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Rick Nolan: ‘Congress is not governing’

Xcel Energy calms the wind crowd; recycling rates stagnant or dropping; 2 legislators resign; state’s job outlook; Franken on school safety; and more.

Frankly, they’re scariest when they claim to be “working.” Kevin Diaz of the Strib writes: “[T]his is how Rep. Rick Nolan’s first week in Congress has gone: Get sworn-in on Thursday, take three votes on Friday, and then adjourn for a week. In fact, the House is scheduled to be in session only six more days this month. Plus 11 days in February, for a grand total of 17 work days between now and the next ‘fiscal cliff’ deadline on automatic (‘sequester’) spending cuts. ‘We’re not working four or five days a week, like everybody else does in America’, said the Minnesota Democrat. ‘The fact is, Congress is not governing.’ … Monday, he told Minnesota reporters that the biggest difference is the reduced work schedule – and the amount of time lawmakers spend on the phone begging for campaign cash. By Nolan’s estimate, the average ‘call time’ is about 30 hours a week. ‘The time that people are spending now raising money and campaigning is time Congress used to spend governing,’ he said.”

What our esteemed lobbyists meant to say … In the PiPress, Leslie Brooks Suzukamo says: “Xcel Energy, long the nation’s top wind energy provider, had to do some damage control Monday, Jan. 7, after its chief Washington lobbyist implied the Minnesota utility was considering a split with its wind energy allies. Company officials told state wind energy advocates the Minneapolis-based utility is not abandoning wind power and chalked up its lobbyist’s statements to frustration and fatigue over a last-minute tax credit extension inserted in the New Year’s Day fiscal cliff bill. Xcel had been disappointed that the one-year extension of the production tax credit for wind energy, known as the PTC, did not include the utility’s suggestion for something called a ‘consumer renewable credit’ to help utilities. The lobbyist, John O’Donnell, was quoted Friday in the National Journal, a Washington, D.C., publication, saying ‘we are in the process of reviewing our relationship’ with the American Wind Energy Association.

We can do better with our recycling. At MPR, Stephanie Hemphill writes: “Minnesota was an early leader in recycling, but in 2008 the recycling rate flattened out at 41 percent of waste discarded, and that rate has even started to decline in the last couple of years. The decline can be explained partly by a shift to lighter products: smaller newspapers, and food in plastic jars rather than glass. The overall recycling rate includes industries and stores, which are responsible for about three-quarters of all recycling.  Household recycling rates are tricky to calculate, but in rough numbers they range from about 12 percent in Bemidji; 14 percent in Moorhead; 20 percent in Minneapolis and St. Paul; 26 percent in Rochester; to 30 percent in St. Cloud.”

As promised, two legislators have handed the governor their resignations. The AP reports: “Rep. Steve Gottwalt of St. Cloud and Rep. Terry Morrow of St. Peter resigned via letters [Monday], the day before the Legislature is to begin a new session. Both were reelected to two-year terms in November, but decided to step aside for job opportunities. Morrow, a Democrat, will lead legislative efforts nationwide for the Chicago-based Uniform Law Commission, which aims to help states draft laws that are consistent from state to state and with federal statutes. Gottwalt, a Republican, took a job as state legislative director for the Center for Diagnostic Imaging.”

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Jim Maurice of WJON radio says: “About half of Minnesota’s employers plan to add staff this year, while only about three percent say they’ll cut staff. Eighty-five percent say they’ll keep salaries the same. Industries with the most robust anticipated demand are: financial services, retail, and manufacturing. The 9th annual Minnesota College Job Outlook survey is conducted by the SCSU Career Services Center. They surveyed 303 Minnesota employers last year, and received 111 responses. A couple other notes: survey respondents say the three most important skills for students to possess are honesty, communication, and a strong work ethic.” The ability to work more for less pay will make a lot of friends, too.

Sen. Al Franken went to an Eagan Middle School to talk about safety issues. Kyle Potter of the AP says: “Sen. Al Franken visited a middle school on Tuesday to talk with administrators, safety experts and counselors to trade ideas on how to improve school safety just three weeks after the Newtown shootings. The private session included proposals for tighter perimeter security, lockdown drills and more mental health professionals, Franken told reporters afterward. … In Minnesota, Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Vernon Center, said he plans to introduce a bill that would allow teachers to carry weapons in the 2013 legislative session, which begins Tuesday. Franken is co-sponsoring a bill to ban high-capacity ammunition magazines, but was noncommittal about whether he supports renewing an assault weapons ban. He said a high priority is making sure potential mental health issues are caught and treated early.”

John Ewoldt of the Strib reports on the sad start of Macy’s store closing sale in downtown St. Paul: “Early Monday morning, many items still did not have signs up indicating the discount. Signs such as ’20 to 40 percent off storewide’ and ‘nothing held back’ were somewhat misleading. Cosmetics and fragrances are not discounted, which is typical of most department store GOB sales, including Bloomingdale’s at Mall of America last year. One store employee said the cosmetics and fragrances would be around at full-price until Valentine’s Day and then removed from the shelves. Cold weather items such as winter coats, scarves and gloves were discounted 50 percent in men’s and women’s departments, including a few on clearance that received an additional 20 percent discount.” I think Amazon can still beat that.

Something of a super shopper, MPR employee Toni Randolph offers her thoughts on how Macy’s treated its downtown St. Paul clientele: “I’ve worked and shopped in downtown St. Paul since 2003. I shopped at Marshall Field’s until 2006, when I noticed expanding floor space and dwindling stock. Then Macy’s took over, and the stock appeared to grow again — though with fewer of the upscale items I’d found at Marshall Field’s. Then Macy’s changed the layout of the store, putting dresses here and coats there and foundations in another place and the children’s department somewhere else. The St. Paul store seemed to be the step-child, lacking the selection of name brands available at other Twin Cities Macy’s. Then, a couple of years ago, one of the cosmetics lines, Shiseido, disappeared from the St. Paul store. And while the cosmetics department was redesigned so that the extra counter space wasn’t so obvious, I noticed, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one.” Retail … it’s all demographics.