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Sally Jo Sorensen
Sally Sorensen, an independent blogger, lives and works in rural Minnesota.
Recent Activity
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Last week we'd posted Private prison bill to be heard in MN House Public Safety Committee Tuesday, March 21 and so it came to pass. The press attended the revival performance of last year's smash hit (the original staging passed in the Minnesota House) and the reviews are in. At the Star Tribune,the ever-brilliant Andy Mannix reports in Bid to reopen private prison in western Minn. gets new look at Capitol: Republicans who want the state to start using a privately owned prison in western Minnesota pitched it Tuesday morning as a common-sense solution for overcrowding in state-owned correctional facilities.... Continue reading
Posted 1 hour ago at Bluestem Prairie
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The scheduled meeting of the Minnesota House Ag Finance Committee on Tuesday might have been cancelled, but that doesn't mean that no mischief was afoot. While Bluestem was off boning up on the new bill to help human trafficking resume at the Prairie Correctional Facility in Appleton offered today in the House Public Safety Committee and listening to the Republican transportation bill in the House Transportation Finance Committee, a delete-all amendment-- H0895DE1.pdf--was posted that removed much of substance from the pollinator-friendly language in HF895. The amendment effectively shields the agro-chemical industry from any serious scrutiny by the Minnesota Department of... Continue reading
Posted yesterday at Bluestem Prairie
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Since late January, Bluestem has chronicled the problems with HF234 in posts like Are King Coal's foxes to guard the co-op? HF234 would leave rural utility customers on defense and From our friends at CURE: tell Governor Mark Dayton: veto bill, protect solar in Minnesota. We are pleased as are so many friends that the governor chose to veto the bill today. Here's his letter to legislative leaders: MN Governor Mark Dayton HF234 Veto Letter by Sally Jo Sorensen on Scribd And here are a sampling of tweets praising the Governor: Thank you @GovMarkDayton for protecting local energy production in... Continue reading
Posted 2 days ago at Bluestem Prairie
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Back on March 5, in In town hall & letters sections, constituents sass back to state rep Steve Green about lots of stuff, we noted: In the Park Rapids Enterprise, Shannon Geisen reported in Constituents flock to town hall meeting that those constituents grilled Steve Green, R-Fosston, over his support of anti-environment measures: More than 70 constituents jammed into the Northwoods Bank community room Saturday to voice their concerns to their Minnesota legislators. They traveled from Becker, Mahnomen, Clearwater, Beltrami and Hubbard counties. . . . "A lot of you people out there think I'm anti-clean water. Believe me, I'm... Continue reading
Posted 2 days ago at Bluestem Prairie
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Minnesotans who follow the state legislature know if there's anything related to the environment that incites the House Republicans, it's climate change, solar energy, environmental education and land acquisition, even if Minnesotans want spending for those items. Thus, it wasn't a surprise to watch the Minnesota House Environment and Natural Resources Policy and Finance Committee strip over 20 projects recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources from HF1625, the lottery trust fund bill on Thursday morning. Session Daily's Jonathan Mohr reports in LCCMR bill moves forward despite substantial changes: The amount of money meant to benefit Minnesota’s environment and... Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at Bluestem Prairie
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At Minnesota Public Radio, Catherine Richert reports in DHS questions whether Mayo policy violates law: The Minnesota Department of Human Services is probing the Mayo Clinic for possible violations of civil- and human-rights laws by putting a higher priority on patients with commercial insurance. The review, confirmed Thursday by DHS Commissioner Emily Piper, follows reports that Mayo will give preference to privately insured patients. Piper's department is also evaluating its various contracts with the Mayo Clinic system, which reaches far beyond its Rochester home base. Those contracts served over 150,000 public program enrollees last year, including lab work and pharmacy... Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at Bluestem Prairie
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After the companion bills (HF1510/SF1322) designed to re-open the CCA/CoreCivic private prison in Appleton, MN, weren't heard in either chamber of the Minnesota Legislature before the first committee deadline, Bluestem reviewed the situation in pur post Bills to re-open Appleton prison missed hearing deadlines, so how does option move forward? HF1510 is now on the calendar for Tuesday, March 21, 2017, 10:15 a.m. at the webpage for the Minnesota House Public Safety and Security Policy and Finance Committee. Chair Tony Cornish, R-Vernon Center, is a co-author of the bill, as is Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown. As we noted in a... Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at Bluestem Prairie
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Earlier this year, Bluestem Prairie reported about efforts to curb the ability of some Minnesota electrical consumers to generate solar power (and thus kill local solar industry and the jobs it creates) in Are King Coal's foxes to guard the co-op? HF234 would leave rural utility customers on defense and Fox and co-op bill: HF234 to come to House floor, amendments filed by Bly, Hansen, Thissen. Unfortunately, the companion bills have passed in both chambers and so clean energy groups, including our friends at Clean Up The River Environment (CURE) are asking citizens to contact Governor Dayton and ask for... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at Bluestem Prairie
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Back in February, Kyle Potter of the Associated Press reported in Minnesota lawmakers channel grief into fight against opioids: More than 52,000 people died of drug overdoses in 2015, and roughly two-thirds of them had used prescription opioids like OxyContin or Vicodin or illegal drugs like heroin, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those overdoses have jumped 33 percent in the past five years alone, with some states reporting the death toll had doubled or more. “It drives what I do,” said Minnesota state Sen. Chris Eaton, a Democrat from Brooklyn Center whose daughter, Ariel, died almost... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at Bluestem Prairie
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Guest post by Paul Sobocinski When you look at the bills being pushed at our state Capitol this year, it appears many legislators think that what people living in rural and small town Minnesota want are more factory farms and less of a say in what happens in our community. Nothing is further from reality. But reality at the Capitol, where corporate lobbyists line the halls, is different from our reality in rural Minnesota. Bills are being pushed in St. Paul to weaken local control and township rights and to take away the right to use the courts to hold... Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at Bluestem Prairie
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Reports about the plight of state representative Rod Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake, after a pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) reduced an anti-fatigue medicine in the Minneapolis Star Tribune and the St. Paul Pioneer Press generated sympathy in Bluestem for the southwestern Minnesota lawmaker, who lives with M.S. J. Patrick Coolican reports in Doctors, patients want more control of their medication; opponents point to rising costs: Hamilton, a Mountain Lake Republican, takes a drug called armodafinil to relieve his fatigue. But last year a "pharmacy benefit manager" — a consultant tasked by insurance companies with cutting drug costs — told him he could... Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at Bluestem Prairie
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On the Facebook event page for the Minnesota 7th Congressional District Republican Party convention in Thief River Falls on Saturday, April 22, there's a listing for a "Congressional Candidate Forum Saturday morning" but no details are provided. Bluestem has heard from multiple sources that Prinsburg Republican state representative Tim Miller is considering a run for Congress and will be participating in the forum. However, there's nothing in social media or print that confirms that Miller will be part of the forum, despite the rumor of the potential bid, which we are told is widespread at the state capitol. Incumbent congressman... Continue reading
Posted Mar 14, 2017 at Bluestem Prairie
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Back in late January, Bluestem reported that the Drazkowski "Pick Sicks" amendment[was] stripped from MN health care insurance premium relief bill. Proof that no really bad idea ever dies in the Minnesota legislature if there's a special interest to feed, it's back. Today's Morning Take notes: MEMO: via memo to the media from Linden Zakula, Gov. Mark Dayton’s Deputy Chief of Staff this morning at 5:08AM, VEBRATIM: “Rep. Steve Drazkowski’s dangerous proposal to strip Minnesotans of essential health care benefits is back. Today at 3:00PM CT, the House Commerce and Regulatory Reform Committee will consider this legislation (HF2026), which would... Continue reading
Posted Mar 14, 2017 at Bluestem Prairie
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There are a lot of differences between Forrest City, Arkansas, and Appleton, Minnesota, but people in both communities have come to see prisons as a driver of their local economies. That's why we found the closing section on John M. Eason's article in the Winona Daily News, Why prison building will continue booming in rural America, so interesting. The assistant professor at Texas A&M University, author of Big House on the Prairie, writes: The prison boom is a massive public works* program that has taken place virtually unnoticed because roughly 70 percent of prisons were built in rural communities. Most... Continue reading
Posted Mar 12, 2017 at Bluestem Prairie
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Both the Swift County Monitor and the West Central Tribune are reporting that the sponsors of legislation to lease or purchase the shuttered private prison owned by CoreCivic, the human traffickers formerly known as Correctional Corporation of America, are hopeful the language will go forward, neither HF1510 nor SF1322, its state senate companion bill, received committee hearings by Friday's deadline. So how does that work? Spoiler alert: there's a way for the measure to go forward, although they missed the first deadline. This path may also help minimize messy citizen testimony and demonstrations in the state capitol. In Appleton prison... Continue reading
Posted Mar 11, 2017 at Bluestem Prairie
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Minnesota state representative Steve Green, R-Fosston, is singled out by independent journalist and member of The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes Mark Trahant, Charles R. Johnson Endowed Professor of Journalism at the University of North Dakota, in THE ELECTED: Opening up a channel for discourse about Indian Country’s issues: Indian Country cannot afford to close the door to Republicans in Congress and in state legislatures, especially those Native Americans who have been elected to office and serve as Republicans. There are two tribal citizens serving in Congress: Representatives Tom Cole, a member of the Chickasaw Nation, and Markwayne Mullin, a member of the... Continue reading
Posted Mar 10, 2017 at Bluestem Prairie
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Monday, Bluestem posted about how the MN House Ag Policy committee was likely to delete pollinator-friendly language from omnibus bill. That came to pass--then the committee heard passionate testimony about the original language was a common sense first step for allowing the Minnesota Department of Agriculture to study and gather data about seeds treated with pesticides. The intent wasn't to ban coated seeds; indeed, one University of Minnesota scientist discussed how engineers at John Deere are hoping for data about pesticide drift from coated seeds that would enable them to design better corn planters. Such planters would help farmers lose... Continue reading
Posted Mar 8, 2017 at Bluestem Prairie
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UPDATE: A reader has let us know that Chair Paul Anderson has filed an amendment to the bill which deletes the coated seed language. Please let him and other committee members know you want it there! Ask Anderson to withdraw the amendment and the other committee members to oppose it--and stick with the section as is. END UPDATE Usually, the Minnesota House Ag Policy committee meets on Wednesday, but with the first committee deadline looming at the end of the week, schedules are getting jostled and so the committee will meet Tuesday morning at 10:15 (that's March 7). One of... Continue reading
Posted Mar 6, 2017 at Bluestem Prairie
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Yet another member of the Minnesota House Environmental and Natural Resource Policy and Finance Committee is getting pushback in his district about his anti-environmental views at town hall meetings. In the Park Rapids Enterprise, Shannon Geisen reported in Constituents flock to town hall meeting that those constituents grilled Steve Green, R-Fosston, over his support of anti-environment measures: More than 70 constituents jammed into the Northwoods Bank community room Saturday to voice their concerns to their Minnesota legislators. They traveled from Becker, Mahnomen, Clearwater, Beltrami and Hubbard counties. . . . "A lot of you people out there think I'm anti-clean... Continue reading
Posted Mar 5, 2017 at Bluestem Prairie
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It's rare that a meeting of the Minnesota House Environmental and Natural Resource Policy and Finance Committee goes by without Chair Dan Fabian, R-Roseau, doesn't lament that he just can't get together with people to talk about resolving problems over coffee. Fiddle-dee-dee with all that transparency and process. Sadly, when representative Fabian gets his chance to sit down for informal discussion, things don't go well, if Hoping to avoid political gridlock, Gov. Dayton steps up outreach to legislators, Ricardo Lopez recent article in the Star Tribune is accurate. Lopez reports: Eager to avoid the kind of contentious finish that has... Continue reading
Posted Mar 4, 2017 at Bluestem Prairie
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Concerns over the impact of chronic wasting disease (CWD) spreading from farmed deer to Minnesota's treasured 1-million-animal wild whitetail herd--which generates "more than $500 million annually in economic activity tied to deer hunting"-- has lead to the introduction of HF1948, which would impose a moratorium on new deer farms until January 1, 2020. While the headline at the Duluth News Tribune might make the casual reader think deer farms are now spas for captive whitetails, reading down column turns up this data: Recap of current CWD investigations of farmed deer in Minnesota: • Merrifield (Crow Wing County): Herd of origin... Continue reading
Posted Mar 2, 2017 at Bluestem Prairie
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We're starting to see one genuine rural-metro divide in Greater Minnesota media. Republican lawmakers carry on in legislative committees and to metro media about how their constituents hate environmental regulations almost as much as they hate the metro. Meanwhile, reports in their districts' small town newspapers report that their constituents are showing up at town hall, demanding protection for the environment and the creatures in it. Like pollinators. In the March 2, 2017 issue of the Pope County Tribune of Glenwood, Tim Douglass reports in Environmental issues dominate Town Hall meeting in Glenwood: About 30 area residents showed up last... Continue reading
Posted Mar 2, 2017 at Bluestem Prairie
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Watching the Minnesota House Environmental and Natural Resources Committee hear bills often seems like a visit to a parallel universe. As we go about our business in far west central Minnesota, buying baked goods (try the scones at Lingonberry in Ortonville), groceries, a fishing license and so forth, people want our natural world to be protected. Not so with the majority leadership of the House committee, who rage against permitting and geese that poop (plenty of those around Big Stone Lake and the nearby federal wildlife area). But it's not just us. The Minnesota Environmental Partnership just sent us a... Continue reading
Posted Mar 1, 2017 at Bluestem Prairie
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On Tuesday, the Minnesota House Environmental and Natural Resources Policy and Finance Committee heard testimony on HF1291 , committee chair Roseau Republican Dan Fabian's bill that would eliminate the Environmental Quality Board, as well as put much of the permitting process in the hands of those seeking permits. Fabian made no bones about the fact that the bill was written by the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, whose lobbyist Tony Kwilas was able to answer more questions about the language that the official author. Perhaps the funniest moment about the hearing on social media came when Capitol Press Corps darling Tony... Continue reading
Posted Mar 1, 2017 at Bluestem Prairie
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Note: This post originally appeared on Extra! Bluestem Prairie while Typepad our host was working to solve a connectivity issue. Alas, it's returned, so we're working at Ortonville's charming public library while Typepad and Federated Telecom work to solve the problem. Sorry for the sneezing, library patrons. At Smithsonian Magazine, ecologist and freelance science writer Aaron Sidder reports in New Map Highlights Bee Population Declines Across the U.S.: Though they’re tiny, bees play a big role in making our food. But these fuzzy fliers are in trouble—and a new map highlights just how precarious the pollinator’s situation has become in... Continue reading
Posted Feb 28, 2017 at Bluestem Prairie