Political Notebook: Gun Debate Set To Return To Minnesota Capitol

By Don Davis

Call it Gun Week 2 in the Minnesota Legislature.

The Senate Judiciary Committee plans Thursday and Friday meetings on bills written to curb gun violence.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said he expects an even larger crowd for the hearings than the 500 who attended House meetings earlier this month.

Bakk said security concerns have been raised about the hearings, but was not specific. Several at the House hearings said they were carrying guns, which is allowed under state law as long as the gun owners have a valid conceal carry permit and tell the Public Safety Department their intent to take a gun into the Capitol complex.

The week begins with a Freedom from Gun Violence rally on Monday.

Groups supporting gun restrictions are trying to pack committee and overflow rooms after they were outnumbered by gun rights supporters, including National Rifle Association members, at House hearings.

“The NRA crowded the House hearings to shut us out and make it appear that the public is not behind common sense gun violence prevention,” Heather Martens of Protect Minnesota wrote to those backing gun laws. “But victims bravely spoke out. And now they need you.”


Dayton takes to road

Gov. Mark Dayton heads to Norway next weekend to celebrate the 40th anniversary of a Minnesota-Norway military exchange program.

The Norway trip will be sandwiched between stops in Washington, D.C., for a National Governors’ Association meeting.

“The Minnesota National Guard and the Norwegian Home Guard have the longest-running bi-lateral troop exchange program in the world,” Minnesota Adjutant General Rick Nash said. “Each year, 100 Minnesota National Guard soldiers and airmen travel to Norway to train on cold-weather tactics; simultaneously, 100 Norwegian soldiers travel to Minnesota and become familiar with U.S. military equipment and procedures.”


Carp fight continues

Minnesota members of Congress introduced legislation to battle Asian carp.

U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken and Reps. Keith Ellison, Erik Paulsen, Tim Walz and Rick Nolan filed a bill to speed up federal officials’ decision about whether to close the Upper St. Anthony Falls lock on the Mississippi River to help stop the spread of the invasive species. The bill also would require immediate closure if Asian carp are found in the Mississippi near the Twin Cities.

“Asian carp not only pose a serious threat to Minnesota’s environment, they also threaten the recreation and fishing industries that play a key role in the state’s economy,” Klobuchar said. “We must do everything we can to stop the further spread of this invasive species into our lakes and rivers, and this legislation will help the state take action to protect Minnesota’s waterways.”

Franken said the carp’s spread would be disastrous.

“Few other areas in our nation are as under assault from invasive water species as is Minnesota,” Nolan said. “For the sake of our tourist industry, our outdoor sports and recreation industries and the jobs and pleasures they provide, we must take all reasonable steps to keep the Asian carp away from our lakes and rivers.”

Natural resources experts fear that if the invasive carp invade Minnesota waters they will eat so much food that native species will die out.


Still no visit

Matt Dean criticized North Dakota’s Capitol last year, but still has not visited it.

The Minnesota state representative, an architect, said the skyscraper capitol building (one of three in the country) looks more like an office building than a capitol. He often is reminded of the comments, including in a recent New York Times Magazine story about North Dakota’s oil boom:

“North Dakotans are as proud of their Capitol as they are of their boom-based unemployment rate (3.2 percent, lowest in the nation), and many were stung when a Minnesota state legislator last spring compared it to the headquarters of an insurance company.”


Bovine TB gone

Minnesota officials have dealt with bovine tuberculosis in northwestern Minnesota since 2005, but that now has ended.

The eight years of monitoring ceased when studies showed no TB in wild deer.

“We have accomplished what many believed was not possible,” said Michelle Carstensen of the state Department of Natural Resources. “By reducing the incidence of TB in wild deer to an undetectable level and hopefully eliminating it, Minnesota has become an international example on how to successfully respond to a disease outbreak that has a significant wildlife component.”

None of 325 deer killed during the 2012 firearms season tested positive for the disease, the third straight year that happened.

Bovine TB was discovered in cattle operations and wild deer near Skime and state officials worked since then to keep it from spreading.


Working together

University of Minnesota and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities officials are working to find ways the two state-run higher education systems can work together.

University President Eric Kaler and MnSCU Chancellor Steven Rosenstone and their aides have exchanged ideas about partnerships, including coordinating programs between the systems and buying supplies together.

“This was our second meeting in recent months and demonstrates our mutual commitment to ensuring that the U and MnSCU are working together to serve the higher education needs of Minnesotans,” U of M Board Chairwoman Linda Cohen said after a recent meeting.


Klobuchar a chairwoman

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., has taken over as chairwoman of the Joint Economic Committee.

It is a House-Senate committee that oversees issues relating to the U.S. economy. It recommends economic policies.

“In order to compete in the global economy we need to be a country that thinks, that invents, that makes things in America and exports them to the world,” Klobuchar said. “I have long been committed to efforts to create a competitive agenda for this country that encourages research and innovation, boosts exports and helps our businesses grow and thrive, and I look forward to continuing this work as Senate chair of the Joint Economic Committee.”