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Don Davis, Forum News Service, Published November 17 2012

Minnesota Political Notebook: Vikings say seat licenses were part of the deal

ST. PAUL - The Minnesota Vikings say Gov. Mark Dayton and others are jumping the gun in criticizing the idea of selling pricey seats to some season-ticket holders.

In strong language, Dayton wrote to Vikings owners complaining about their interest in selling high-priced seat licenses to raise money that would count toward the team’s contribution to a new nearly $1 billion stadium. He said he wanted a “people’s stadium,” not “a rich people’s stadium.”

The Vikings and legislative Republicans said the personal seat license provision was included in a bill that Dayton, a Democrat, pushed and signed earlier this year.

Dayton sent his letter after the team began surveying season-ticket holders about their interest in seat licenses. A Vikings official on Friday said the team probably should have told Dayton and others before the survey went out.

The Vikings say no decisions have been made about whether to sell seat licenses.

Balancing act

Incoming Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk put together a leadership trio representing a wide demographic range and gave Greater Minnesota senators a bit of an edge as committee chairmen.

The Cook Democrat is a white rural resident and veteran lawmaker, Assistant Majority Leader Katie Sieben, of Cottage Grove, is a suburban woman with moderate legislative experience and Deputy Majority Leader Jeff Hayden, of Minneapolis, is a black man and a relative newcomer.

Senators from outside the Twin Cities lead in committee chairmanships with eight. Six suburban lawmakers will take over committees in January, along with five from Minneapolis and St. Paul.

A broadband view

More rural Minnesotans can get onto the Internet at high speeds than in the recent past, but a gap remains between them and those who live in the Twin Cities.

A report from the Center for Rural Policy and Development released at the Blandin Foundation’s annual conference on broadband access showed three of four Minnesota homes have broadband Internet service (the kind faster than dial-up). In rural parts of the state, 71 percent of homes had the faster service, compared to 80 percent in the Twin Cities.

The study found that rural Internet users can conduct routine activities such as checking email and news, but activities that need more bandwidth are not as likely. For instance, streaming video online is not possible in much of rural Minnesota.

The study also showed that a lack of good wireless Internet connections put rural Minnesota at a disadvantage.

“Businesses do everything on the Internet these days, and distance learning and remote health care are being held up as solutions for educator and doctor shortages in rural areas, but many communities still don’t have the Internet capacity to handle the kind of data flows these uses call for,” said Marnie Werner, research manager at the center and chief author of the study.

‘Grow economy’

Cities from around Minnesota decided economic development is their top legislative priority.

Members of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities made that decision in an Alexandria meeting.

“Now that the election is over and we know who our legislators will be, the CGMC is laying out proposals that will help our cities grow and prosper,” said CGMC President Bruce Ahlgren, mayor of Cloquet. “In 2013, Greater Minnesota will be making it clear that our needs will no longer take a back seat to the metro area.”

The coalition plans to lobby for programs targeted at their cities, including proposals to increase availability of money for new businesses, a new Greater Minnesota employee training program and a proposal to provide incentives for greater Minnesota employers to hire interns from Minnesota colleges.

Restroom talk

Sen. Amy Klobuchar hit the national media as Congress began its lame duck session, but not for discussing budget woes.

It started when the Minnesota Democrat tweeted: “New senators here. W/20 women we had our first-ever in U.S. history traffic jam in women senators’ restroom.”

News organization from the Washington Post on down picked up on that tweet and comments she later made at the Newseum.

There will be a record 20 women senators in the next Congress.

Bills feels ignored

Kurt Bills is not getting back into politics, at least any time soon, but he still has thoughts about it.

The Republican U.S. Senate candidate who lost to Klobuchar by 35 points is not happy with his party for not providing its full support.

“If we don’t become the party of addition and multiplication, we will become the party of division and subtraction,” he said in his concession speech. “It’s time to start learning that once you have that endorsement process, you come together and run against the opponent. The opponent is the blue guys.”

Bills told Nathan Hansen of the Rosemount TownPages that statewide media did not take him seriously.

“He patterned his campaign explicitly after the campaign of Paul Wellstone, down to replicating one of Wellstone’s commercials,” Hansen wrote. “But where Wellstone was treated as a scrappy underdog, Bills often felt ignored.”

On the other hand, as one Capitol reporter wrote, Wellstone had built his name in an earlier unsuccessful run for statewide office and met with the media often.

Bills’ campaign refused to allow a Star Tribune reporter a pre-election interview. When Forum Communications tried to arrange a time to follow him on the campaign trail after a one-hour interview, the campaign offered to allow coverage of a 10-minute speech.

The campaign seldom told reporters where the candidate would be.

At the same time, Klobuchar allowed news reporters with statewide audiences to follow her for hours, including in-depth interviews with her between stops.

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Don Davis writes for Forum Communications