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Minnesota accepted gambling industry’s e-pulltab estimates

Duluth vacation rental rules; social-studies curriculum upheld; good winter for northern trees; telecommuting defended; crackdown on bartenders; and more.

The story … of the farce … gets more interesting … At the Strib, Jean Hopfensberger writes:  “The botched projections showing that electronic pulltab sales would explode in Minnesota and immediately start paying for a new Minnesota Vikings stadium were based largely on estimates made by gambling businesses with a vested interest in the new but untested form of charitable gaming, the Star Tribune has found. Sales estimates were based on different kinds of gambling devices played in other states, made by national gambling equipment managers and vendors, according to e-mails obtained by the Star Tribune. Express Games MN, the first e-game vendor approved by the Minnesota Gambling Control Board, reviewed and analyzed the sales estimates that were part of the final stadium legislation. Charities selling the games had little input into the projections.” What is this, New Jersey or something?

Duluth is cracking down on vacation rentals. Mike Creger of the News Tribune reports: “Joel and Joy Johnson made a bit of history this month when their application for an interim-use permit was OK’d by the Duluth Planning Commission. The couple was adhering to new city rules for what are commonly known as vacation home rentals. They own a duplex on Park Point that they rent out for short-term rentals, and they were the first on a growing list of owners applying for the permit. … In Duluth, as in other places, vacation rentals had been regulated by the same rental rules used by landlords renting long-term. The task force recommended state and local laws with specific language on shorter-term vacation rentals, which pose unique problems of parking, noise and unfamiliarity with local rules — an example being vacationers on Park Point unaware of when the beach is closed.”

The ruling is that, no, the curriculum is not “liberal” and “anti-American.” The Strib’s Jim Ragsdale says: “Minnesota schools are free to implement new standards for teaching social studies after a judge ruled against critiques that the curriculum reflected a liberal and ‘anti-American’ bias. Administrative Law Judge Barbara Neilson’s decision in the ideological battle over competing views of how to teach the American story called the new standards ‘needed and reasonable.’ She ruled that they can be adopted as planned for the 2013-2014 school year. … The argument over ‘American exceptionalism’ [had] … conservatives contending the standards downplay America’s strengths, while the department argued that students must learn of America’s struggles as well as its strengths. The critics found persistent ‘liberal bias’ throughout, but the department said it relied on research, not interpretations of religious texts.”

Not that it’s over or anything, but  it may have been a good winter way up north. At MPR, Paul Huttner says: “Only in Minnesota would you consider temps below -40F and deep snow ‘good weather.’ But if you’re a tree in northern Minnesota, that’s exactly what you’d be thinking now about the ‘real winter’ of 2012-’13. Extreme cold below -40F can kill ‘invasive pests’ that harm our northern conifers. Deep snow cover helps protect root systems from the deep freeze. Northern Minnesota has endured multiple nights of -40F or colder this winter.”

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The Strib’s Kevin Diaz wonders aloud about blowback in the 6th District: “It’s a turn of events that could be the beginning for a good conspiracy theory: As expected, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has announced the early April closure of control towers at 149 smaller airports across the U.S., part of the Obama administration’s response to the federal budget cuts mandated under the so-called sequestration program. Two of the affected towers are in Minnesota: Anoka County-Blaine Airport and St. Cloud Regional Airport. Both are in the congressional district of U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, who just last week was complaining about President Obama’s high-flying lifestyle in the White House. Just a coincidence?” How much energy do you think the White House wastes swatting back at Or Favorite Congresswoman?

Speaking of … Larry Bivins of the St. Cloud Times says: “A week that began with media coverage suggesting U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann had become a kinder, gentler politician in the aftermath of her narrow re-election victory ended with the firebrand conservative lobbing a grenade at President Barack Obama’s health care law. Spliced in between were postings by The Washington Post’s Fact Checker blog branding two recent Bachmann statements as ‘whoppers’; a news clip of the congresswoman speed-walking away from a CNN reporter who was trying to ask her about the assertions; and yet another Bachmann Democrats-are-out-to-get-me online plea for money. … Bachmann declined a request for an interview for this story. … one of the things she’s always done is turn negative publicity into a fundraising opportunity.

The GleanAnd in other sequestration developments … Kevin Giles of the Strib says: “Nine fewer park rangers will be hired this summer in the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, meaning reductions in law enforcement, invasive species control and public education in the vast national park. … All but four drinking taps at sites along the river will be shut off because nobody will be available to test water for health concerns, and restrooms won’t be cleaned as often. Reductions in staff also mean less attention to mounting challenges to the riverway such as Asian carp, toxic algae blooms and zebra mussels.”

Another voice in favor of telecommuting. In a Strib commentary, Brent Christenson of the Minnesota Telecom Alliance says: “Today it’s more and more common for a Twin Cities company to employ talented people from throughout the state who do their work from home, taking advantage of the growing rural broadband network that makes the remote workstation a reality in every corner of Minnesota. … Scientists are not needed to prove that the infrastructure for providing high-speed Internet service throughout Greater Minnesota is far less costly than maintenance of our network of highways. And more people working from home means less traffic, fewer emissions and less-frequent need for road construction.”

This has to be a violation of the state constitution … The AP says: “The eastern Wisconsin city of Neenah is considering an ordinance that would require bartenders to show up for work sober — and ban them from drinking on the job. The ordinance would let police hold bartenders accountable if they fail to maintain enough control over their patrons because they’re serving while intoxicated … La Crosse, a city of about 51,000, prohibits bartenders from drinking on the job or serving while intoxicated. Since 2009, police there have issued two citations to bartenders for drinking at work and four to bartenders who were drunk on the job …” The irresponsibility is breathtaking. They’re performing the state’s most sacred public function and …