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Minnesota businesses push for Internet sales tax

New life for a Lake Street landmark; marquee plan quashed; a thermostat battle; cheese champs; Bachmann clinic visit; ban proposed on smoking in foster homes; and more.

One way or another, you know this is coming. The AP reports: “Representatives of Minnesota businesses large and small ramped up pressure on state lawmakers to collect sales taxes on purchases made through online-only retailers. The public push Thursday … included an all-hands-on-deck news conference outside a small St. Paul toy store. It comes with time winding down on the 2012 session. The plan has bipartisan backing and support from Gov. Mark Dayton’s administration, but advocates worry it is stalled. State Revenue Commissioner Myron Frans said Minnesota could expect about $4 million next year and more later if purchases made through Amazon, and others had Minnesota tax applied. The debate over whether online retailers must collect taxes from customers in other states centers around a decades-old U.S. Supreme Court decision involving a mail-order company. In that case, the court said retailers have to collect state tax only if they have a physical presence in a state, such as a retail store.”

A Lake Street landmark of sorts may be getting a new lease on life. Don Jacobson writes for the Strib: “The historic but long-troubled Coliseum Building in Minneapolis’ Longfellow neighborhood has new owners, who say they hope to breathe new life into the landmark property. The commercial building at the northeast corner of E. Lake Street and 27th Avenue S. was purchased out of foreclosure last month for $2.28 million by a team of local investors. Larry Hopfenspirger and Dr. Elmer Salovich, an Edina-based orthopedic surgeon, led the group. … The pair say they’re looking to build off an ambitious $5.1 million rehabilitation project launched in 1999 by restoration expert Fred Lehmann. He aimed to turn the Coliseum Building into a showpiece for the Lake Street-Hiawatha Avenue area. The former owner, with the help of more than $1 million in tax-increment financing from the city, completed extensive interior renovations and restored its original 1917 facade before ultimately falling victim to financial troubles and legal disputes with the city. … One of the Coliseum Building’s claims to fame is an expansive second-floor ballroom with high ceilings that served as a popular social center until the 1980s. It will now be used as a magnet to attract an anchor tenant under the new ownership group.”

Elsewhere, sometimes things are just too gay … . Eric Roper of the Strib reports: “The Gay 90’s club downtown wanted to blare its show times on a big marquee, but the city told them it was too much for Hennepin Avenue. Peter Hafiz, owner of the Gay 90’s on 4th Street and Hennepin, planned to revamp their iconic sign and add a 30-foot marquee with electronic text announcing times for drag shows and other events. The Gay 90’s has been one of the city’s most prominent gay bars since the 1970s. Formerly dubbed the Casablanca Lounge, it regularly hosts drag shows and dance events. ‘I just wanted to fall in line with the avenue,’ Hafiz said of the $200,000 renovation. ‘This thing would have been just spectacular.’ ”

Honeywell’s thermostat might not be “cool,” or “hot,” but the company has seven patents … Leslie Brooks Suzukamo at the PiPress writes: “Nest Labs of Palo Alto, Calif. had developed a controller it called the Nest Learning Thermostat that has generated positive buzz. But Honeywell, whose Automation and Control Solutions unit in Golden Valley developed the iconic round wall device, sued Nest in February for allegedly infringing on seven Honeywell patents. ‘This lawsuit is a bald effort by Honeywell to inhibit competition from a promising new company and product in a field that Honeywell has dominated for decades,’ begins Nest’s legal reply filed Thursday … ‘No less than than New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today have lauded the Nest Learning Thermostat as ‘gorgeous, elegant and very, very smart’; ‘intuitive … sophisticated … [and] right on the money’; and ‘hot’ — unlike ‘the thermostat on your wall [that] is probably a blah-looking controller you face only when it’s time to warm or cool the house,’ the filing continued. That ‘blah-looking controller’ belongs to Honeywell, Nest says. Nest denied it infringed on the Honeywell patents and said Honeywell has lost other patent lawsuits related to its round thermostats.” IMHO, that Nest thing is kinda cool.

And no it was not, in fact, the actual head of a guy from Tomah named Stan. A PiPress story reports: “A 24-pound Dutch cheese named the best in the world at an international competition held in Madison last month has been auctioned off for $8,400, or $350 per pound. The wheel of Vermeer, a low-fat Gouda-style cheese, scored a mild upset at the World Championship Cheese Contest, beating out two cheeses from Switzerland and preventing the Swiss from capturing a fourth straight title. It was sold as part of an auction of gold-medal cheeses that raises money to help educate cheesemakers. The Vermeer was made by Friesland Campina, a company based in Steenderen, Netherlands. The plant’s cheesemakers were scheduled to receive their award at a ceremony Thursday evening. … The World Championship Cheese Contest is held every two years in Madison. This year’s contest featured more than 2,500 entries from 24 countries. U.S. cheesemakers dominated the competition, with gold medals in 55 of the 82 categories. Switzerland was second with seven gold medals, followed by Canada with six and Denmark with five. America’s dominance was led by a strong effort from Wisconsin, which accounted for 30 of the nation’s 55 gold medals. New York won nine golds, while California and Vermont each had three.”

I’m not sure what she expected. But Melanie Nathan appears to have got what she wanted out a visit to Marcus Bachmann’s “Pray Away the Gay” clinic in Stillwater. On her blog, “Gay U.S.A. 2012,” Nathan writes: “Bachmann & Associates had no idea that they were the target of yet another undercover gay advocate visit, and this time it was in the form of a young lesbian, a filmmaker from GAY U.S.A. the Movie. While the visit was contrived, and the character expounded upon, the reality and the seriousness of the possible harm to young gays and lesbians cannot be overstated. Last week as co-producer on the film, I helped Kristina Lapinski set up and pursue a counseling session at one of the two Bachmann clinics in Minnesota, where she played the part of a confused 24 year old lesbian who had just moved from California to Minnesota to marry her long time male friend, Jake, all to please her Christian parents. … Below is Kristina’s full verbal account of the session, and after I heard it, I was left thankful that we have an opportunity to expose this type of practice through this article and GAY U.S.A. the Movie:-
‘I went into the session using a different last name. I didn’t want to give my real last name just in case they ‘googled’ me and found out I was a gay rights activist.  I described my future husband as my best friend, my buddy. I told her about my desire to start a family and please society and my religious community. I told her I had been with a woman, and found that to be true love.  I made my uncertainty clear, that I had two options either to go through with the marriage or to refrain because I thought I was a lesbian. She asked me if I had slept with my fiancé and I told her that I had not yet and that I was not attracted him. She said ‘how can you know how it will be until you try’? She asked if I believed in God, and I answered, ‘yes.’  She pulled out a bible, handed it to me and asked me to read a passage out loud. It was about love, and then she asked me to analyze it with her. We talked about love and commitment, and even though I have never been attracted to my fiancé, the commitment, she noted, was a form of love.” Kind of like when I commit to a car loan.

It’s not going to be easy … Jim Ragsdale of the Strib writes: “The battle over a photo ID requirement that would change Minnesota’s voting system shifted into campaign gear Thursday with the formation of a broad coalition of labor, community, seniors and student groups determined to persuade voters to defeat the measure. ‘The job of our campaign is to peel back the layers of the voter ID amendment, just like an onion,’ said Dan McGrath, head of TakeAction Minnesota and spokesman for the organization. ‘As voters do this, they will realize, this voter amendment stinks.’ The Minnesota AFL-CIO, the League of Women Voters Minnesota, the Minnesota Farmers Union and AARP were among the dozens of organizations that on Thursday announced a campaign to defeat the proposed photo ID constitutional amendment when it appears on the Nov. 6 general election ballot.”

An AP story reports on a move to ban smoking in foster homes: “Smoking would be forbidden in all foster homes in Minnesota if a DFL representative from Duluth succeeds in promoting his proposal. Sponsoring Rep. Tom Huntley said that the bill was introduced too late to pass as stand-alone legislation but it could pass if it were added as an amendment to another piece of legislation. ‘I think the general public, when this is explained to them, would support it,’ Huntley said. St. Louis, Lake and Beltrami counties are among those that already require foster homes to be smoke-free. A pending bill would make Minnesota the 18th state to enact such a ban. The Minnesota Foster Care Association says most foster parents likely would support such the ban.” I assume this is aimed at the foster parents, right?

Nick Coleman tears into Florida Congressman Allen West for his blatherings about Commies in Congress. “This week, a Republican Congressman from Florida named Allen West came out of his swamp to say, ‘I believe there’s about 78 to 81 members of the Democratic Party that are members of the Communist Party.’ Specifically, he said later, he was referring to the Congressional Progressive Caucus, which has 80 members and is co-chaired by Keith Ellison, the Democratic Congressman from Minneapolis who may not be a Commie but who is the next best thing to mouth-breathers: Muslim. You may have noticed that the right-wing snake handlers who now control the Republican Party have been creeping up to this kind of thing for several years, tossing ever-more strident ‘Commie’ allegations at Democrats: Socialists, they call them. Or worse, they charge that Democrats want to make us ‘like Europe.’ With universal health care. Ewwww. But Allen West is not just another yahoo. He’s the Tea Party’s Great Black Hope, a conservative black ex-military guy who they hope will be a great vice-presidential running mate for White-on-Rice Romney. West may be a demagogue, but he’s not stupid, and when he casts the Commie slur on huge numbers of Democrats, it is with intent, and with malice.”