engaging in committee and floor debates. Last year’s exercise turned into an ordeal — a five-month session heavy on argument and light on accomplishment.” MinnPost’s James Nord details the testy committee session here.

In stadium news, Gov. Dayton was back to talking about a “peoples’ stadium.” Tim Nelson at MPR writes: “Dayton said he would like to see the stadium matter settled at the Capitol by the end of February. ‘I want the people of Minnesota to see the Legislature have a specific proposal that’s in the public interest, that builds a people’s stadium, owned and operated by the public in the public interest,’ Dayton said. ‘Then I want them to have the chance to see their Legislators vote it up or down in this session.’ … In the Senate, newly-elected Majority Leader Dave Senjem had doubts. He suggested the issue will hinge on expanded gambling, a perennial controversy. ‘It might be the pull tabs. It might be Block E yet. But it won’t be taxpayer money,’ Senjem said. ‘If we can’t make gaming work, we may not be able to make the stadium work.’ Dayton has said that he would support electronic pull tabs to pay the state share of a new stadium. However, supporters for that idea were also wary of the combination of stadium and gambling politics. Expanding pull-tab gambling into an electronic form was proposed by the Allied Charities of Minnesota, the trade group for pull-tab gambling in Minnesota. Charities want the extra money to rollback a tax increase that dates back to the 1990s, and give more money to beneficiaries.”

The Strib’s Dee DePass had the assignment of creating a cross section reaction to President Obama‘s State of the Union speech. She writes: “Small businesses said they want Obama to kill talk of raising taxes on the wealthy. Manufacturers want better-educated workers. And educators said they want Obama to boost federal financial aid for students. Everyone insisted they were tired of the gridlock and wanted Obama and Congress to get on with their jobs. … In a recent survey of 400 Minnesota manufacturers, Enterprise Minnesota found that manufacturers are trying to tap more local suppliers who can deliver smaller orders faster without the huge energy costs and delays that come with overseas shipping. That could help Obama’s jobs agenda. He pledged to revive parts of his $477 billion jobs creation proposal that would put veterans and the unemployed to work building bridges, roads and other infrastructure projects. Republicans largely rejected the effort, saying it was too spendy, too short-term and too risky when the nation faces unprecedented levels of debt.”

KARE-TV reports that fundraising efforts on behalf of paralyzed prep hockey player Jack Jablonski have netted $134,000 to date: “On Tuesday the Minnesota Wild, FOX Sports North and Wells Fargo today announced that the fundraising effort linked to the sixth annual Hockey Day Minnesota (HDM) had collected a total of $134,045.13 for the Jack Jablonski Trust Fund. The money came largely from a telethon and online auction.”

There’s one of these stories every year or so. This time it happened in Minnesota. Bob Shaw of the PiPress writes: “Someone should make a movie about Remi, the toughest dog in America. Over five months, the dog traveled 150 miles and survived wintry Minnesota weather. Covered with wounds and starved enough to lose one-quarter of his body weight, he is believed to have escaped from dog-nappers. And like a celluloid hero, he came through it all with his tail wagging. Remi, a German short-haired pointer, was reunited with his owner Saturday at the Animal Humane Society facility in Woodbury.”

Another Minnesotan has (re-)achieved ambassador status. Corey Mitchell of the Strib says: “President Obama has nominated Minnesota native Scott DeLisi as his ambassador to Uganda. The White House announced Tuesday that Obama sent DeLisi’s name to the Senate for confirmation as the envoy to the East African nation. If confirmed, it would mark the latest passport stamp for the career U.S. Foreign Service officer. DeLisi, who grew up in South St. Paul, has been the ambassador to Nepal since March 2010. During the George W. Bush administration, he served as envoy to Eritrea, a country in the horn of Africa. DeLisi has also served in various posts in Botswana, India, Madagascar, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. He is at least the third Minnesotan to be appointed an ambassador by the Obama administration. In 2009, the White House named Sam Kaplan as ambassador to Morocco and Miguel Diaz, a Roman Catholic theologian from St. John’s University and the College of St. Benedict in Collegeville, as envoy to the Vatican.”

The Strib picks up Dana Milbank’s column on Tim Pawlenty from The Washington Post. Says Milbank of Our Guy: “Belatedly, Pawlenty has found his venom sac. And on Monday morning, he poured it on Newt Gingrich during a conference call with reporters. ‘For Republicans and conservatives all across this country, a question is going to have to be as they consider Newt Gingrich as a potential nominee for president: Really? I mean, really’? Pawlenty went on to dub Gingrich a lobbyist and ‘influence peddler’ and demanded that he release his client list and contract with the mortgage provider Freddie Mac. ‘The notion that he was paid $1.7 million as a historian for Freddie Mac is just BS,’ he added. ‘I mean, it’s just nonsense.’ ‘Gingrich,’ Pawlenty informed the reporters, ‘has spent almost his entire adult life either as a member of the Congress or as somebody who has been an influence peddler. … To suggest that he’s the outsider simply defies the facts.’ It was a solid political punch. Unfortunately for Pawlenty, it was too late for his own presidential ambitions.”

Yeah, tobacco and other legal herbs … dude. Says Amy Forliti of the AP: “A northwestern Minnesota shop that sells tobacco, pipes and other products has sued the city of Moorhead over the way police are enforcing a new ordinance outlawing drug paraphernalia. In a lawsuit filed this week in federal court, attorneys for Discontent are asking for a temporary restraining order that would keep police from enforcing the ordinance, which makes it illegal to sell items that are intended for use with controlled substances. In the lawsuit, Discontent and its owner, Disc & Tape, say the pipes and other devices it sells are intended to be used to smoke tobacco and other legal herbs. The lawsuit says some of the items ‘may incidentally resemble devices used to smoke controlled substances’ but do not constitute drug paraphernalia under the ordinance. … Randall Tigue, an attorney for Discontent, said Moorhead’s ordinance isn’t that different from Minnesota’s statute, but under state law, in order to prove an item is drug paraphernalia there has to be intent to use it with illegal substances. He said in Moorhead, when police say pipes with certain physical characteristics are illegal regardless of their intent, ‘that essentially puts my clients out of business.’ “

Liberal blog “MNPublius” reviews Obama’s speech last night, saying: “The problem I had … was with Obama’s continuing effort to prove he’s the grownup in the room, and the way he takes pains to validate certain Republican ideas. Some say he was ‘co-opting their language’ for the 2012 campaign. I think he was ceding intellectual ground to them. Given the insane level of Republican rhetoric these days, the 2012 campaign is not going to be a lucid discussion of the subtleties between the two candidates’ plans. It’s going to be a debate over high-level ideas. I don’t think you can win an argument like that by accepting your opponent’s ideas and validating their framing. For the rest of 2012, Obama needs to stick as strongly as possible to the themes his campaign wants to emphasize. It’s all well and good to try to show that you’re a reasonable guy, but it’s been over three years and that hasn’t worked for him. It’s time to finally let it go and develop an intense focus on restoring the economy for the 99 percent.”

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