Legislative Auditor questions legal standing of Iron Range board

MinnPost file photo by Daniel Corrigan
Legislative Auditor Jim Nobles

Legislative Auditor Jim Nobles strikes again! MPR reports: “The state agency charged with boosting Minnesota’s Iron Range economy has been spending millions to subsidize losses at its Giants Ridge Recreation Area and has fallen short overseeing the loans it makes. … Those are the key findings of a report released Friday by Minnesota’s Office of Legislative Auditor, which also questioned the legal standing of the agency, the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board. … Based in Eveleth, the IRRRB makes grants and loans intended to spur economic development in northeastern Minnesota.”

GM will label its GMOs. The Star Tribune’s Mike Hughlett and Jim Spencer report: “General Mills will begin voluntarily labeling products nationwide that contain genetically modified ingredients after the failure of Congress to reach a national labeling law, a ‘watershed’ development, according to one consumer group. … The Golden Valley-based company said Friday that since it will be forced by July 1 to begin labeling for GMOs in Vermont — the result of a state law there — it will extend GMO labeling nationwide.”

Target Center’s facelift is going forward. WCCO reports: “The Minneapolis City Council gave its final approval for the Target Center’s planned $129 million renovation Friday morning. … The approval includes a guaranteed maximum price of $102.8 million in hard construction costs. … ‘We own this city as a people and we are investing in this arena as a city,’ Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges said.”

Cool photos and an essay about Somalis living in Minnesota. The New York Times’ James Estrin reports: “Arthur Nazaryan wasn’t the first inexperienced photographer to venture into Somalia for a few weeks and barely scratch the surface covering famine and conflict. After working in Mogadishu in 2012, he realized the only way to make meaningful images was to spend much more time there. … But it is expensive for an American photographer to work safely in Mogadishu, and he lacked the money for an extended stay. He was, however, determined to document the Somali people, whom he admired, so he charted a different course: He went to Minneapolis, which is home to some 30,000 Somalis, most of whom came as refugees since 1990.”

In other news…

“Names of Burnsville officers in McDonald’s shooting released” [Pioneer Press]

St. Paul’s Union Depot is turning 90 this yearhere are 26 things you may not have known about it. [Pioneer Press]

These look great: “Crafting handmade cowboy boots the old way in northern Minnesota” [MPR]

Congrats! “Lynne Rossetto Kasper to receive Lifetime Achievement Award” [The Growler]

Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by Bill Willy on 03/20/2016 - 02:56 pm.

    Auditor: IRRRB participation Unconstitutional?

    I hope MinnPost will follow-up and keep the journalistic spotlight on this issue because, as arcane and sleepy as it may seem, it’s huge. From the bizarre and indefensible “bookkeeping” and “appearance of corruption” point of view but, maybe more importantly, the probable (some say Obvious) unconstitutionality of legislators serving on (or having direct influence on) the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board.

    Steve Timmer wrote an excellent article on that aspect of things last year:

    http://left.mn/2015/06/the-separation-of-powers

    And another, just yesterday:

    http://left.mn/2016/03/its-a-giant-money-suckhole

    This IRRRB’s orchestrated actions were critical to passing House File 846 (the “Ag and Environment” omnibus “Save Turkey Farming!” bill) into Minnesota Law last year. Among several other dubious provisions, HF 846 was the bill that included the two amendments that:

    Abolished the MPCA Citizens’ Board; and

    Exempted the mining industry from having to apply to the MPCA for “solid waste management permits” which, essentially, amounted to a license to pollute Minnesota’s waters to their heart’s content.

    Those two laws should be repealed as soon as possible, never should have made it into law in the first place and never COULD have without the rock solid backing of the Senate Majority Leader and the rest of the “Range delegation”/IRRRB.

    And, relatedly, whatever role the IRRRB may have played in the passage of other laws that (eventually) made it possible for the DNR to say that Polymet’s environmental impact statement was “adequate” enough to be “in compliance” with Minnesota’s laws ought to be closely examined by an agency at least as independent of the legislature and the DNR as the Legislative Auditor. . . No telling HOW long last year’s kind of “legislative activity” has been going on or how many times environmental laws have been influenced or “adjusted” with guidance from the IRRRB since Polymet began its (initially failed) pursuit of a “permit to mine.” SOMEone who knows how to do that should definitely look into it and no permit should be issued until they do.

    That kind of thing — or even “the appearance” of it — is, to me, an unfortunate Prime Example of what can happen when legislators are willing and allowed to (allegedly) violate our state’s constitution for an extended period of time.

    Again: I hope MinnPost (and all other MN news organizations) will pursue this issue “rigorously.”

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