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Is the Minnesota Commerce Department Out of Control?

Most of what happens behind the scenes at state agencies stays behind the scenes. The gears of government grind on, leaving taxpayers little choice but to trust that officials act in their best interest. But three recent legal cases involving the Minnesota Department of Commerce have provided ammunition for critics of the entrenched administrative state and unelected regulators that run it. “Court opinions and other legal filings published in the past several months have afforded Minnesotans a stark look at the internal operations of the Minnesota Department of Commerce,” Rep. Tony Albright (R-Prior Lake) and Rep. Kelly Fenton (R-Woodbury) wrote in a...

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Understanding the New Tax Plan America Needs

Respected economist Lawrence Lindsey has written a piece in the Weekly Standard that explains why the House Republican tax plan “is exactly targeted at the economic ills that afflict our country.”  First he establishes that the American economy really is sick: “From 2011-2016 we observed the poorest economic expansion on record.” “Barak Obama was the first president without a year of 3 percent real GDP growth while in office.” “[F]rom 2011-2016, annual growth averaged more than a full point less than growth from 1965-2010, a period that includes drag from multiple recessions.” “[G]rowth in real personal incomes and wages lagged behind the long-term historic...

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The Unintended Consequences of MN’s High Cigarette Taxes

The law of the unintended but absolutely predictable consequences of government action has struck again on the Minnesota-Wisconsin border. Washington County authorities have charged two Illinois men with smuggling cigarettes into the state in a case scheduled to go to court this week. Mohammad Abdul Majid and Iman Ugurlu, both of Illinois, were charged last month with felony-level aiding and abetting in the sale of untaxed tobacco and another felony count of aggravated forgery for allegedly transporting more than $78,000 in cigarettes from Wisconsin to Minnesota. They were charged in Washington County District Court via warrant Feb. 9. They are scheduled to...

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Residents Furious as City Levels Hundreds of Trees to Sell Wetland Credits

Sometimes you can't see the forest for the trees. But in one suburban Blaine neighborhood, you can't see the forest because the city leveled the trees without warning as part of a 500 acre wetland restoration project. A Star Tribune photo shows what's left--bare ground. More than 1,000 trees by some estimates were mowed down in January to the utter shock of residents, whose homes back up to what used to be a treeline along the swamp--all in the name of the environment. Richard Holmes said he and his wife have lived along the ocean in Florida and next to a lake in...

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Pollution Agency Tells Minnesotans to Stop Buying Stuff

If there were such a thing as environmental justice, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency would cease and desist from distributing the taxpayer-funded Living Green 365 monthly newsletter.  Did you make a resolution for the New Year? Was it to buy lots of new stuff, online or otherwise? (Didn’t think so.) We’ve got a hunch, dear Living Green 365 reader, that your hopes for 2017 include keeping our air and water clean, and not using up finite natural resources. Those are big goals. Psychologists suggest that people keep the big ideas of their resolutions in mind, but break them down into manageable steps they...

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Coming Soon: Sunday Liquor Sales?

Margarita Monday, Tequila Tuesday, Wine Wednesday, Thirsty Thursday, Franzia Friday, Smirnoff Saturday… Minnesotans may soon be able to add, say, Sangria Sunday to the list. Sunday liquor sales have been banned in the state for more than 80 years, but a vote by the Minnesota House on Monday could repeal the “blue law.” While this is not the first attempt to uncork the historic ban, there is growing confidence among legislators, on both sides of the aisle, that the state is ready for the change. An article published last month by the Pioneer Press and a more recent one from yesterday confirm consumers and retailers...

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St. Paul Residents Trash New Recycling Program Problems

It hasn't been a Eureka moment for St. Paul residents dealing with the city's newly implemented recycling program. Word on the curbside is that the project that's designed for residents to increase their participation in recycling remains a work in progress. Mounting frustration among homeowners has led to thousands of complaints over pickup delays and logistics pouring into the city and hauler, Eureka Recycling. At least Eureka appears to be relying on a fleet of trucks, instead of the bicycle recycling carts the company tested out a few years back.  And city officials now emphasize the positive by pointing out in...

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St. Louis County Turns to Trump to Overturn Obama Mining Ban

A month before leaving office, President Obama basically banned copper mining in the Superior National Forest in northern Minnesota with a stroke of his pen. The post-election executive order went over big with environmentalists, but not so much with union members and businesses. They warned the ban would not only kill the Twin Metals copper mine, but also thousands of hard-to-come-by jobs and billions in related investment on the Iron Range. Like much of the previous president's agenda, however, what lives by the pen may be destined to die by the pen. Local media accounts indicate the St. Louis County Board,...

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Don’t Fear Real ID

I must admit I took pride in the fact that Minnesota was among the last holdouts in passing a seat belt requirement when the federal government demanded states pass such a law or risk losing federal transportation dollars. Likewise, I must admit to taking some pride in Minnesota being among the last holdouts for passing Real ID. State sovereignty is regularly undermined by federal laws that legislate on matters traditionally within the sphere of state power. Indeed, federal officials too often forget that the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reserves the powers to the states that are not specifically delegated to the...

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A Conservative Infrastructure Agenda

Donald Trump says he wants more infrastructure spending and he wants if fast.  Yuval Levin has outlined a conservative plan in the Weekly Standard to prioritize economic growth while making enduring structural changes in infrastructure policy. 1. Reform Permitting Rules: But beyond finding ways to accelerate all the permitting that's now required, Congress should also cut down on the requirements—for instance, reducing the range of environmental concerns that require review under the National Environmental Policy Act and allowing such reviews to build on those conducted for similar projects in the past, rather than beginning from scratch with every application. Aggressively reducing federal...

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