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 high school junior leads an effort to prevent sex trafficking around Minnesota. Jessica Melnik of Hopkins High School founded Girls United Minnesota after she and friends saw one of their classmates being trafficked. Now, she is pushing state legislation to modify current sexual abuse prevention law to include sexual exploitation prevention education in schools. "This is a small, but we think common sense step," state Sen. Paul Anderson, R-Plymouth, said of the bill he will offer.
ST. PAUL—Minnesota precinct caucus leaders ran out of ballots as long lines of people waited to get into the political meetings, with drivers in blocks-long traffic jams not even there yet. About 300 showed up at a Willmar site that hosted 75 four years earlier. That was 2016. Don't expect the same turnout at the 2018 caucuses on Tuesday, Feb. 6. Chairman Ken Martin of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party said the caucuses will draw thousands, but short of the record 321,354 that came two years ago.
ST. PAUL—A Minnesota woman is back for her second stint as state health commissioner with instructions to fix the state's failed nursing home abuse investigation process. Gov. Mark Dayton on Tuesday, Jan. 30, appointed Jan Malcolm to lead the Health Department as it struggles to get through a backlog of complaints about mistreatment of Minnesota elderly in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
BLOOMINGTON, Minn.—There was no confusing Minnesota Republican governor candidates for Democrats in a forum at the Minnesota Newspaper Association convention on Friday, Jan. 26. GOP candidates at the forum, also sponsored by the Center for Rural Policy and Development,, generally stayed close to Republican lower-tax and lower-spending concepts.
BLOOMINGTON, Minn.—Minnesota's Democratic governor candidates generally agree on policies affecting greater Minnesota, ranging from spending more money for affordable housing to making it more enticing for young people to obtain two-year degrees. On many issues, they differ only to a matter of degree. Differences and similarities became clear Friday, Jan. 26, as members of the Minnesota Newspaper Association listened to a governors' candidate forum. Questions came from reporters and the Center for Rural Policy and Development.
ST. PAUL — The 2018 election remains more than nine months away, but a Feb. 6 event likely will give birth to some political campaign favorites. That will be caucus night, when Democrats and Republicans gather across Minnesota conduct party business. They will elect local party leaders, pick delegates for future conventions and pick their favorite candidates in straw polls. The delegates and straw polls, in particular, are key to the governor's race.
ST. PAUL—The governor brought in an Army general to lead the Minnesota information technology department, which is struggling to fix a $93-million computer system for vehicle licenses and titles. Gov. Mark Dayton announced on Wednesday, Jan. 24, that he appointed Johanna Clyborne to lead MIN.IT, the state's information technology department. He said she is taking the job as a civilian.
ST PAUL—Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton is transparent about how much his Super Bowl ticket cost but not so much about which team may earn his cheers. As he was ending an unrelated news conference Wednesday, Jan. 24, reporters began asking Dayton about the Super Bowl, to be played in Minneapolis Feb. 4. The last question was whether he would cheer for the Philadelphia Eagles or New England Patriots. Dayton hesitated, started to answer the question, stopped, started again and eventually said, "I will be there" and left to the laughter of reporters.
Communities outside of the Twin Cities look to capitalize on Super Bowl LII. A couple of Otter Tail County festivals and one in Duluth are timed to coincide with the Super Bowl, but state tourism officials say few other greater Minnesota events are connected directly with the game. However, hotels, motels and airports hope for a jump in business as the Twin Cities may not be able to accommodate all the activity.
MINNEAPOLIS—A side effect of any big event like the Super Bowl is sex trafficking. "We know that there's going to be a million-plus people coming into the Twin Cities," Minneapolis Police Sgt. Grant Snyder recently told a Minneapolis City Council committee. "Unfortunately, some of those people, and it has nothing to do with the Super Bowl, are going to engage in the purchase, or attempt to purchase, commercial sex."