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POLITICAL NOTEBOOK: Commissioner rules e-mails violated state law

ST. PAUL - A Minnesota Administration Department opinion tightens the state open meetings law.

The opinion by Administration Commissioner Sheila M. Reger indicates that the Metro Gang Strike Force Advisory Board violated state law when a Minneapolis police official sent an e-mail to all board members about a statement he wanted to issue to the Minneapolis-based Star Tribune. Since a quorum of the board members responded to the e-mail, Reger decided, the electronic exchange was the same as making a decision during an in-person meeting.

But the public was not told in advance about the "meeting," as state law requires.

"Here, a quorum of the advisory board, in addition to receiving information, commented on and provided direction ...on a matter relating to the official business of the board," Reger wrote.

Reger also suggested that lawmakers change the law to "clarify specifically what kinds of email communications are permissible" so such issues do not continue to arise.

Different spending

Counties across Minnesota are getting different amounts of federal stimulus money, a Freedom Foundation of Minnesota report shows.

Payments range from a low of $21 per resident received in Scott County to $1,005 in Big Stone County.

Counties that received the most money were outside the Twin Cities area: Big Stone ($1,005), Chippewa ($913), Grant ($856), Wabasha ($842), Freeborn ($784), Traverse ($728), Marshall ($583), Nicollet ($552), Mille Lacs ($517) and Aitkin ($497). Counties getting the least money also mostly were away from the Twin Cities: Scott ($21), Anoka ($22), Houston ($24), Dakota ($28), Roseau ($30), Lac qui Parle ($33), Fillmore ($39), Martin ($43), Watonwan ($47) and Polk ($49).

Minnesota is to receive about $4.7 billion in stimulus funding.

'Good first step'

A resolution co-sponsored by two Minnesota congressmen passed the U.S. House to support private caregivers to the elderly.

U.S. Reps. John Kline, a Republican, and Tim Walz, a Democrat, were among representatives to push the provision that encourages families to care for their elderly relatives, as well as the private home-care industry.

"With the senior population expected to grow to nearly 49 million in less than two years, we are grateful to Congress for taking this necessary first step to address the critical issue of caring for older adults," said Paul Hogan, co-founder and CEO of Home Instead Senior Care, and a founder of the National Private Duty Association.

About 8,000 Americans turn 60 each day.

Grants available

Livestock producers can get grants to improve their operations.

The Minnesota Agriculture Department is offering the grants, which provide qualified farmers 10 percent reimbursement of the first $500,000 equipment and building investment.

"Last year's effort proved that helping livestock producers improve their operations pays off for the local economy," said Sen. Skogen, DFL-Hewitt. "Even with a tight state budget, investments in this area pay dividends both locally and statewide."

New this year is the ability to get money to offset loses due to natural disasters.

Subcommittee assignments

Al Franken has been a U.S. senator for a time now, but he just is getting involved in subcommittees.

He has been active on two major committees: Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee and the Judiciary Committee. Now he will be part of the employment and workplace safety and retirement and aging subcommittees of the health and labor panel. He also will serve on three Judiciary Committee subcommittees: antitrust, competition policy and consumer rights.

"Protecting Minnesota jobs is a chief priority of mine," Franken said. "So is protecting Minnesotans' retirements. We need to make sure that a lifetime of hard work earns a secure and comfortable retirement. That's the bargain, and Minnesota workers deserve to know we're keeping our end of it."

Alternatives offered

More than 6,500 pregnant women received advice from Minnesota's Positive Alternatives program in the past year.

The program is designed to give women an alternative to abortion. It receives state money.

The second round of grants totaling $4.7 million was awarded to 31 agencies.

"After three extremely successful years, Positive Alternatives has been established as one of Minnesota's most essential and successful programs for women," said Scott Fischbach, executive director of Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life. "More people need to know how this program offers a lifeline to women in need every day across the state."

Don Davis
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.