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U of M Regents to decide on Steve Sviggum question

The U of M will soon have a schedule to form a plan to make a decision on the Steve Sviggum problem. Says Mila Koumpilova at the PiPress: “At a monthly meeting Friday, regents Chair Linda Cohen will announce steps to determine whether Sviggum's recent hire as Senate GOP communications chief is in possible conflict with his regents post. Sviggum said he hopes the board can find middle ground, even as he again insisted his Senate position and his U service do not represent a conflict of interest. ‘A confrontation would not serve anyone well,’ said Sviggum, a former Minnesota House speaker and longtime Republican legislator. ‘I don't want a my-way-or-the-highway type of situation.’ Even before last month's hire, the board was scheduled to review several ethics-policy revisions Friday. One of them was inspired by a conflict-of-interest inquiry that led Sviggum to give up a U teaching position last spring.”

The AP covers a series of “pro-business” changes to civil suits in Minnesota. It says: “The Senate approved four bills in all, including one to reduce the statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit from six years to four years after an incident in question occurs. The House passed the bills last week, meaning they land on Dayton's desk next. Supporters called the bills a way to make Minnesota's civil justice system operate faster and more efficiently. ‘Families, individuals and businesses need an accessible and affordable court system to resolve legal disputes,’ said Sen. Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhassen. Critics said the change will make it harder for people to use the court to remedy injustice. ‘These bills are really a kick in the shin to everyday people in Minnesota,’ said Rep. Steve Simon, DFL-St. Louis Park.”

Gov. Dayton has money in his bonding bill to refurbish the St. Peter "mental" hospital. He took a tour Wednesday to see the current situation firsthand. Madeleine Baran of MPR writes: “Dayton has proposed spending $44 million to renovate the facility and the Minnesota Sex Offender Program, which are currently housed next to each other. Dayton's proposal would separate the Sex Offender Program from the other programs on the site. It would also build new units to help reduce staff and patient injuries. The governor's visit to the Minnesota Security Hospital comes at a time when the facility has been scrutinized, following a report in December that found staff inappropriately used restraint and seclusion to handle violent patients.”

If you’re trying to follow Wisconsin’s so-called “John Doe case” and how it pertains to Gov. Scott Walker, Andy Kroll at Mother Jones writes: “Late last month, two more county staffers who worked for Walker were charged with operating a secret email network within Walker's office while he was Milwaukee County executive. The two employees, Darlene Wink and Deputy Chief of Staff Kelly Rindfleisch, allegedly used the secret network to coordinate political fundraising for Walker and 2010 lieutenant governor candidate Brett Davis. Wink's attorney, Peter Wolff, says Wink plans to plead guilty to the two misdemeanors outlined in the DA's criminal complaint. Rindfleisch's attorney, Franklyn Gimbel, says the DA's felony charges are ‘a little heavy-handed’ and that Rindfleisch will plead not guilty in the case. Gimbel added that he hopes to move the case out of Milwaukee County to Columbia County, in central Wisconsin, where Rindfleisch legally lives. Walker has denied knowledge of Wink or Rindfleisch's activities. But Walker critics seized upon an email of his included in the Rindfleisch criminal complaint as evidence that Walker may have known what was going on.” Does that clarify things? I didn’t think so.

Also in Wisconsin/Walker news, Greg Sargent at The Washington Post writes: “In case you were wondering how high the stakes are for the national right in the battle over Scott Walker’s recall, consider this: The Americans for Prosperity Foundation, a branch of the conservative group founded by the Koch brothers, is sinking at least $700,000 into ads in Wisconsin defending Walker’s record. A source who tracks ad buys first noticed the expenditure, which has now been confirmed by a spokesman for the group. ... The group’s massive investment in the Walker recall fight is another reminder that for national conservative and Tea Party groups, the battle to defend Walker against recall has emerged as their number one national cause celebre. As Andy Kroll reported recently, the Walker recall is a crucial, make-or-break moment for the Tea Party. Walker’s initial election was a major Tea Party victory, and the Tea Party is currently shrinking and a bit adrift. If Walker loses, it will be a major blow to the national movement. In this sense, the battle to save Walker may end up being seen as the Tea Party’s last stand.”

The case of the U of M mortuary science student, her cadaver and her Facebook comments has arrived at the state Supreme Court. Writes Emily Gurnon at the PiPress: “The Minnesota Supreme Court heard oral arguments today about whether a former University of Minnesota mortuary science student had a constitutional right to free speech when she posted remarks about her lab cadaver on her Facebook page. Amanda Tatro of Minneapolis wrote the statements in November and early December 2009. ‘Who knew embalming lab was so cathartic!’ she said. ‘I still want to stab a certain someone in the throat with a trocar though.’ A trocar is a sharp instrument used to drain body cavities before embalming. She said later that ‘a certain someone’ was a former boyfriend. ... Her attorney, Jordan Kushner, said that Tatro was off campus when she filed the comments, that she didn't identify the cadaver by name, and that she didn't describe the dissection procedure in detail, which the student rules forbid.”

The Duluth News Tribune story, by John Myers, on the straw vote among 8th District DFLers says: “Rick Nolan of Crow Wing County held a strong lead today in the 8th Congressional District ... Nolan tallied 1,537 votes compared to 1,008 for former Duluth City Councilor Jeff Anderson and 408 for former state Sen. Tarryl Clark. ... While Nolan says he will abide by the endorsing convention’s decision, Clark and Anderson have hedged and are expected to continue on to a party primary in August. There’s ample precedent for primary challengers in both parties, most recently in the DFL when Mark Dayton challenged DFL-endorsed Margaret Anderson Kelliher for governor and won the party primary and general election. In 1974, the last time DFLers faced a choice on who would run for Congress in the 8th District, party delegates endorsed Tony Perpich, but Jim Oberstar won the primary by a wide margin and went on to serve 18 consecutive terms before losing to Cravaack in 2010. DFLers are champing at the bit to get the seat back. Nolan, of Emily, was the favorite among DFL party regulars and activists heading into Tuesday night’s precinct caucuses.”

Speaking of Congressman Chip Cravaack ... He was on the House floor Wednesday. Reports Corey Mitchell of the Strib: “Cravaack went to the House floor this morning to denounce a decision that has upset Minnesota's Catholic leadership — the new federal rule that requires faith-based organizations to provide birth control, sterilization, ‘morning after’ pills and other reproductive services in health care coverage for employees. ‘This is a direct attack against religious liberty for all religions,’ Cravaack said today. ‘This act threatens to sabotage the very foundation of our First Amendment rights and religious liberties.’ ” No doubt the congressman prefers a system that takes the employer out of the health insurance equation ...

Whole Foods, already finishing a new store in Edina, says it will anchor the project at the so-called “Jaguar dealership site” in downtown Minneapolis. Writes the Strib’s Janet Moore: “Long rumored to be the anchor tenant of the 222 Hennepin mixed-use project, the $10 billion Austin, Texas-based grocery chain confirmed the new store on Wednesday in a conference call with Wall Street analysts. The downtown store is part of a $70 million retail and residential complex planned for the high-profile location at 222 Hennepin Ave. South. The 580,000-square-foot project also includes 286 luxury apartments. This will be the fifth Whole Foods store in the Twin Cities. Others include St. Paul, the Uptown area of Minneapolis, Minnetonka and Edina, which is slated to open April 18. The new 38,000-square-foot Minneapolis store is expected to open in 2013, and will include a separate annex selling beer and wine.”

The Strib’s post-caucus editorial says: “Santorum succeeded in Minnesota with fewer than 22,000 supporters, at caucuses in which barely more than 48,500 Minnesotans voted. That's fewer than fill the Metrodome on Vikings game days. Can it be said with reasonable certainty that so few votes accurately reflect the presidential preferences of the state's GOP voters? ... The values those caucus-goers prize have to do with abortion, same-sex marriage, public sector frugality and fealty to the original meaning of the U.S. Constitution. There was less talk at the caucuses we observed about other values that will matter to general election voters — such things as quality public education, access to affordable health care, environmental protection, tax fairness and middle-class economic security. Santorum's three-state sweep assures that the values prized by Republican caucus-goers will stay prominent in national political discussion during the run-up to the 10-state GOP Super Tuesday on March 6, and perhaps longer. His revived candidacy will oblige Romney, who still leads in the delegate count, to talk more often about issues that can be as off-putting to independents as they are dear to the GOP base. Minnesota, Missouri and Colorado combined Tuesday to give the national GOP race an inward twist that's likely to expend precious political time, treasure and talent in ways that, come fall, Republicans may regret.”

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