Don Davis, Forum News Service, Published October 29 2011
Minnesota Political Notebook: Shutdown, stadium mean abnormal summer, fall
With the July government shutdown and now the increasingly frantic stadium debate, this has been a strange and busy non-election year.
“This is the busiest I have ever been between sessions,” said Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City.
In what is supposed to be an off-season, Urdahl has been in the Capitol two or three days a week, a time when lawmakers usually are hard to find under the dome.
Many legislators have been pulled into the debate about a new Vikings football stadium, whether they wanted to be or not.
For Urdahl, that’s because as chairman of the House committee dealing with so-called “legacy funds,” he has been swamped with emails and other communications from people concerned the stadium will siphon off money voters approved in 2008 for outdoors and arts projects.
“It is right up there,” he said about the number of emails he has received, comparing it to controversial gay-marriage proposals. (By the way, he says, he has received the message, so the emails can stop now.)
Most Capitol attention has turned to the stadium.
While politicians blame the media for hyping the issue, that’s the topic most politicians bring up, too.
Gov. Mark Dayton on Friday was supposed to attend a Capitol Preservation Commission hearing but dropped that in favor of a stadium meeting.
To put stadium interest in perspective, the number of journalists covering stadium issues rivals the number who covered the state shutdown.
A bill that would pay Minnesota Chippewa American Indians for “federal misfeasance” in enacting an 1889 law is making its way through Congress.
Minnesota U.S. Reps. Collin Peterson, a Democrat, and Chip Cravaack, a Republican, introduced what they call the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe Judgment Fund Distribution Act of 2011. It would give the state’s Chippewa $28 million as reimbursement for the federal government selling of Indian lands in the late 1800s.
Those affected are Boise Forte, Fond du Lac, Grand Portage, Leech Lake, Mille Lacs and White Earth bands of Chippewa.
Cravaack said the money sits in an Interior Department trust fund and should be released now.
Each tribal member would get $300, with the six bands receiving the rest.
A western disaster
The U.S. Agriculture Department has made most western Minnesota counties eligible for assistance due to several natural disasters that affected farmers this year.
“The extreme weather in western Minnesota has caused severe damage to crops and taken a heavy toll on rural communities,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. “With these designations, farmers are eligible to access the permanent disaster program and emergency financing they need to get through this difficult period and continue their vital role in Minnesota’s economy.”
Farmers may receive emergency loans and other assistance from the Farm Service Agency.
Counties eligible for assistance are Big Stone, Chippewa, Grant, Lac Qui Parle, Redwood, Renville, Sibley, Stearns, Stevens, Traverse, Wright, Anoka, Benton, Brown, Carver, Cottonwood, Douglas, Hennepin, Kandiyohi, Le Sueur, Lyon, McLeod, Meeker, Morrison, Murray, Nicollet, Otter Tail, Pope, Scott, Sherburne, Swift, Todd, Wilkin and Yellow Medicine.
Another disaster declaration is in effect for Kittson, Marshall, Norman, Polk, Traverse and Wilkin counties because of severe early spring weather.
State Sen. Larry Pogemiller, DFL-Minneapolis, will be Office of Higher Education director, Gov. Mark Dayton announced.
That means at least three longtime and powerful senators are leaving.
Sen. Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon, earlier said he would not seek re-election next year. He has been core to picking public works projects to fund for years.
The Senate’s top health-care expert, Sen. Linda Berglin, DFL-Minneapolis, left the Senate for a Hennepin County job.
Pogemiller long has worked in education in the Senate, and Dayton said he will bring that information to his new job.
Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.