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Sally Jo Sorensen
Sally Sorensen, an independent blogger, lives and works in rural Minnesota.
Recent Activity
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Part 1 In Gov. Dayton Surprised By $32 Million Tobacco Tax Break, CBS Minnesota's Pat Kessler reports: The tax changes will cost the state $32 million in future taxes. Repealing the automatic cigarette tax hike will cost $26 million in taxes over next three years. Lawmakers also cut $6.2 million in taxes on e-cigarettes. The tax breaks were passed on Sunday by Democrats and Republicans alike on the last day of the chaotic 2016 legislative session, buried in a tax bill containing hundreds of other items. Even the Democratic Gov. Dayton says it was a surprise. “I don’t know where... Continue reading
Posted yesterday at Bluestem Prairie
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In posts like What will be MN's legacy? On White Earth Nation's control of Wild Rice River Watershed, Bluestem has been writing in support of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe's application for Legacy funding for a wildlife habitat project that the band put together. It's faced undue resistance from those who don't wish Minnesota's tribal groups to receive Legacy funding despite the fact that Native Americans are citizens who pay sales taxes. The project was stripped from the Legacy bill last year, despite being approved by the Outdoor Heritage Council--and this year in a House committee, the project was... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at Bluestem Prairie
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Earlier this week, Bluestem posted about the warning the City of Fairmont issued about infants drinking city water in our post Paging Rep. Torkelson: City of Fairmont issues water advisory, nitrate levels unsafe for infants. How did the nitrates get into the city's water? On Friday, the Fairmont Sentinel reported in Nitrate level high in city water: . . . But what caused the MCL for nitrates in Fairmont's water? Rainforth talked with several industry professionals who concurred that the sustained wet weather pattern is likely the cause. Water flowed over the George Lake dam all last winter, the first... Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at Bluestem Prairie
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Rep. Paul Torkelson, R-Hanska, must be having one heckova day. First his long-promised, but hastily vetted bonding bill went down on the Minnesota House floor, as KEYC-TV's Shawn Loging reports in Day After House Releases Bonding Bill, Fails To Get Votes Needed. But that's not the only bad news for the Hanska-area Republican pork producer. The station also reports in Kelsey Barchenger's Drinking Water Warning In Fairmont: High nitrate levels have the city of Fairmont warning of possible health concerns caused by the drinking water. Water samples tested today show nitrate levels of 12 mg/L. That’s above the maximum contaminant... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at Bluestem Prairie
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In 2014 and 2015, Bluestem published several posts critical of the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute (AURI). Thursday, the Office of the Legislative Auditor released its evaluation report for AURI, noting: We found that AURI, a nonprofit organization created and funded largely by the state, does not adequately measure and report the impacts of its work. In addition, AURI does not require some of its clients to justify their need for the institute’s services through a formal application. We make recommendations to AURI to address several issues we identified. We also make recommendations to the Legislature to amend state law to... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at Bluestem Prairie
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What's most important for the Minnesota House Republican Majority in 2016? To judge from the times members are asked to consider language allowing deer hunters to wear blaze pink during the whitetail firearm season, fashion. In Blaze pink and lead ammo get backing in Minnesota Legislature, the Pioneer Press's Christopher Magan reports: Minnesota hunters will have more fashion choices and still be able to use lead ammunition on many public lands if two bills approved Wednesday by the House become law. Lawmakers backed blaze pink as an alternative to the blaze orange safety color hunters now wear. They also voted... Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at Bluestem Prairie
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While Life Site News and the Minnesota Child Protection League have the fantods about the "political correctness" of Minnesota's advertising industry, perhaps they should be worrying about just being correct with their own twitter social media campaing. Bluestem dropped in to see what was up with the plan to have a truck wrapped with a fear-mongering, anti-transgender graphic visit every Target store in Minnesota when we captured the exchange above. We didn't recall the Steele County Target being a "SuperTarget" branded with the signage on the store above. "Hannah West," an account that might have been created simply for this... Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at Bluestem Prairie
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One ongoing frustration in following Minnesota's legislative debates over the outdoors is the summoning of the way things are remembered, the way things were, as far as public spending on and policy about the outdoor goes. The state is changing demographically. How people want to recreate with nature is changing. The outdoors itself is changing, what with climate change and invasive species in the water and land (some of which, like buckthorn, oat crown rust and soybean aphids, create a collective meltdown). Unfortunately, these changes don't seem to change the discussion at the state legislature. Near the end of the... Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at Bluestem Prairie
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Guest post by Andy Birkey Crossposted from The Column The religious right successfully derailed a proposed gender-inclusive policy at New London-Spicer Schools last Monday. Aided by the anti-LGBTQ Minnesota Child Protection League, a group of conservative Christian parents organized opposition to a policy that was poised to pass. Through the use of newspaper ads, radio interviews, a seminar, and organizing through churches, conservative Christians and Republican lawmakers were successful in convincing the school board to table the policy. Here’s a timeline of what happened over the last four months. In early February, the school invited the Minnesota Department of Education,... Continue reading
Posted May 17, 2016 at Bluestem Prairie
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Since we haven't seen anything much of a House bonding bill, we can't speak to its contents compared to the narrowly defeated Senate bonding bill described in Vicki Gerdes' story, Bonding bill failure puts Northland Trail in limbo in the DL Online. Support for the trail is bi-partisan, but Rep. Steve Green, R-Fosston, is against it, Gerdes reports: The Heartland State Trail project and its supporters thought they were getting a boost from legislators early this past week, when the Minnesota Senate introduced a capital investment bill that includes $3.3 million for the planned trail extension between Detroit Lakes and... Continue reading
Posted May 16, 2016 at Bluestem Prairie
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In Trouble in the water: Can Minnesota stop polluting its lakes, rivers?, Minnesota Public Radio's Mark Zdechlik reports: . . .For Broberg and others, the massive fish kill on the Whitewater was the latest sign of serious, widespread trouble in Minnesota's waters. Some 40 percent of the lakes and streams are polluted, with much of that centered in southern Minnesota's farm country. In six far southwestern Minnesota counties there are no lakes considered fishable and swimmable. . . . At the Capitol, lawmakers are divided on how far to go to fix the problems. Gov. Mark Dayton has made water... Continue reading
Posted May 16, 2016 at Bluestem Prairie
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CORRECTION: We completely biffed this one and we apologize to the 2012 candidates and our readers. West Central Tribune editor Kelly Boldan sent us an email that noted misinformation in our earlier version of this post and we now correct the record. In 2012, Sahra Gure, an East-African woman who first came to the United States to attend college, ran unsuccessfully for the school board. Jackie Saulsbury, a Latina woman, won as one of four candidates elected. Boldan provided a link to this interview by Ruth Trevino with Saulsbury's mother, Idalia “Charly” Leuze, for the Minnesota State Historical Society. Leuze's... Continue reading
Posted May 15, 2016 at Bluestem Prairie
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Back in February, Bluestem reported in Anti-Islam speaker Usama Dakdok will appear at April Bloomington & Duluth Worldview Weekends: A source sent us an eyewitness written report of last week's "Sharia 101" talk by Jeff Baumann in St. Cloud. According to the meeting notes, the group--which calls itself "Peace in St. Cloud"--is planning to invite a stridently anti-Muslim Christian evangelical: The group is inviting Usama Dakdok to town towards the end of May to talk. Usama is an anti-Muslim preacher with the Straight Way Ministries who grew up in Egypt as a Coptic Christian. His videos include such charmers like,... Continue reading
Posted May 14, 2016 at Bluestem Prairie
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The casual reader of 'Sharia 101,' Jan Burton's letter to the editor of the Brainerd Dispatch might imagine that the local supporter is simply deeply moved by the topic. Burton writes: The Brainerd lakes area will soon be graced with Jeffrey Baumann's presentation of "Shariah 101" at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, May 16, in the Blue Room of Yesterday's Gone . . . Jeffrey Baumann has gone to great lengths to develop a factual, balanced, neutral, mild, unimpeachable presentation that will garner praise, agreement, and awareness, and it is his hope that this will lead to action. He had the... Continue reading
Posted May 13, 2016 at Bluestem Prairie
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While the issue of frac sand mining has slipped from the statewide stage, it's still an area of concern for people living in Southeastern Minnesota and their neighbors in Wisconsin and Iowa. Winona County frac sand ban On April 26, the Winona Daily News' Glen Olson reported in Winona County board moves forward on frac sand ban, seeks more info: A frac sand ban in Winona County will get further study, but a final decision isn’t guaranteed. That was the decision from the Winona County Board of Commissioners Tuesday night, which engaged in an extended discussion prior to the decision... Continue reading
Posted May 12, 2016 at Bluestem Prairie
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Red Lake Nation News picks the story of a New Report: Agricultural Pesticides Increasingly Linked to Childhood Cancers and Neurological Harm, released by the Pesticide Action Network, Toxic Taters, Land Stewardship Project and the White Earth Recovery Project. From the article: A new report released today spotlights pesticides used in the food system in Minnesota and the harmful effects they are having on children in the state and nationwide. In particular, the report finds that those children living or attending school near agricultural fields face some of the greatest risk of exposure from pesticides linked to cancers and impacts on... Continue reading
Posted May 12, 2016 at Bluestem Prairie
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The May 2016 State Legislatures Magazine Stateline: Legislative News From Around The Nation includes this item: 2. Sting Operation Call it a honey of a deal. Two Minnesota beekeepers whose hives were damaged by pesticides from a nearby farm received compensation from the state under a system created by the Legislature two years ago. Representative Rick Hansen (D), who sponsored the bill that created the system, says the result for the beekeepers was a national first and could serve as a precedent in a larger battle against neonicotinoids, a controversial group of insecticides thought to be connected to the decline... Continue reading
Posted May 11, 2016 at Bluestem Prairie
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In an April 22 letter to the editor of the Brainerd Dispatch, conservative activist Daryl Bahma invites readers to another Jeffrey Bauman "Sharia 101" talk on May 16 at Brainerd's Yesterday's Gone bar. Bahma prefaces the invite with this paranoid notion of immigrant and refugee resettlement: Liberal opinions continue to promote importation of eastern immigrants. Our society is in danger of collapse from this excessive infiltration. This has become one of the largest drains on our national economy. We must stop this excessive giveaway of our tax money to these refugees. They must be screened at the highest level to... Continue reading
Posted May 11, 2016 at Bluestem Prairie
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Returning home on the main detour between St. Peter and Mankato for MNDOT's Hwy 169 Minnesota River Flood Mitigation project, a reader snapped the above photo of homemade Trump sign beside Nicollet County 13. He was struck because the other side that he saw driving north on Tuesday was much more genteel: A lifelong resident of rural south central Minnesota, our friend noted in the subject line of the email containing the photos, "Race is getting tough already." We're not sure we can top that observation. Brief history of a vulgar slogan The slogan isn't an official part of the... Continue reading
Posted May 10, 2016 at Bluestem Prairie
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Yesterday, the Minnesota House defeated an amendment to the Outdoor Heritage Bill offered by state representative John Persell, DFL-Bemidji, that would undo changes to a proposal by White Earth Nation of Ojibwe to preserve critical wildlife habitat in the Wild Rice River Watershed. Earlier, a House committee had taken future ownership and control of the property from native hands and give it to the state Department of Natural Resources. While those advocating state ownership deny they are anti-Indian, Bluestem sides with critics of the plan for DNR control as being discriminatory. In session today, the Minnesota Senate, whose version leaves... Continue reading
Posted May 10, 2016 at Bluestem Prairie
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Late last month, reader Joe McLean shared the images at the top of this post and the text below on Facebook: Link to MPR article in first comment. Good for law enforcement. Everyone should be excited about this new approach to educate the public on distracted driving laws. Hopefully it will move the needle. Our son is one year from driver’s education. He is attached to his device. My wife and I are very mindful of the example we set for our children. If only more people were. People like the House Chair of the Public Safety and Crime Prevention... Continue reading
Posted May 9, 2016 at Bluestem Prairie
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In a May 3 discussion with Minnesota Public Radio's Tom Weber and Representative Rick Hansen, DFL-S. St.Paul, Representative Paul Torkelson, R-Hanska, dismissed concerns about nitrates and drinking water quality. In the discussion (audio here) Torkelson claims that the problem of nitrates in drinking water is an isolated problem that's no threat. Around the 7:40 minute mark, Hansen calls nitrates in drinking water the iceberg beneath the surface in terms of infrastructure needs. With more detection of nitrates and more research into data that the legislature funded, the suburban Democrat says, there's more need to mitigate. Around 9:52, Torkelson says, "The... Continue reading
Posted May 9, 2016 at Bluestem Prairie
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Reading through the minutes for the March 1, 2016 meeting of the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board, we came across this approved request (page 6): Mr. Fisher told members that on April 15, 2015, Mr. [Benjamin] Skjold registered on behalf of the North American High Speed Rail Group, LLC with the belief that he would lobby on its behalf. However, Mr. Skjold never undertook any lobbying efforts on behalf of the association, was never paid by the association, and never made any disbursements for lobbying purposes. Mr. Fisher said that because Mr. Skjold was not required to have... Continue reading
Posted May 9, 2016 at Bluestem Prairie
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In the Session Daily article, Republicans respond to failed Senate bonding bill, we read: It came down to a single vote. Republicans gathered outside the State Office Building Thursday afternoon to provide reaction to the Senate failing to pass a $1.8 billion bonding bill by a single vote. . . . While the House has yet to unveil its capital investment bill, it is expected to be in the neighborhood of $600 million and could contain some funding for road and bridge projects. At the Pioneer Press, Bill Salisbury has more in No Minnesota bonding bill this year? With Senate... Continue reading
Posted May 8, 2016 at Bluestem Prairie
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On Tuesday, Bluestem took A look at the floor debate: non-profit refugee resettlement program audit amendment fails. One of the things we noted was that amendment author Representative Steve Drazkowski stated the week before that Kandiyohi County was among local government interested in the audit. We found no evidence that the county board supported this notion--which the Republican controlled Minnesota House rejected in a 94-36 roll call vote. We speculated that Draz was thinking of Bob Enos, whom Willmar voters declined to elect to anything. Unbeknownst to us, the Kandiyohi County Board had addressed a request from Bob Enos earlier... Continue reading
Posted May 7, 2016 at Bluestem Prairie