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State’s legal tab for Brodkorb case hits $300K; more ahead

Special-session bills raise other issues, too; farm irrigation stressing water supplies; state, federal tax codes not in sync; jailed couple’s marriage nixed; appeals court rules on mineral-lease issue; and more.

On top of news of former GOP Chair Tony Sutton’s personal bankruptcy, Rachel Stassen-Berger of the Strib reports: “The Minnesota Senate is on track to pay out another $91,000 to defend itself against an ex-employee’s lawsuit, bringing the total cost so far to about $300,000. The legal fees are expected to continue to tick up. The case is headed for a 2014 trial date and Senators have set aside another $500,000 to deal with coming costs. Senators are expected to meet Monday afternoon to approve the latest legal bill. Former employee Michael Brodkorb is suing the Senate over his 2011 dismissal.” “Set aside” … from what?

Bad news for aquifers … Elizabeth Dunbar at MPR reports: “[Alan Peterson is] one of a growing number of Minnesota farmers who are relying on irrigation. The number of irrigated farm fields in the state has surged in the past few years, and data compiled by state officials show many farmers hope to irrigate even more of their fields. So far this year, farmers have applied for 466 irrigation permits — more than twice the number of applications in all of last year. … there is not enough data yet to show whether irrigation is threatening groundwater supplies in some areas of the state. … ‘What we’re concerned about is the impact that’s having on, or can have on surface water features, which is the expression of the groundwater’, [said Jason Moeckel of the DNR]. ‘So as we divert that groundwater from where it was flowing to, to some other use, we’re diverting it away from a surface water. It’s beginning to express it enough that we’re actually seeing it in our observations and our data, and that’s where the concern is.’ “

Today it’s Bill Salisbury at the PiPress talking about tax changes and costs … “For thousands of Minnesotans, filing state income tax returns next year will be a little more complex and expensive because of some below-the-radar changes in the tax law passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Mark Dayton last spring. … An estimated 650,000 married couples will have to pay a so-called ‘marriage penalty’ that will add an average of $120 to their tax bills. Other taxpayers will lose tax breaks for employer-paid adoption benefits, child care, student loan interest, mortgage insurance premiums and teacher classroom expenses, among other items. Filing will be more complicated because taxpayers will have to add back certain federal deductions on their state income tax returns. The cost and complexities resulted because Dayton and lawmakers failed to change state tax law to conform to tax breaks that Congress added to the federal tax code late last year.”

So what does happen if jailbirds become lovebirds? MPR’s Rupa Chenoy writes: “Legalizing same sex marriage has raised a host of questions for Minnesota officials — from the relatively simple, like how to replace the words ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ on forms, to the more complicated, such as whether two incarcerated people can marry. The state’s answer to that second question is ‘no’. … Chuck Samuelson, the ACLU of Minnesota’s executive director, disagrees with the correction department’s decision not to allow inmate marriages. ‘That would be illegal,’ he said.” Unleash the dogs of law!

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The GleanOh good … more details … The AP says: “Confidential files turned over for a lawsuit set to go to trial in Minnesota may shed new light on the problem of sexual abuse within the Boy Scouts of America. The documents were produced in litigation brought against the Boy Scouts and a former scoutmaster, Peter Stibal II, who is serving 21 years in prison for molesting four Scouts. Attorneys for one former Scout won a court order for the nationwide internal files, commonly known as ‘ineligible volunteer’ or ‘perversion files.’ They cover the years 1999-2008, much more recent than similar files forced into the open in an Oregon case last year. … Patrick Boyle, who as a journalist was among the first to expose efforts by the Scouts to hide the extent of abuse by their leaders, said the files could show how the Boy Scouts evolved in their response to abuse allegations over the years — or didn’t.”

There’s been a decision of sorts on the controversial leases for exploring for minerals under private property up north. A short piece in the St. Cloud Times says: “The Minnesota Court of Appeals says the state does not need to order environmental reviews when it awards leases for exploring for metallic minerals. A three-judge appeals panel says the sale of minerals leases, by itself, does not trigger environmental review requirements under the Minnesota Environmental Protection Act. The ruling says that’s because a lease sale does not necessarily mean the land will ever be prospected or mined for minerals such as copper and nickel. But the ruling also says the environmental review requirements may be triggered later by more specific exploration plans for the property.”

We have a winner! At the Strib, Kevin Duchschere reports: “The Urban Oasis, a plan to remake part of an East Side nature sanctuary into a unique food hub, will get $1 million for being named the best idea in the Forever St. Paul Challenge. The idea, submitted by Tracy Sides of St. Paul, received more than half of the total votes cast for three finalists by Minnesotans since late August. Sides said she envisioned a one-of-a kind food hub connecting food, nature and culture that will make St. Paul a national model for local food systems. It would be at a building at Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary.”

Sally Jo Sorensen on her Bluestem Prairie blog seems to have enjoyed the gathering of 6th District GOP congressional candidates the other night: “A conservative male friend drew Bluestem’s attention to remarks Sixth District Republican hopeful Phil Krinkie shared with the Central Minnesota Tea Party a week and a half ago. The St. Cloud Times reported in Hopefuls in 6th District tout contrasts to tea party crowd: He drew mostly laughs with what he called ‘my personal experience with the money supply.’

‘All we really need to do when we are looking to expand the economy, we direct all the money to the women in the economy, and they will spend more and the economy will recover’, Krinkie said. ‘Then when the economy is overheated, we go the other way and we give all the money to the men, and they’ll be very frugal and hold onto it.’

This seems like a jest that might appear in a Mad Men script, one that the series writers would then contrast with a poignant moment from one of the female characters’ lives.  It’s a quaint sexism, made perhaps even more odd, like the slightly-off gender remark an old uncle would make at Thanksgiving dinner, in light of the fact that Anoka County Board of Commissioners Chair Rhonda Sivarajah was the other Republican congressional hopeful at the meeting.” Those folks are just so darned quotable.