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Legacy bill survives … bruised and battered

Legislative-session post-mortems; Medtronic eliminating 500 jobs here; sugar-beet power; Utah murder case has state connections; Paul Douglas on Oklahoma tornado; and more.

At MPR, Elizabeth Dunbar looks at voting on the Legacy bill (sometimes regarded as the Dennis Anderson v. Phyllis Kahn bill). She writes: “The $496 million Legacy bill lawmakers sent to Gov. Mark Dayton on Monday received the most ‘no’ votes ever recorded for spending through the amendment voters approved in 2008 to send sales tax money to clean water, the outdoors, arts and parks. The bill passed with a 43-21 vote in the Senate and a 77-57 vote in the House. While House members have opposed the final Legacy bill in the past, no senator had ever voted against the overall Legacy spending package. … ‘Going into conference committee, there was a House position for funding of county fairs at $2.8 million, there was a Senate position for funding of county fairs at $800,000 and somehow we added those two together and came up with zero,’ said Rep. Paul Torkelson, R-Hanska. Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, who chaired the House Legacy Committee, replied that county fairs are still receiving $2 million for arts and cultural heritage — in the agriculture budget bill.”

In his session wrap-up piece, Tim Pugmire of MPR writes: “Sen. Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhassen, said the tax bill is the result of excessive government spending under Democrats. ‘Our Minnesota state Legislature, led by the DFL, has said yes to virtually every request of every special interest group that has come and asked for something more,’ she said. ‘Nearly every spending proposal is included in the state budget. On a day like this we realize how much the cost is going to be, and it’s going to be enormous.’ Republicans also argued that the tax increases will kill jobs and drive businesses out of the state. But DFL Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk of Cook said the CEOs he’s met with place greater importance on the state workforce.” Has anyone checked the traffic to South Dakota today?

Stribbers Jim Ragsdale and Jennifer Brooks write: “[Gov.] Dayton said the decision to increase the income taxes on upper-income Minnesotans, along with other taxes such as a cigarette tax hike, allows the state to wipe out a $627 million projected deficit, to invest $753 million in education from pre-school to college, to provide $400 million in property tax relief and $40 million in economic development. … GOP leaders were flying around the state to give their take on the session — which is that there was no need for a tax increase at all this year because of the improving economy. Back at the Capitol, Sen. Dave Thompson, R-Lakeville, told reporters that 2013 would be remembered as the session of ‘tax, tax, tax.’ … None of the leaders mentioned the historic bill to legalize gay marriage, the last-day passage of a bill to allow child-care and home-care workers to vote on unionization, or the failure to enact universal background checks on guns.”

Job cuts … at Medtronic. Says Christopher Snowbeck for the PiPress: “Medtronic is eliminating 2,000 jobs worldwide including about 500 positions in Minnesota. The medical device manufacturer announced the job cuts during a conference call Tuesday … About half the worldwide cuts are hitting the company’s workforce in the United States, said Gary Ellis, the company’s chief financial officer. Many cuts in the U.S. and around the world are related to consolidation in manufacturing, Ellis added during the conference call. Cindy Resman, a Medtronic  spokeswoman, wrote in an email that about two-thirds of the reductions already have taken place. … Medtronic’s division based in Mounds View for heart rhythm devices has been the company’s largest business for decades; it includes pacemakers as well as implantable defibrillators, which shock failing hearts back into rhythm. The heart rhythm business has struggled due to a variety of factors including product recalls, price pressure from hospital customers and questions about whether defibrillators — at a cost of up to $30,000 each — have been overused.”

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The GleanSugar beet residue to fire iron smelters? John Myers of the Duluth News Tribune reports: “A North Dakota company plans to build a $60 million iron-producing plant near Jamestown using iron ore concentrate from Minnesota. A subsidiary of Bismarck-based Carbontec Energy Corp. called E-Nugget North Dakota LLC has unveiled plans to churn out 100,000 metric tons of iron annually using North Dakota sugar beet residue in the mix instead of coke coal. The company hopes to break ground on the plant early in 2014 and be making iron nuggets by 2015, apparently using 160,000 tons of concentrate annually produced by Grand Rapids-based Magnetation.”

There are still mysteries aplenty in a notorious Utah murder case with a Minnesota connection. The AP story says: “Josh Powell reportedly had an affair just months before his wife disappeared and his brother may have been ‘heavily involved’ in getting rid of her body, Utah police revealed as they announced they couldn’t solve the sensational case. The West Valley City Police Department on Monday opened its books on the investigation of Susan Powell’s 2009 disappearance, after several years of second-guessing about why they never arrested her husband. Josh Powell killed himself and the couple’s two young sons in an explosive house fire in Washington state last year. … Following Josh Powell’s death last year — and his decision to make his brother, Michael C. Powell, the main beneficiary of his life insurance policy — police focused more closely on Michael Powell. Michael Powell, an ardent supporter of Josh Powell, killed himself Feb. 11 by leaping from a parking garage in Minneapolis.”

Wisconsin has taken a different path to getting a grip on the cost smokers present to the health system. The AP says: “State workers who smoke would have to pay $50 more per month for health insurance under a Gov. Scott Walker proposal that has won approval by the Legislature’s budget committee. The Joint Finance Committee on Tuesday voted 13-3 to approve the fee. Twelve other states currently impose similar fees but anti-smoking groups including the American Cancer Society and the American Lung Association oppose them because they argue they are not effective in reducing tobacco use.” Next: Obesity?

On his weather blog, Paul Douglas reacts to Monday’s tornado in Oklahoma, saying: “The Chief Meteorologist at KFOR-TV in Oklahoma City actually told his viewers ‘if you don’t have a basement you will not survive a direct strike from this tornado — better to get into your vehicle and try to drive away.’ You don’t hear that very often.

• fewer than 1 in 10 Oklahomans have a basement. The reason? Bedrock. It’s cost-prohibitive to put in a basement across most of the Sooner State.

• last year I wrote an article for Huffington Post, highlighting a prolific, well-respected structural engineer/meteorologist who predicts that, within our lifetime, America will be struck by a single urban tornado that claims over 1,000 lives. My jaw dropped when I heard him say this, but after yesterday I’m starting to think he was right.”

Simultaneously, noted climatologist Steven Hayward at Power Line, writes: “The news broadcasts of the Oklahoma tornado disaster that I saw last night and this morning were thankfully free of speculation that this tornado is proof of — wait for it — global warming, and therefore one more reason to hand over control of our energy sector to environmentalists. I am certain this will come from the usual people starting today, but for now, note the New York Times’ Andrew Revkin discounting the thesis:

I’ll add a final thought about the persistent discussion of the role of greenhouse-driven climate change in violent weather in Tornado Alley.

It’s an important research question but, to me, has no bearing at all on the situation in the Midwest and South — whether there’s a tornado outbreak or drought. The forces putting people in harm’s way are demographic, economic, behavioral and architectural. Any influence of climate change on dangerous tornadoes (so far the data point to a moderating influence) is, at best, marginally relevant and, at worst, a distraction.”

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Those danged environmentalists. they’re this close to taking out Exxon/Mobil and the Koch Brothers.