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2012 gay marriage battle cost $18 million

Not quite cold enough to kill off ash borers; BBB’s “usual suspects”; campus financial products get scrutiny; student grants problematic; proposed rule change riles GOP; and more.

I hope everyone got thank-you notes from local TV stations … The AP reports: “New Minnesota campaign finance reports show that spending on the fight over an unsuccessful constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage topped $18 million last year The spending made it Minnesota’s most costly election contest of 2012. But it was just a slice of the tens of millions in political dollars spent on races up and down the ballot. Minnesotans United for All Families, the group that led the campaign to defeat the marriage amendment, spent about $12.4 million last year. It was far more than the $5.6 million that Minnesota for Marriage put into its failed effort.”

Have you ever wondered how cold it’d have to get to kill off ash borers? The Strib’s Bill McAuliffe writes: “As winter approaches its Groundhog Day midpoint, this season might have seemed unusually cold to people. But native and invasive plants and insects have hardly shivered. ‘It hasn’t been cold enough to come anywhere close to killing insect pests,’ said Lee Frelich, director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Forest Ecology. The emerald ash borer, for example — the most high-profile exotic now threatening Minnesota trees — is believed to start dying of the cold at 20 degrees below zero, with minus 30 killing off entire populations. Recent readings of 30 below and colder across far northern Minnesota will deter the bug’s northward advance, but it’s not likely to be stymied by cold in the metro area, said Rob Vennette, research biologist at the U.S. Forest Service’s Northern Research Station in St. Paul. Going into Thursday night, this season’s low in the Twin Cities was minus 12. It’s been four years since the Twin Cities experienced 20 below, and 17 since the mercury dropped to 30 below.”

To no one’s surprise … Angie Wieck of the Forum papers says: “Auto dealers, auto service and repair stations and contractors were among the top 10 industries for consumer complaints made to the Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota in 2012.
“It’s never really a surprise that these categories are near the top of the list, just because cars and homes are bigger purchases,” said Dan Hendrickson, communications coordinator for the bureau, based in Burnsville, Minn., with offices in Fargo and St. Cloud, Minn. … Other industries in the bureau’s top 10 included banks, window companies and property management firms.” And that’s why commercial media outlets are so aggressive in their coverage of these complaints … oh, wait.

Speaking of … Jennifer Bjorhus of the Strib reports: “The U Card is as ubiquitous at the University of Minnesota as the buck-tooth Golden Gopher himself. More than 40,000 University of Minnesota students carry the photo ID, a key to dorms, computer labs, libraries and laundry rooms. It’s all ka-ching for Wayzata-based TCF Financial Corp., whose TCF Bank supports and sponsors the card, which carries a menu of optional add-ons such as a link to a free TCF checking account that turns the student ID into an ATM card. But now, such campus financial products have attracted the attention of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Amid growing scrutiny of the complex, lucrative arrangements between schools and financial service companies, the new federal consumer watchdog group said Thursday that it’s launching an inquiry into all the financial products being marketed to college students around the country.”

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The Strib’s Graydon Royce offers mini-reviews of four plays opening this weekend. A sample:
“‘Babe Lincoln and the Vajazzled Badge of Courage’ Eight years ago, Katy Mc­Ewen and Shanan Custer wrote and performed their own show at the Brave New Workshop. Custer has gone on to other things, but McEwen has found a willing partner in Lauren Anderson, currently the funniest thing on the Workshop stage. Honest Abe’s birthday is coming up (he would have been 204, had he lived), and the current movie “Lincoln” will make news at the upcoming Academy Awards (Daniel Day-Lewis is favored to win another Oscar). As for the “Vajazzled Badge of Courage” portion of the title, we shall leave that untouched. …
‘Reefer Madness’ The original 1936 film was made to “stamp out this frightful assassin of our youth,” then became sidesplitting entertainment for generations of stoners. … As usual, artistic director Steven Meerdink is at the wheel, with a cast that includes Kurt Bender, Maggie Mae Dale and Emily Jabas. The plot has to do with wholesome kids who stumble into the clutches of demon weed. Pretty soon they’re down the path to … down the path to … to … I’m sorry, what was I talking about”?

The GleanStudents are saying the State Grant is a problematic thing to have. Alex Friedrich at MPR says: “They say the State Grant — the state’s main financial aid program — penalizes them for holding a job while studying. They’re asking lawmakers to reconsider the formula. Michael Lampson works 25 hours a week managing a Jimmy John’s sandwich shop. He wants to get a degree and one day open his own business. He’s studying at Rochester Community and Technical College. But he’s 35 years old, with a fiancee, a child and a lot of family-related expenses. ‘I live paycheck to paycheck. I have a lot of bills,’ Lampson said. ‘And with the State Grant right now, it’s not even coming close to covering half my bills at school. I need more help. It’s not really helping that much at this point.’ Lampson studies half-time. Because he works he doesn’t get half the state aid of a full-time student. Instead he gets about $450 less per semester than if his grant were in proportion to his class load. To him that’s a lot of money. He does also receive federal aid. Combined, Lampson receives about a third of what he would get as a full-time student.”

What’s the fun if you can’t throw a wrench into the spokes of a moving wheel? Tom Scheck at MPR writes: “Democrats in the Minnesota House are proposing to change how the House operates during floor debates. The plan would require proposed amendments to be filed 24 hours before the debate on a bill starts. It’s a dramatic departure from current rules that allow members to draft and propose changes to legislation as members are debating it. … Republicans are furious with the proposal. ‘What they’re doing here is Washington-style politics,’ said House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown. ‘I don’t think anybody thinks that government in Washington runs better than Minnesota. Why are we going to Washington-style rules?’ Daudt says the plan would also limit a lawmaker’s ability to take the temperature of the public on a particular bill. For example, he said there have been times when lawmakers have heard ideas from lobbyists and constituents that were eventually drafted as amendments.” Or, when they got a call from the ALEC.

Granted, it’s only a piddly 75 to 80 percent of the cost, but is Mayo’s pitch for public money anyway comparable to what the Vikings/NFL squeezed out of Minnesota taxpayers? Christopher Snowbeck at the PiPress writes: “When announcing this week a plan for up to $6 billion in private and public investments focused on growth at the Mayo Clinic, Gov. Mark Dayton said he hesitated to compare the deal to last year’s public financing package for a new Minnesota Vikings stadium. But the analogy was seized on Thursday, Jan. 31, by at least one critic of the plan to dedicate more than $500 million in state money for public infrastructure in the clinic’s hometown of Rochester. ‘If Mayo is threatening to do this (expansion) someplace else, then it’s like the Vikings,’ said Art Rolnick, a senior fellow at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs and longtime critic of such public-financing deals. ‘It really does boil down to the threat to leave.’ ” So where could LA put a big new hospital?

This week’s already much-mocked GOP get-together, wherein local conservatives tried to get their heads around the party’s innumerable problems, inspired this from John Hugh Gilmore on his Minnesota Conservatives blog: “Last Wednesday night a self selected group of far right types, some masquerading as republicans, gathered unto themselves at a hideous suburb (redundant, I know) watering hole called The Blue Fox in Arden Hills. The name and location alone should have been enough to put off right thinking conservatives. … This is not the face of the republican party in Minnesota but one would be hard pressed to disprove it by the advance publicity, the attendance and the subsequent reportage. As one who (almost singularly at times) has called Minnesota media to task, I cringed as I attended this fiasco to think of their stories: hopefully words would fail them to describe just how awful it was. … on Twitter, an exceptionally thin skinned, ferociously untalented ‘reporter’ wondered if the panel liked her. I checked my impulse to throw up. Some of my peers sucked up to her. Get me rewrite. Throwing up was a good thing because what I heard could warrant it. I sat far away, made certain not to run into that tapeworm known as Keith Downey (seriously? I have to set my leadership standards *this* low? No thanks) and sat far from the madd[ing] crowd. Mad it remained, though.” Funny enough, John. But what about the panel’s prescriptions for recovery and effective therapy?