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Capitol Chatter: Politicians wonder about the different 2016 election

The big question politicos discuss these days is how a Hillary Clinton-Donald Trump presidential race would affect races such as for the state Legislature.

The answer, of course, is that nobody knows, especially given the fact that the two are pretty unpopular.

On Minnesota Public Radio on Friday, House Speaker Kurt Daudt said Republican polling shows expected GOP nominee Trump leads Democratic candidate Clinton in rural Minnesota.

So if Trump sweeps rural Minnesota, does that mean rural districts will follow for Republicans?

Perhaps the most important question is how the presidential race will affect turnout this year. Which party is less likely to show up to support its presidential candidate? Or will voters turn out regardless of the presidential race, with an eye on voting in legislative and local races?

More questions than answers.

Minnesotans might turn to a western neighbor to get an electoral insight.

Most political observers expected long-time Republican stalwart Wayne Stenehjem, attorney general since 2001 and state lawmaker for 24 years before that, to easily win a party primary challenge. But after votes were counted Tuesday, entrepreneur-turned-politician Doug Burgum took a shocking 59 percent to 39 percent victory.

Burgum was the outsider, after leading Great Plains Software in Fargo from a startup through its sale to Microsoft for $1.1 billion in 2001 and serving as a Microsoft executive until 2007.

Rich businessman. Sound familiar? Outsider. Sound familiar?

Businessman Trump and Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders, both outsiders, did well this year (Sanders won the Minnesota caucuses) because they have not spent much time in the political sandbox. That may be part of Burgum's success, too.

Will such voter feelings affect other races? Does that mean fresh-face legislative candidates will beat incumbents? Should every sitting lawmaker tremble?

Political operatives appear to be digesting the situation and are trying to figure out how to get out in front of it. Few have been willing to make predictions about how it all will shake out.

'Stop wasting taxes'

The chairman of the Minnesota House energy committee says Gov. Mark Dayton should drop a court case North Dakota has won twice.

An appeals court on Wednesday upheld a lower court ruling that said Minnesota has no business trying to regulate North Dakota coal-fired power plants. The judicial panel also ordered Minnesota to pay $1 million in North Dakota legal bills.

"Gov. Dayton had requested $1 million from taxpayers to continue funding this losing legal effort." Energy Chairman Rep. Pat Garofalo, R- Farmington, said. "House Republicans renew our request that Gov. Dayton accept the court's decision. Wasting taxpayer dollars may help lawyers, but it does nothing for working families."

Dayton said that he is considering Minnesota's options. But they are limited. The state can appeal to the full appeals court or to the U.S. Supreme Court. Both courts rarely accept appeals like this.

The third option, which North Dakota wants, is for Minnesota to accept Wednesday's ruling and pay up.

The suit came after a Minnesota law restricted the state's utility purchases of electricity generated by coal plants.

'Let the public in'

Eight Democratic U.S. senators, including both from Minnesota and one from North Dakota, just announced a package to reform lobbying rules and elections.

They say it is an effort to reduce the influence of corporations and other lobbying organizations.

In 2012, more than $300 million was spent on elections without it being publically reported. Far more "dark money" looks like it will be spent this year.

The legislation calls for making campaign finance laws more transparent and crack down on what the Democrats call secret campaign spending. It also would amend the U.S. Constitution to end unlimited campaign contributions.

"Billionaires who couldn’t pick out North Dakota on a map shouldn’t have more sway in our elections than hard-working North Dakotans who raise families in our state and vote in our state, but can only afford to chip in a few dollars to support the candidates and causes they choose," Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota said.

Added U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota: "In order to form a more perfect union, we need to continuously ensure our government works for all the people, not just a select few."

Minimum wage rising

Minnesota's minimum wage is heading up again on Aug. 1.

The state Department of Labor and Industry says large employers must pay at least $9.50 an hour and small ones $7.75 an hour. Training and youth wages also will be $7.75.

Child recovery bill passes

A bill U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar wrote to help recover missing and exploited children is on the presidents' desk to be signed into law.

"As a former prosecutor, I know that returning missing children to their families is one of the most important tasks law enforcement officers have, and they need every tool available to track these children down and bring criminals to justice," the Minnesota Democrat said.

About 200,000 American children are abducted by family members each year. The tax-collecting Internal Revenue Service has addresses for many of them, and Klobuchar's bill forces the IRS to provide them to official investigators in missing-children cases.

Vulnerable adult hotline open

Minnesotans may call toll free (844) 880-1574 to report abuse of vulnerable adults.

Human Services Commissioner Emily Piper said the Minnesota Adult Abuse Reporting Center will accept calls at any time of day.

"This single statewide hotline serves as an important line of defense against the abuse, neglect and financial exploitation of some of our most vulnerable neighbors, friends and family members," Piper said. "I encourage all Minnesotans who suspect abuse of vulnerable adults to use this hotline."

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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