Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.
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ST. PAUL -- A former Minnesota woman says U.S. Sen. Al Franken grabbed her buttocks while her husband was taking their photo at the 2010 Minnesota State Fair. Lindsay Menz, who now lives in Texas, said on Twitter: "In August 2010, @alfranken grabbed me while taking a photo together at the Minnesota State Fair. I felt violated & embarrassed." Tweeting to radio host Leeann Tweeden, she added: "I 100% believe your account of him & his actions, ... Thank you for sharing your story."
ST. PAUL — Minnesota is far from the only state in which legislators stand accused of sexual harassment. Reports have surfaced in states coast to coast about women lawmakers, legislative staffers and lobbyists saying they have been harassed. Stateline.org reports that women in at least 16 states have made the allegations: Minnesota, South Dakota, California, Illinois, Colorado, Kentucky, Oregon, Vermont, Arizona, Florida, Kansas, Massachusetts, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Washington
ST. PAUL — Former women staffers of U.S. Sen. Al Franken said he treated them well, the woman who accused him of sexual harassment does not think he should resign and some of his long-time supporters are struggling with accepting of his actions. The Democratic Minnesota senator remained out of the public eye Friday, Nov. 17, and released no statements the day after a Los Angeles radio host accused him of forcibly kissing her during a show rehearsal and having his picture taken looking like he is groping her breasts while she slept at the end of a USO tour.
ST. PAUL — Gov. Mark Dayton's veto of legislative funding was constitutional, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled Thursday, Nov. 16. A majority of justices upheld the veto and send the case back to a district court judge to dismiss the case. Justices said they believe the Legislature has enough money to reach its next session, to begin Feb. 20. Legislative leaders, on the other hand, say they cannot make it that far.
The U.S. Supreme Court will consider whether a Minnesota law banning political items in and near polling places violates free speech rights. The high court announced Nov. 13 that it accepted the Minnesota Voters Alliance appeal from the 8th U.S.Circuit Court of Appeals, which had upheld the law. The alliance sued several Twin Cities election officials and Secretary of State Steve Simon. It is one of three free speech cases the court put on its docket for early 2018.
A Minnesota native, now a key federal agriculture official, stands firmly behind the North American Free Trade Agreement. Steve Censky says NAFTA is vital for farmers, even as President Donald Trump reportedly is thinking about scrapping the deal. "We know that NAFTA has been a bonanza for U.S. agriculture producers," Censky said during a Thursday, Nov. 9, Minneapolis visit. "The importance of NAFTA cannot be overstated," he told Forum News Service in an interview.
ST. PAUL — Minnesota Senate leaders say they are preparing to lay off their employees. If the courts do not decide a funding dispute between the Republican-controlled Legislature and Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton, Senator Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, said on Wednesday, Nov. 8, that employees will receive furlough notices in December or January. "We don't take the suspension of operations of the Minnesota Senate lightly," Gazelka said. "This is not a game, but we really have no other choice today."
Gov. Mark Dayton's action to ease problems that farmers report of getting propane brings back memories of the 2013-14 winter in which the gas was in short supply, but early indications are that this winter will not be as bad. Dayton issued an executive order this week to provide emergency relief to farmers who are having a tough time getting propane and diesel fuel delivered. The order allows trucking companies to extend their hours for the next month, although drivers cannot work longer hours than the law allows.
The political rhetoric has been much more substantial than changes coming to Minnesotans' 2018 health plans. The federal Affordable Care Act, known to most Americans as Obamacare, remains the law of the land. Although Minnesota officials have made some changes they say will help their constituents, most people probably will not notice a huge health insurance change. Most of the Minnesota tweaks came during the 2017 state legislative session, with the Republican-controlled Legislature passing them and Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton agreeing to many of the changes.
ST. PAUL — Minnesotans have another year before they must have a Real ID-compliant driver's license to board airliners. Gov. Mark Dayton announced Wednesday, Oct. 18, that the U.S. Homeland Security Department had granted the extension. "All Minnesotans should be assured that they can continue to board commercial airplanes and access federal facilities with their existing driver's licenses or birth certificates as we work to fully implement Real ID and comply with federal requirements," Dayton said.