Weather Forecast


Bachmann all the rage

ST. PAUL -- No one can say that Michele Bachmann is shy.

The Minnesota Republican congresswoman often dives into controversy, but her State of the Union response drew the most attention yet.

In the first two days, nearly 200,000 people watched her speech on one of several YouTube videos about her. Others watched on cable television news channels.

While Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan delivered the official GOP rebuttal, a measured speech, Bachmann was more direct and blamed President Barack Obama for creating economic woes.

The next day, Bachmann lost a Minnesota congressional hot dish competition to two Democrats: Sen. Amy Klobuchar (for taconite tater tot hot dish) and Rep. Tim Walz (for chicken mushroom wild rice hot dish). But Bachmann took the loss well, and avoided using her busy schedule as an excuse.

"As a mother of five and a foster mom of 23 I have served a lot of hot dish over the years and variations of every flavor appear on dinner tables all over our state," Bachmann said. "I'm pleased the Minnesota delegation is coming together at the start of the 112th Congress to join in this friendly competition. Though we may not always agree on legislation, we can all agree we represent the greatest state, with the greatest hot dishes, in the union."

Bachmann is not talking about a presidential race, although her staff made it clear she is thinking about it. She made a recent visit to her home state of Iowa, where the first presidential caucuses will be held in a year, with 50 to 60 journalists watching her every move.

The congresswoman began her biggest week yet in front of Minnesota media when she and state legislators complained about Democrat Gov. Mark Dayton's decision to join a federal health-care program. That was the day before the State of the Union address.

Not permitting oversight?

The legislative debate about shortening the environmental permitting process that businesses say slows their expansion may not be as inclusive as possible, an open-government advocate says.

An unintended consequence of speeding the permitting process could be "less oversight, accountability and transparency," Rich Neumeister wrote in his blog.

One provision in bills making their ways through the House and Senate would allow businesses to handle their own environmental studies, unlike current law that requires government to do that. While Democrats do not like that idea because they fear studies will not be fair and thorough, Neumeister worries that the public will have less access.

If a Minnesotan wants to find out all it can now because, he writes, "the information is not public and not available to the people."

"The public could not see the supporting documentation and how the (study) was done, processed and how the document came to its conclusions," Neumeister said.

Bonding talk

Republicans do not want to fund public works projects this year, in a measure known as a bonding bill, but may "unbond" projects that have not been built.

House Majority Leader Matt Dean, R-Dellwood, said there are millions of dollars worth of projects that have been approved but not built. He said Republicans may look at revoking authority to build those projects.

"We have a great deal of bonding that has not been done..." Dean said. "That is a real concern for us."

However, he would not say if the GOP would consider reallocating money planned for projects not yet build for use on new projects.

Dean said that heavy snows raise concerns of Minnesota flooding, which may prompt a bonding bill to fund a flood fight.

Renewable goal near

Minnesota electric utilities likely will meet the state's renewable energy standard, the state Commerce Department reports.

One of the country's strictest standards, it requires 25 percent of a utility's electric generation come from renewable sources like wind and solar power by 2025.

Other than Xcel Energy, utilities must have produced 7 percent of their power from renewable sources by last year. Xcel, which sells half of the state's electricity, was requires to reach 15 percent. The goals apparently were met, although final figures are not available.

Senate campaign starts

Dick Franson plans his 26th run for public office in 2012.

The long-time Democrat, who can list only one win when he became a Minneapolis City Council member decades ago, plans to seek Amy Klobuchar's U.S. Senate seat.

Franson has taken to calling himself "the godfather of Minnesota politics." His campaigns mainly are advertisements in The Legionnaire newspaper, which serves American Legion and auxiliary members, and swings through the state Capitol pressroom to hand out those ads.

Don Davis
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.