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Don Davis, Forum News Service, Published February 20 2011

Minnesota Political Notebook: DFL likely to challenge selection of regents

St. Paul - Monday night’s selection of new University of Minnesota regents could be contentious.

Democrats accuse Republicans of playing politics in picking former House Speaker Steve Sviggum of Kenyon and ex-Rep. Laura Brod, who represented the New Prague area.

House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, said folks on his side are looking into what they can do to fix what they see as a political action.

House Majority Leader Matt Dean, R-Dellwood, said the nominations went through a joint legislative committee as rules require.

The committee nominated Dave McMillan of Duluth to represent northeast Minnesota’s 8th Congressional District, Sviggum in the 2nd, Larson in the 3rd and Brod as an at-large regent.

The House and Senate meet together Monday. Lawmakers may accept the slate of candidates offered or pick their own.

Thissen said one DFL complaint is that a member of a labor organization usually sits on the Board of Regents, which governs the university, but the GOP-controlled Legislature has not followed that long-held tradition.

A taxing bet

Rep. Pat Garofalo pulled out his wallet during a House Tax Committee meeting and counted $116.

The Farmington Republican turned to fellow Rep. Paul Marquart, DFL-Dilworth, who had just complained about state taxes affecting lower-income Minnesotans more than those who are wealthier. Garofalo offered to bet Marquart that when all taxes are considered, including those paid to Washington, higher-income people pay a higher percentage.

Marquart turned down the invitation.

“I would suggest that Rep. Garofalo take that $116 and run for Congress,” Marquart said, because the state Legislature only can control state and local taxes.

Garofalo said there is no dispute that when all taxes are counted, there is no doubt higher-income Minnesotans pay a higher percentage of their incomes in taxes.

Dirty work

U.S. Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and 30 other senators told the Environmental Protection Agency that proposed dust-control rules the agency is considering would hurt rural America.

“Naturally occurring dust is a fact of life in rural America, and the creation of dust is unavoidable for the agricultural industry,” the senators wrote in a letter. “Indeed, with the need to further increase food production to meet world food demands, regulations that will stifle the U.S. agriculture industry could result in the loss of productivity, an increase in food prices, and further stress our nation’s rural economy.”

Spreading the word

Minnesotans of many religious backgrounds descended on the Capitol the other day to talk money and how it could affect those in need.

Sharon Grugel of Moorhead said they asked lawmakers to make “fair and just” decisions when writing a new budget this year.

A group from the Moorhead, Dilworth and Glyndon areas talked about taxes, especially Dayton’s proposal to raise taxes on the rich.

“They have more left than the rest of us,” said Ann Shellack of Glyndon.

She said the minimum wage needs to increase to keep poor Minnesotans receiving enough money to survive.

The two and hundreds of others were part of the Joint Religious Legislative Coalition’s effort to convince legislators to maintain help for poor Minnesotans and other who depend on state help. The group featured also lobbied to keep politics out of judicial races.

Most of the group’s members are more liberal than the newly Republican-controlled Legislature, so their message was not always well-received.

A Monday night Moorhead meeting will continue the discussion.

The Invest in Minnesota group plans a 6 p.m. meeting at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church to discuss potential impacts of the state budget and what people can do to spread the word.

Davis works for Forum Communications Co., which owns The Forum. He can

be reached at (651) 290-0707 or ddavis@forumcomm.com