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Capitol Chatter: Governing by the letter

So it now is negotiation by letter.

The governor and various legislative leaders have taken to sending letters to each other, copying the media, instead of actually talking.

"I have received too many letters to respond to each one individually," Gov. Mark Dayton joked when he opened a Friday news conference. "I wanted to restate my position."

And that is what he did, adding little new to what he had said and written earlier in the week. But he did field questions from reporters who may not have had a chance to talk to him.

"I wanted to clarify my position," Dayton said, adding that he received three legislative leaders' letters Thursday alone.

"We can have a special session next Monday," the Democratic governor proclaimed, although it apparently had been days since he actually talked to Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt.

Daudt regularly said, and wrote, that he only would talk to Dayton about a special session after the governor took action on a tax bill that contained a $101 million mistake.

Daudt sent Dayton letters on Wednesday and Thursday. House Taxes Chairman Greg Davids and Senate Minority Leader David Hann sent letters Thursday.

A Thursday Daudt-to-Dayton letter illustrates the tone of the exchange:

"Thank you for your letter today. I would kindly ask you to re-read my letter from yesterday. I did not accuse you of holding tax relief for farmers, parents, students and small businesses hostage. I simply reminded you that those were your words, and I was letting you know I agree with your position."

Dayton said Friday that he was shut out of late-session negotiations last month, as Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk and Daudt did the talking, along with some of their key chairmen and aides.

While Dayton was not personally involved in the final talks, he now holds an advantage as lawmakers want a special session to approve $1 billion worth of construction projects, and to fix the tax bill.

Only a governor can call lawmakers into special session, so he has a list of demands of things -- mostly new spending -- that must pass a special session. If legislative leaders do not agree, he will not call a session, he said.

That list of demands came in a Wednesday letter to legislative leaders.

Daudt challenger

House Speaker Kurt Daudt has a Republican primary challenger.

Alan Duff filed paperwork to run for the Minnesota House seat Daudt holds.

An Army veteran and small business owner, Duff said he is running on "the values of honor and integrity."

"The political system in Minnesota is shattered," Duff said. "Polls show that politicians rank as the lowest trusted profession in the country and I plan on restoring faith in the political process in my district by representing the people, not special interests and backroom deals that hurt hard-working families and seniors living on fixed incomes."

Duff and Daudt served together two years on the Isanti County Board, where, Duff said, "I learned that Kurt Daudt is not a principled conservative. He voted to increase the county tax levy and grow government."

When asked about Duff's charge that he was not conservative enough, Daudt replied: "I would say the same thing about him."

Daudt downplayed the contest. "I am looking forward to the challenge."

Officially campaigning

Rep. Ben Lien wrote to voters the other day: "We now enter campaign season for the Legislature and I’ll be out knocking on doors and meeting people this summer and fall."

The Moorhead Democrat used his official state House email to send the message, which included a legislative roundup. State rules ban using state accounts and equipment for campaign purposes.

When asked, Lien admitted that he probably should have not included the campaign comment in his newsletter. He said he was trying to tell constituents that they can still reach out to him with state-business-related concerns.

Vet cards OK

A military veteran identification card now can be used by Minnesota voters to register on election day.

Secretary of State Steve Simon made the announcement, saying that since a vet ID card does not contain an address, it must be accompanied with a proof of residence.

"We should be doing everything we can to make it as easy as possible for the men and women who have served our country to vote, and that’s what we’re doing today," Simon said. "In many cases, a veteran identification card may be the only form of current identification veterans may have in their possession."

Tour governor's home

Reservations are being accepted to tour the Minnesota governor's residence.

But people also may just show up on specific days and see if there is room on a tour.

Tours will be 10:50 a.m. to 12:20 p.m. on June 14 and 28, July 26, and Aug. 9 and 23. They also will be 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. July 12.

Tours of the home at 1006 Summit Ave., St. Paul, are given every summer.

Volunteers from the Women's Auxiliary of the Minnesota Historical Society will answer questions in each room on the first floor and lower level of the Residence. The 1006 Summit Avenue Society will sell merchandise.

There is no fee for the tour, but organizers ask that people take a non-perishable food item to help stock food shelves.

For more information, call (651) 201-3464 or email residence.gov@state.mn.us.

Thompson new state vet

Dr. Beth Thompson took over as Minnesota state veterinarian and Board of Animal Health executive director Thursday.

Thompson was picked by the five-member board to succeed Dr. Bill Hartmann, who is retiring after leading the agency for 15 years. She has been with the board since 2008.

Davis covers Minnesota government and politics for Forum News Service. Read his blog at http://capitolchat.areavoices.com/ and follow him on Twitter at @CapitolChatter.

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