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Sally Jo Sorensen
Sally Sorensen, an independent blogger, lives and works in rural Minnesota.
Recent Activity
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Bluestem Prairie has often been puzzled by Browns' Valley Republican state representative Jeff Backer's blaming the 2015 and 2016 buffer bills on Evil Metro lawmakers like Jean Wagenius. It's baffling because he voted for it both times. We reviewed this conundrum in Republican guy who voted for Minnesota's buffer bill continues to grandstand against it and Alternative facts: Backer trolls gov with absurd analogy about metro congestion, water quality. Fortunately, Backer constituent and fan Zach Mensinger, an assistant professor of chemistry at the University of Minnesota at Morris who specializes in such things as "Inorganic metal hydroxide clusters, Group 13... Continue reading
Posted yesterday at Bluestem Prairie
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Yesterday, Bluestem posted Alternative facts: Rep. Bennett tells her dear neighbors Gov. Dayton vetoed 2016 bonding bill. Spoiler alert: in last-minute, end-of-session chaos, the bill died and so nothing reached the governor. Mark Dayton couldn't have vetoed it if he wanted. Bluestem appreciates an exchange on twitter between Governor Dayton's Deputy Chief of Staff Linden Zakula and Peggy Bennett, R- Albert Lea: .@PeggyABennett falsely tells her consituents that @GovMarkDayton vetoed 2016 bonding bill. Completely not true. https://t.co/vLmuPcgPRO — Linden Zakula (@lindenzakula) February 19, 2017 .@PeggyABennett should have told her constituents the truth: The house delayed a bonding bill so long,... Continue reading
Posted yesterday at Bluestem Prairie
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UPDATE: See Dayton deputy chief of staff & Peggy Bennett tweet civil discourse about 2016 bonding bill for Bennett's acknowledgement that the claim was mistaken. [end update] Bluestem can understand why some might be confused about why there's no money for bonding this year (except for the Rural Finance Authority, which just funded) given last May's headlines. There's The cost of chaos: Legislative session ends after bonding-bill deal falls apart, minutes before deadline from MinnPost, and Session collapses; lawmakers fail to pass transportation, bonding bills from the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Nonetheless, we lose sympathy when we read passages like... Continue reading
Posted 2 days ago at Bluestem Prairie
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There's good news and bad news for Minnesota's farmers today. The good news is Governor Mark Dayton Signs Bipartisan $35 Million Rural Finance Authority Bill: “This investment will provide important assistance to Minnesota farmers struggling with low commodity prices and rising expenses,” said Governor Dayton.“I thank the Legislature for moving quickly to pass this bipartisan legislation. I look forward to working with Legislators on additional help for our farm families throughout the Session.” “Minnesota's farm families are the backbone of Minnesota's economy and support hundreds of thousands of good jobs and billions of dollars in economic activity,” said Lt. Governor... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at Bluestem Prairie
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We've heard a lot of complaining about MnDOT's proposed plan to require permits of farmers and other rural landowners who routinely mow ditches along roads next to their land. Some of the regulations mentioned seemed silly (like required helmets). Typical of this vein? This paragraph in the January 21, 2017 Marshall Independent article Local legislators focused on the issues in 2017 session: Audience members also spoke up to ask Dahms and Swedzinski to repeal rules from the Minnesota Department of Transportation on mowing and baling hay in the right of way of roads. Swedzinski said the rules dictate when and... Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at Bluestem Prairie
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There's a lot of chatter about the Draft Nolan campaign that's trying to persuade Minnesota's Democrats to select Congressman Rick Nolan as their 2018 gubernatorial candidate. We're already a bit turned off by any coalition that repeats the Republicans' "evil metro environmentalists" rhetoric, since DFLers should leave the place-baiting to the opposition. Wednesday, both Blois Olson's Morning Take and J. Patrick Coolican's Hot Dish Politics' 'Draft Nolan' letter going out to thousands of DFLers at the Strib mention the letter found here. Coolican reports: The letter from the "Coalition to Draft Rick Nolan for Governor" is signed by more than... Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at Bluestem Prairie
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Back in September, Bluestem Prairie reported that Tony Cornish believes officers get plenty of training & very little actual training in use of their firearms: Back in July, Minnesota Public Radio's Tim Pugmire reported in Castile shooting renews calls to boost Minnesota police training: House Public Safety and Crime Prevention Committee Chair Tony Cornish, R-Vernon Center, doesn't have a lot of interest in additional training requirements for police. Cornish, a former law enforcement officer, said there's already plenty of training. "When it comes right down to it, all the training you have, it's still the officer's call at the scene,"... Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at Bluestem Prairie
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Guest post by Mary Turck Crossposted from News Day While Washington hold center stage, Minnesota Republicans are trying to tie the hands of local governments, impose crippling costs on free speech and protest, and politicize redistricting in 2020. That makes it time to focus on St. Paul and start calling and contacting state legislators. Minnesota have already compromised on premium relief for health insurance. They might be more open to hearing voices of reason than their counterparts in Congress. Handcuffing local government Republicans are pushing a bill to ban actions local units of government from making laws governing private employment.... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at Bluestem Prairie
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By Andy Birkey, guest writer Crossposted from The Column A bill introduced in the Minnesota House on Monday would allow health insurance companies to deny coverage to transgender Minnesotans seeking transition-related health care. HF1183 states in part: A health plan is not required to provide coverage for health services related to gender transition, including but not limited to sex reassignment surgery. Under the Affordable Care Act, most insurers could not deny claims or drop people because due to seeking or accessing transition-related health care, according to the National Center for Transgender Equality. The ACA made nondiscrimination a requirement for those... Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at Bluestem Prairie
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At Minnesota Public Radio, Elizabeth Dunbar reports in Retired from House, McNamara still has hand on Legacy: Republican Denny McNamara, who retired from his House seat and chairmanship of the House environment committee, is back to influence how the state’s Legacy Amendment money is spent. McNamara has been appointed to the Lessard Sams Outdoor Heritage Council as a citizen member. The council vets habitat proposals eligible for a third of the state sales tax Minnesotans established in 2008. The outdoors fund acquires and restores conservation land. House Speaker Kurt Daudt appointed McNamara to the council, along with GOP Rep. Dan... Continue reading
Posted Feb 10, 2017 at Bluestem Prairie
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Earlier this month Bluestem looked at HF234, a bill that would remove the ability of electrical co-op members to ask the PUC for redress of grievances with their power utility in Are King Coal's foxes to guard the co-op? HF234 would leave rural utility customers on defense and MinnPost reports Minnesota GOP targets PUC. Today in the Minnesota House, three power utility consumer protection gutting bills will be debated on the House floor, HF113,which allows Xcel to build a natural gas power plant without Public Utility Commission (PUC) review, HF234 and HF235. Readers can watch the floor action (and tweet... Continue reading
Posted Feb 9, 2017 at Bluestem Prairie
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The Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board has posted a list of Political Committees and Political Funds that have not filed the 2016 Year End Report of Receipts and Expenditures on its website. A source independent of the board tells us the Minn Jobs Coalition Legislative Fund appears on the list of three groups because the individual responsible for assembling the report was in an accident. We wish a speedy recovery to that person. The absence of the report to the board challenged us to figure out what it might have spent on independent expenditures for or against state-level... Continue reading
Posted Feb 8, 2017 at Bluestem Prairie
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Back in 2008, a DFL-controlled legislature passed the last gas tax increase in Minnesota, then overrode former Governor Pawlenty's veto with the assistance of a handful of Republican votes. One factor in passing the increase was support for more revenue from the state's ag sector. There's some movement in this direction in 2017, although the Minnesota Farm Bureau appears to be set against a gas tax increase, according to a statement on its website. Governor Dayton's budget proposal includes a 6.5 percent gas tax hike, the Star Tribune's Erin Golden reported in Dayton focuses on school, roads, health care in... Continue reading
Posted Feb 7, 2017 at Bluestem Prairie
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Back in early December, Bluestem Prairie asked the question: Did Minnesota House Speaker Daudt break state ethics law to sit in Glen Taylor's stadium suite? Did Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Daudt break the spirit of Minnesota Statute 10A.071 and violate Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board Advisory Opinion 287 (Gift to official of special seating rights at athletic event) when he purchased a ticket to sit in Minneapolis Star Tribune and Minnesota Timberwolves owner (and Minnesota United FC investor) Glen Taylor's luxury suite during a Vikings game earlier this month? . . . Read the details in our December... Continue reading
Posted Feb 7, 2017 at Bluestem Prairie
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Governor Dayton never mentioned a "water czar" in his remarks to the Water Summit in Morris, but that's not a problem to for Jeff Backer, R- Browns Valley, whose dreamy presence at the event was noted in an earlier post, Republican guy who voted for Minnesota's buffer bill continues to grandstand against it. Backer's metro congestion troll Now he's trolling the governor--and his own constituents--in a letter to the editor of the Morris Sun Tribune, No need for water czar. Read the whole LTE in the Sun Tribune. One paragraph stands out for us: Here's a word picture to explain... Continue reading
Posted Feb 5, 2017 at Bluestem Prairie
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Those of us who follow the Minnesota House Environment and Natural Resources Policy and Finance Committee know that Chair Dan Fabian, R-Roseau, frequently shares envious, anti-environmentalist sentiment centered on a new gold mine across the Canadian border. Given Fabian's yearning and angst about the if-only-in-Minnesota operation, it's appropriate that the mine is not far from Emo, Ontario. Unfortunately for the Roseau Republican, the New Gold mine might not be everything he imagines it is (including the permits-don't-slow-it-down part), if a recent news article that appeared in Forum Communications chain newspapers is to be believed. Or maybe Fabian simply thinks a... Continue reading
Posted Feb 4, 2017 at Bluestem Prairie
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Via the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, there's a chance to help select the winner from three designs to be the new pollinator critical habitat license plate: . . . The public is invited to express their preferences for the new plate design with an online survey that will be featured on the DNR’s home page here until 5 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 7. Following the public comment period, the plate designs will be assessed by law enforcement representatives for legibility and visibility. Finally, state commissioners Tom Landwehr, DNR, and Mona Dohman, Public Safety, will consider all recommendations to select the... Continue reading
Posted Feb 3, 2017 at Bluestem Prairie
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In testimony on Thursday to the Minnesota House Environment and Natural Resources Policy and Finance Committee, Bob Meier, Policy & Government Relations Director for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, revealed that the agency was considering selling branding rights to state parks. Chronic budget shortfalls have left the department cash-poor. Committee Minority Lead, state representative Rick Hansen reflected on the public purpose of parks, musing: . . . if we wanted to make money, we could sell naming rights, or brand. I think there are a lot of hotels that are branded...you could have Trump concessions at some of these.... Continue reading
Posted Feb 2, 2017 at Bluestem Prairie
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There's little expressed opposition to Republican state representative Tim Miller's HF14, which will fund Minnesota's Rural Finance Authority, a farm crisis-era program that's persisted. Typically, funding for the program is part of the bonding bill, Miller told the Minnesota House Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday. What's causing concern--and those asking questions intend to vote for the bill--is that RFA isn't the only project left behind by the failure of the Minnesota House to pass a bonding bill last year. Representative Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, minority lead in the House Capital Investment committee, and Tina Liebling, DFL-Rochester, asked a few... Continue reading
Posted Feb 2, 2017 at Bluestem Prairie
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Earlier this week, Bluestem asked Are King Coal's foxes to guard the co-op? HF234 would leave rural utility customers on defense. In Wednesday's MinnPost, Briana Bierschbach reported in Republican legislators take aim at Public Utilities Commission: With complete control of the Minnesota Legislature, Republicans are taking early aim this session at a little-discussed state commission that has a big say on energy issues. Republicans have introduced a half-dozen bills that would change the power and makeup of the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, a five-member group appointed by the governor that has the power to regulate the state’s big electricity, gas... Continue reading
Posted Feb 1, 2017 at Bluestem Prairie
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Bluestem Prairie had noted on January 9 in Not nicknamed Zombie Ziprail for nothing: NAHSRG rebranded as Minnesota Corridor, that there was nothing but a home page on a new webpage, and that Chief Strategist Wendy Meadley had left the building, according to her Linked In page. And this: Once upon a time, there was a public project (Ziprail). Once upon a time, North American High Speed Rail put together a business plan (later redacted). Once upon a time, it was going to use investment by EB-5 visa holders to help finance the high speed rail project. Like the unfortunate... Continue reading
Posted Jan 31, 2017 at Bluestem Prairie
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Bluestem has been watching legislative committee hearings about natural resources, water quality and other issues, and it's discouraging how often they devolve into political talking points and posturing. We're reminded of prairie chickens drumming their displays. Thus Prairie Sportsman's live, town hall broadcast from the Black Box Theatre at the University of Minnesota Morris on Sunday, January 29 is a real pleasure to watch. During the live broadcast, Bret Amundson interacted with the in-house and at-home audience by taking questions throughout the night. A panel of professionals representing outdoor sports and natural resource management interests answered audience questions. Here's the... Continue reading
Posted Jan 30, 2017 at Bluestem Prairie
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Presenting HF234 to the Minnesota House Ways and Means Committee, bill author Dave Baker, R-Willmar, called his legislation a "local democracy bill." While many Minnesotans think of cooperatives as warm fuzzy places like their local co-op grocery store, the reality of electric co-ops is often far from democratic, as Just How Democratic are Rural Electric Cooperatives? a recent report from the Institute for Local Self Reliance explores. But there's more: a dispute by a rural utility member is under consideration by the PUC Via the Voice of Alexandria, a Session Daily article noted: Solar industry advocates said the change would... Continue reading
Posted Jan 29, 2017 at Bluestem Prairie
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Bluestem Prairie found ourselves laughing at this passage in Gov. Dayton stands firm on water quality law, Stribber J. Patrick Coolican's coverage of Governor Mark Dayton's Town Hall Water Summit at the University of Minnesota--Morris: In response to Dayton’s remarks Friday, Rep. Jeff Backer, R-Browns Valley, said: “It’s easy to grandstand.” Backer, who represents the Morris area and attended the water summit, said he expects ongoing negotiations to improve a law he called flawed: “On this issue we have to look at the people on the ground — the landowners, the farmers — because they are good stewards of their... Continue reading
Posted Jan 28, 2017 at Bluestem Prairie
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A statement by Theresia Gillie, a farmer from Hallock who's the president-elect of the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association, during a question and answer period for a Minnesota AgExpo panel on ag mergers made us pause with wonder while reading about it in Mikkel Pates' Ag-At-Large blog: In a question-and-answer period, Gillie asked the company executives to consider the consumer when naming their pesticide products. She said the “tough” sounding terminology (examples, Roundup, Warrior) for herbicides are understood by farmers who must be pursuaded [sic] to purchase them. Gillie said the “consumer doesn’t always understand.” She said maybe it’s silly, but... Continue reading
Posted Jan 27, 2017 at Bluestem Prairie