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Welcome back, legislators!


Excitement is palpable as the Legislature returns Tuesday to the business of ... well, what it does. The Duluth News Tribune offers a “welcome back” editorial, saying: “They head back to St. Paul this year buoyed by a budget forecast that shows a surplus, rather than a deficit — for the first time in a long time. They also head back knowing it’s a bonding year, a chance to bring home public construction projects, jobs and millions of dollars. Not a bad deal in an election year. But that bonding bill, a Vikings football stadium, constitutional amendments, the ongoing quest for jobs and more all also pose pitfalls for potential divide.”

But, since gridlock is what a modern Legislature does best, Warren Wolfe of the Strib points out: “One key debate will determine whether Republican opposition to federal ‘Obamacare’ is so intense that the GOP-led Legislature will block a Republican-authored bill to create a statewide health insurance exchange, a one-stop marketplace where more than 1 million Minnesotans could be shopping for coverage in two years. That's what happened in the Legislature last year, leaving Minnesota in gridlock while many other states began implementing various provisions of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, President Obama's signature health care proposal.”

We would be considering the source if it were just the media saying this, but it’s the government, too. Laura Yuen at MPR says: "The first year of major construction on a future light-rail line in St. Paul suffered from communication lapses, haphazard planning, and inattention to community concerns — and that's according to the government agency that manages the project. Hundreds of documents examined by MPR News show the magnitude of performance problems associated with building the St. Paul portion of the massive Central Corridor transit system connecting to Minneapolis. Community members have complained about treacherous sidewalks and blocked access to businesses. The records reveal just how systemic some of the glitches were. In some cases, project staff with the Met Council urged the general contractor to fix a problem — only to have Chicago-based Walsh Construction repeat the mistake again and again.” It’s a solid story ... without a mention of perfection-rattling vibrations in downtown St. Paul.

Speaking of trains … The Freedom Foundation of Minnesota (you can guess where it is on the political spectrum) is still outraged at the North Star line: “Based on ridership results obtained by the Freedom Foundation of Minnesota for year two of Northstar service ending in November, 2011, it appears Metro Transit officials did not lower expectations enough. When it comes to overall ridership numbers, the $318 million commuter rail line continues to head in the wrong direction. ... The Freedom Foundation of Minnesota has calculated that Northstar runs up a more than $1 million per month operating deficit.  Fewer passengers than budgeted for means less revenue coming in to pay the costs of running the commuter trains. The onus falls again on increased subsidies from taxpayers, whether they ride Northstar or not. A 2010 FFM report based on Metro Transit statistics calculated that every $14 round trip ticket on the Northstar Commuter Rail Line costs taxpayers an additional $29.66 in subsidies.”

Last week’s protest against the copyright-inspired SOPA legislation required a lot of explaining. Sen. Al Franken, as Kevin Diaz in the Strib notes, had feet on both side of the issue: “In the annals of political indecision ... cyber protests over Internet piracy will long be remembered, not just because there’s no easy resolution, but because it represents a milestone in Congress’ efforts to come to terms with the new rules of the digital age. The Macbethian dilemma is plainly illustrated in a remarkable email Sen. Al Franken felt compelled to send out to supporters Friday night explaining why, even as co-sponsor of copyright protection legislation, he thinks it’s a good thing to hold off — presumably until D.C. lawmakers figure out what they’re doing. It’s an especially tough call for Franken, a guy with built-in hip credentials from his days at Saturday Night Live, as well as a champion of the Web Nation through his advocacy of ‘net neutrality.' Sort of puts him on both sides of the digital wall.”

Jack Jablonski, the prep hockey player paralyzed in a game just before New Year’s, is moving to a rehabilitation center. Tim Nelson’s MPR story says: “He isn't expected to skate or walk ever again, but Jablonksi's parents wrote on his Caring Bridge web site that he will be leaving the hospital, and moving to the Sister Kenny Rehabilitation Institute at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis. The hockey newspaper Let's Play Hockey reported that another injured hockey player, St. Croix Lutheran senior Jenna Privette, was discharged from HCMC on Friday evening and was also moving to a rehab facility. An on-ice incident earlier this month left her partially paralyzed.” 

Expect to start hearing a lot … a lot … about Ron Paul: “Paul is bringing his campaign to Minnesota, with a ‘substantial’ ad buy in advance of the state's Feb. 7 caucuses, “ says Rachel Stassen-Berger in the Strib. “Paul's campaign already has the most visible Minnesota pre-caucus organization, with phone banks, caucus training and an established office since last year. He also visited the state, attracting thousands of people to a St. Cloud rally in 2011. ... The campaign calls the ad that will run in Minnesota, ‘Big Dog.’ It promises Paul would cut $1 trillion from the federal budget in his firsts year in office and abolish five federal departments. ‘Wanna drain the swamp? Ron Paul. Do it,’ the ad says.”

Apparently you can get a good deal hunting in Iowa if you’re already a wealthy celebrity. The AP story says: “The state program gives 75 celebrities, such as rocker Ted Nugent and former professional athlete Bo Jackson, an opportunity to buy a special out-of-state deer hunting permit each year. Other nonresidents might wait years to buy a similar permit. The celebrity program began in 1998 to help promote the state as a top hunting destination. ... Iowa routinely receives thousands more requests than can be filled each year from out-of-state hunters. So the program isn't popular with the people who sometimes wait years for one of about 6,000 nonresident permits to harvest deer of any sex. A state committee ranks celebrity applications on a point system. The applicants most likely to win a hunting tag are the ones the state believes will garner the most media exposure for Iowa.” I would think Iowa would go out of its way to give Dick Cheney a double secret probation deal on his permit.

Among the many things I had never before given serious thought … embalming laws. A Strib commentary from two attorneys representing the plaintiff says: “Verlin Stoll is a 27-year-old entrepreneurial dynamo who owns Crescent Tide funeral home in St. Paul. He wants to expand his business, hire new employees and offer the very lowest prices in the Twin Cities to even more people, particularly disadvantaged communities. But Minnesota refuses to let Stoll build a second funeral home unless he builds a $30,000 embalming room there that he will never use. Minnesota's law is irrational. ... The government argues that requiring entrepreneurs to spend $30,000 proves that they operate legitimate businesses and won't defraud customers.” So the fear is that miscreants will turn their garages into discount mortuaries?

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Comments (3)

If corporations are people, then Walsh Construction has earned a pink slip. Lacking that - I know, I know, contractual obligations, blah, blah, blah – lawyer up and take both the company and its executives to court when the dust has settled. Make sure those executives have to live in Section 8 rental housing the rest of their lives, to acquaint them with the world outside.

I look forward to the Freedom Foundation calculating how much each of us is paying in subsidies for paved roads in heavily Republican districts throughout Minnesota.

Watching “Minnesota’s most-watched news broadcast” at noon today, I was subjected to my first Ron Paul ad. Federal departments were disappearing like magic – with no mention of what will replace them.

I say, let Dick Cheney loose in the Iowa woods, and then let a few out-of-state hunters with those prized permits go after him… Odds are 50/50 on who comes out of the woods at the end of a couple days…

I would bet the farm on what kind of ridership the n* line would have if it ran all the way to st cloud. Build it and they shall ride.

Franekn's "built in hip credentials"from SNL? Yea that Stuart Smalley bit was sure hip. Everyone was talking about it the next day at work. Or wait that time he put a satelite dish on his head for weekend update. One word "hip".