Capitol Notebook: School Cuts Worry Big 3 Cities


Minnesota legislative Republicans target Duluth, St. Paul and Minneapolis in their education funding bill, mayors and school officials from those three cities allege.

It would hurt students, Duluth school official Bill Hanson told a couple hundred school supporters and the media Thursday outside the governor’s office.

“Minnesota’s future depends on us,” the school district chief financial officer said.

Picking on the three Democratic-leaning communities hurts the state, Hanson said. “Invest in the success of our leading economic engines.”

St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman called the GOP bill a “political vendetta” against cities that vote for Democrats.

House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, said the bill is what Republicans who lead the House and Senate would like, but now Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton’s administration will begin to negotiate the final funding.

The Dayton administration has complained about taking money from Duluth, St. Paul and Minneapolis and sending it to smaller schools around the state. The governor likely would veto the measure as it stands.

Duluth Mayor Don Ness said his son, James, benefited from a program that could face funding cuts under the GOP plan. The program helped the boy be able to better communicate before he started kindergarten, Ness said.

Ness and mayors of the other communities said the bill would hurt students in their communities.

“It shouldn‘t matter the city they live in,” Ness said.

Hanson said the bill would cut $81 per student from Duluth schools’ state payments. The districts average per-pupil payment is $5,125.

Overall the bill would spend $14 billion on public school education in the next two years, about 40 percent of the state budget.

Raw milk hearing

Supporters of selling raw mill packed a House hearing room.

Rep. Rod Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake, sponsors a bill allowing unpasteurized milk to be sold through farmers’ markets and other sources, but no vote was taken during the meeting. Existing law only allows raw milk to be used by farm families where the milk is produced.

Those who support raw milk pointed out health benefits, but Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson said his department wants milk pasteurized for safety.

Police fire on bill

Law enforcement officers and prosecutors visited the Capitol Thursday with both barrels firing at a proposal to give Minnesotans more rights to use deadly force.

A bill making its way through the Legislature would give the public more right to shoot to kill than state law gives police, Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom said.

The measure allows citizens to shoot or use other deadly force against people who threaten their lives, whether in their home or elsewhere.

“This is a bill chasing a problem that doesn’t exist,” Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said.

Police said there is too much shooting now, and the new bill would make streets more dangerous.

Environment hurry

A rush is on to get an environmental bill giving Minnesota government more tools to fight invasive species such as Asian carp in the hands of Gov. Mark Dayton by this weekend.

The governor leaves at noon today for the annual fishing opener at Pokegema Lake near Grand Rapids. Legislators put a strong symbolic emphasis on Dayton signing the bill into law before ending his fishing weekend.

Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, R-Buffalo, said that the bill may need to be hand-delivered to Dayton in Grand Rapids.

The bill first needs approval from House and Senate negotiators who are working out differences between versions the two chambers passed. Then both houses must pass the bill again.

Provisions in the bill are written to help stop the spread of Asian carp, zebra mussels and other species not native to Minnesota waters. The mussels infest 19 lakes, taking food away from native species.

The bill requires boat owners to clean their equipment before going to another water body.

Fake pot banned

Synthetic marijuana would be outlawed by a Senate-passed bill similar to one that already got through the House.

The product often is known as space and K2, and is sold an incense. However, it produces a high much like marijuana and nearly killed a Hasting teenager last year.

“This product is clearly dangerous and should be illegal,” Sen. Katie Sieben, DFL-Cottage Grove, said. “We have seen too many teenagers sent to the emergency room, in comas, or even dying from this drug.”