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Don Davis, Forum News Service, Published February 16 2013

Capitol Chatter: Minnesota Capitol to see another round of gun law discussion

St. Paul - Call it Gun Week 2 in the Minnesota Legislature. The Senate Judiciary Committee plans meetings Thursday and Friday on bills written to curb gun violence. They likely will include proposals to ban so-called assault weapons and magazines with large numbers of bullets.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said he expects an even larger crowd for the hearings than the 500 who attended House meetings earlier this month.

Bakk said security concerns have been raised about the hearings, but he was not specific. Several at the House hearings said they were carrying guns, which is allowed under state law as long as the gun owners have a valid conceal carry permit and tell the Public Safety Department their intent to take a gun into the Capitol complex.

The week begins with a Freedom from Gun Violence rally on Monday.

Groups supporting gun restrictions are trying to pack committee and overflow rooms after they were outnumbered by gun rights supporters, including National Rifle Association members, at House hearings.

“The NRA crowded the House hearings to shut us out and make it appear that the public is not behind common sense gun violence prevention,” Heather Martens of Protect Minnesota wrote to those backing gun laws. “But victims bravely spoke out. And now they need you.”

Carp fight continues

Minnesota members of Congress introduced legislation to battle Asian carp.

U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken and Reps. Keith Ellison, Erik Paulsen, Tim Walz and Rick Nolan filed a bill to speed up federal officials’ decision about whether to close the Upper St. Anthony Falls lock on the Mississippi River to help stop the spread of the invasive species. The bill also would require immediate closure if Asian carp are found in the Mississippi near the Twin Cities.

Natural resources experts fear that if the carp invade Minnesota waters they will eat so much food that native species will die out.

Still no visit

Matt Dean criticized North Dakota’s Capitol last year but still has not visited it.

The Minnesota state representative, an architect, said the skyscraper Capitol building (one of three in the country) looks more like an office building than a capitol. He often is reminded of the comments, including in a recent New York Times Magazine story about North Dakota’s oil boom:

“North Dakotans are as proud of their Capitol as they are of their boom-based unemployment rate (3.2 percent, lowest in the nation), and many were stung when a Minnesota state legislator last spring compared it to the headquarters of an insurance company.”

Bovine TB gone

Minnesota officials have dealt with bovine tuberculosis in northwestern Minnesota since 2005, but that now has ended.

The eight years of monitoring ceased when studies showed no TB in wild deer.

“We have accomplished what many believed was not possible,” said Michelle Carstensen of the state Department of Natural Resources. “By reducing the incidence of TB in wild deer to an undetectable level and hopefully eliminating it, Minnesota has become an international example on how to successfully respond to a disease outbreak that has a significant wildlife component.”

None of 325 deer killed during the 2012 firearms season tested positive for the disease, the third straight year that happened.

Working together

University of Minnesota and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities officials are working to find ways the two state-run higher education systems can work together.

University President Eric Kaler and MnSCU Chancellor Steven Rosenstone and their aides have exchanged ideas about partnerships, including coordinating programs between the systems and buying supplies together.

“This was our second meeting in recent months and demonstrates our mutual commitment to ensuring that the U and MnSCU are working together to serve the higher education needs of Minnesotans,” U of M Board Chairwoman Linda Cohen said after a recent meeting.