Drones to be legislative topic

Drone activity — including spying on your neighbors or delivering beer — will be a legislative topic. Brian Bakst of the AP says: “Fears of prying from the sky have some Minnesota lawmakers seeking clamps on law enforcement’s use of unmanned aerial drones to gather evidence. Drones operated by Minnesota authorities aren’t taking off just yet, but legislation that would curb potential uses is on the docket for the 2014 session. The drone debate has moved into statehouses across the country given increased public sensitivity to government surveillance of its citizens. Civil libertarians and privacy advocates are cheering the scrutiny.”

Speaking of the next session … Stribber Jennifer Brooks writes: “Almost 300 bills have been introduced in the House, ahead of the Legislature’s Feb. 25 start date … In St. Paul and back in legislators’ home districts, the unsession presession is in full swing. … Republican Rep. Kelby Woodard of Belle Plaine is hoping the unsession will include a crack at dismantling a good chunk of the MNsure health insurance exchange the Legislature just assembled last year.” Perfect. “Un-production” for the “unsession.”

But then there is this … Jackie Crosby of the Strib reports: “Minnesota’s new health insurance exchange isn’t getting off the mark with small businesses any faster than it is with consumers. As of last week, only 115 Minnesota small businesses had used the MNsure website to buy medical coverage for their workers, far below expectations. Companies have faced many of the same problems besetting individuals — a glitchy sign-up process and interminable waits to reach the MNsure call center.”

Sarah Lahm of the group Eyes on Education writes at TC Daily Planet: “Who is sponsoring the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce’s upcoming Education Summit, and why are their names no longer listed on the official promotional piece for the event? The original announcement for the Summit included Target, General Mills, and Thompson Reuters among the handful of groups and businesses sponsoring the Education Summit. However, as of Wednesday, January 29, the list of sponsors had been removed from the Chamber of Commerce’s announcement for the event. When contacted about this, a Chamber of Commerce representative said the sponsors’ names were removed because displaying them ‘wasn’t doing anybody any good.’

It really is going down … Says Pat Pheifer of the Strib: “Don’t worry, folks. An explosion inside the Metrodome that prompted calls to Minneapolis police wasn’t accidental and didn’t damage anything it wasn’t supposed to destroy. Crews working on the demolition of the 31-year-old stadium detonated a dozen or so charges simultaneously. severing the roof support cables and causing the final roof structure to fall to the stadium floor.”

Here’s some video, via MPR’s Tim Nelson.

The retired editor of the Des Moines Register takes a swing at the Minnesota v. Wisconsin ideological divide. Says Richard Doak: “Entire state development strategies (including Iowa’s) are based on the belief that cutting business and income taxes and otherwise doing whatever the business lobby wants is the pathway to nirvana. It isn’t. Maybe it’s not even the best way to develop a state’s economy. There ought to be some objective way to find out. As it happens, a test that might give some answers is underway right here in the Upper Midwest. The test involves Iowa’s sister states Minnesota and Wisconsin.”

The GleanSam Cook of the Duluth News Tribune says hunters want more deer: “You could hear the complaints wherever hunters gathered last fall. Deer numbers, they said, were dismal. Way down. Hunters weren’t seeing deer. They were seeing few tracks. In Northeastern Minnesota, many said they saw more wolf tracks than deer tracks. The firearms deer kill was down about 17 percent in northern Minnesota, and down 6.5 percent statewide. Registrations across much of Northeastern Minnesota were down to levels not seen since the late 1990s. A petition is circulating the state in which deer hunters ‘demand that deer density goals be substantially revised and increased on a timely manner.’ ” Apparently they missed the herds that wait for me on dark highways.

Joe Witt, president of the Minnesota Bankers Association, says in a Strib commentary: “The electronic payments system is complex, with several major players in the system. Retailers, merchant card processors, card networks (like Visa and MasterCard) and card-issuing banks all benefit from this system. All these players must be required to maintain the most up-to-date information security systems. Many retailers’ systems are lacking … All the parties within the electronic payments system must also be given incentives to use the best possible anti-fraud procedures. Because retailers have no liability for fraudulent electronic transactions, they do little or nothing to prevent fraud at the point of sale.”

MPR’s Martin Moylan takes a look at the website for stolen credit and debit card numbers: “If you’re looking for stolen credit or debit card numbers, they’re just a few clicks and keystrokes away. One place to find them is the Internet store front of the Russian teenager suspected of writing malware that infected Target’s point-of-sale terminals, allowing thieves to steal credit and debit card information on 40 million consumers. … Drop-down menus and check boxes are reminiscent of shopping sites that sell cars and homes. But this one is selling stolen credit and debit card numbers. … Plenty of the numbers are from Minnesota.”

Finally, a bit of clarification. Last Friday I made a joke about Congresswoman Betty McCollum being in line to succeed Michele Bachmann as “Our Favorite Congresswoman.” Several readers wrote demanding to know what my problem was with Ms. McCollum? To which I said, “Nothing at all.” The joke, such as it was, was simply that as the only other female among the state’s U.S. House representatives, she by default becomes “Our Favorite” when … the other one departs. I now realize I was inadvertently sullying by association. I really must be more careful in the future.

Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 02/03/2014 - 10:19 am.

    Drone risk

    I don’t know whether it passed or not, but in the previous legislative session in Colorado, someone introduced a bill that would allow landowners to shoot down drones without legal penalty.

    Try to visualize a rancher, let’s call him Ed, walking out to his war surplus 20mm antiaircraft gun out behind the house, loading up a clip with high-explosive and tracer rounds, and taking a few shots at the buzzing machine overhead. If Ed owns 10,000 acres, the spent rounds might not even injure anything except a prairie dog or two when they return to earth. Not quite the same thing for a suburban homeowner, let’s call him Bill, who is equally furious about the notion of government spying, and who is also affluent enough to have picked up his very own 20mm Oerlikon at a surplus outlet. Spent round in that case are likely to come down on his neighbors.

    It’ll be interesting to see what sorts of legislative remedies, if any, get proposed in the upcoming session.

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