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Republican legislators halt gun-control bills

Plus: 40 workers assigned to fix MNLARS will be laid off; Lt. Gov. Fischbach misses meeting of the state’s executive council; renewable energy now Minnesota’s second biggest source of electricity; and more.

Minnesota State Capitol
MinnPost photo by Peter Callaghan

Still not the time to talk about guns, apparently. Says Brian Bakst for MPR: “Minnesota Republican lawmakers on Thursday stopped two DFL gun bills — one to expand background checks to private gun sales and transfers and another that would have let family members temporarily restrict a loved one’s access to firearms. A majority of Republicans in the House’s public safety committee voted to indefinitely set aside the background checks expansion. The final vote was 9-7, with one Republican, Rep. Keith Franke of St. Paul Park, voting with Democrats to keep the measure alive. Republicans stopped the second bill shortly after that in a 10-6 vote. … Gun restriction measures have not fared well in recent years at the GOP-controlled Legislature.”

A little Second Amendment reality from Pat Kessler at WCCO-TV. “‘Why is it that more Minnesotans are dying due to gun violence than opioid use and car crashes?’ demanded Becky Sechrist, President of the Minnesota Public Health Association. ‘Why don’t we conduct research on gun violence like we do for traffic fatalities?’ We wanted to know if that’s true, so we went to the Minnesota Department of Health, which compiles data on mortality rates — a list they keep of how people die. The most recent data show 43,050 people died in Minnesota in 2016. The leading causes of death are cancer, heart disease and accidental injury, but gun violence now plays a significant role. The state Health Department reports 432 people in Minnesota died from guns in 2016, while 395 people died from opioids and 392 people died from traffic crashes. But that’s not the whole story. Of the 432 gun deaths in Minnesota, 332 were suicides.”

The Star Tribune’s Karen Zamora writes: “Almost 40 workers assigned to fix Minnesota’s troubled multimillion-dollar vehicle licensing system will be laid off at the end of March after legislators Thursday rejected an emergency $10 million infusion for system repair. The House voted down a DFL motion to allocate money from the state’s Driver and Vehicle Services agency to the beleaguered Minnesota Licensing and Registration System (MNLARS), whose problems have meant long lines and waits for Minnesotans seeking vehicle services.”

So what are they going to do? Fire her? The AP reports, “Minnesota’s Republican lieutenant governor and state Sen. Michelle Fischbach missed a meeting Thursday of the state’s Executive Council, at least the second official duty of the lieutenant governor she’s skipped since taking on the dual roles. … Fischbach’s chair was empty at the Thursday meeting of the Executive Council, a five-member panel of the state’s top constitutional officers, including Dayton, which oversees the state’s finances and guides responses to emergencies. In January, Fischbach sat in the crowd during a committee to discuss Capitol security but did not participate or preside over the meeting, as state law dictates.”

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Gaining on beautiful coal. In the Strib, Mike Hughlett reports, “Renewable energy has moved into second place as Minnesota’s largest source of electricity generation, nudging out nuclear power but still trailing coal. Meanwhile, the cost of wind energy in Minnesota — even without tax subsidies — now appears lower than electricity produced from both natural gas and coal. Both conclusions come from a report released Thursday by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, which tracks power generation trends nationally.”

Weather delays? Riham Feshir of MPR says, “A previously postponed charter flight to deport about 100 Somalis, Sudanese and Congolese immigrants back to Africa has been rescheduled again, lending yet more anxiety and confusion to an already stress-filled situation. The Somali Embassy in Washington confirmed Thursday that a flight that was set to take off Friday had been rescheduled ‘due to weather delays.’ According to lawyers and families of the detainees, they were set to fly to South Sudan because neighboring countries Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti weren’t giving landing permission.” It must have been too sunny and dry.

The Strib cuts a checkMPR Bob Collins “When a big, national event rolls into town — a national political convention, for example — a host committee will almost always have a party for the thousands of representatives of the media beforehand. That’s the way it worked at the Super Bowl in Minneapolis last month, too. The exclusive party at the Mall of America was for credentialed media only. It’s a ‘splendid evening on someone else’s dime,’ as SB Nation called it in 2014. It’s also an ‘ethical disaster that will haunt us for some time to come,’ a member of the Star Tribune’s union said in a post-Super Bowl performance survey that showed wide disagreement among journalists on the question. On Wednesday, newsroom executives announced in an internal memo that the newspaper will reimburse the Super Bowl Host Committee for the cost of providing the perk to employees who attended.”

Says the AP, “A Chisago County grand jury has indicted a man accused of driving a snowmobile on Chisago Lake that struck and killed an 8-year-old boy who was preparing to go ice fishing with his family. Forty-five-year-old Eric Coleman, of Chisago City, is charged with third-degree murder, criminal vehicular homicide, criminal vehicular operation and drunken driving in connection with the Jan. 26 incident.”

PhRMA weighs in. In Christopher Magan’s PiPress story on grieving families pushing for opioid control at the Capitol, we have this: “A spokesman from PhRMA, which represents drug researchers and manufacturers, said they’ve spoken with Minnesota lawmakers about the negative impacts of [Rep Dave Baker, R-Willmar’s] bill. The tax would ‘penalize and ostracize vulnerable patients’ who rely on pain medications to treat debilitating conditions, the organization said. ‘It’s clear that this proposed tax ignores the factors that led to this public health crisis, including the substantial influx of heroin, counterfeit fentanyl and other illegal drugs, and fails to recognize existing funding available for treatment, prevention and other important programs to help communities.’