Today on the MPR News Update, we report on questions being asked about the ethical behavior of a St. Cloud state lawmaker, a trail of tears from South Dakota to Mankato, and the more than 16 inches of snow that fell on parts of Minnesota over the weekend. We'll look at the weather first.
WELCOME BACK WINTER: More than 16 inches of snow fell across parts of Minnesota over the weekend as part of a winter storm that closed roads, caused hundreds of crashes and delayed commutes. Snowplows are clearing the streets in Minneapolis and St. Paul, which both declared their first snow emergencies of the winter. Hundreds of car crashes were reported around the state. More on the story here.
REVOLVING DOOR? State Rep. Steve Gottwalt, R-St. Cloud, led the GOP effort to cut spending in the state's Health and Human Services budget when the Republicans controlled the Legislature. Now, both he and his Senate counterpart have business links to the insurance industry, which has some other lawmakers asking whether the arrangement violates ethics rules. Gottwalt contended there was no conflict of interest and that he was not breaking any laws or rules. But some Democratic lawmakers are raising questions about the arrangement.
'CRAPPY ELECTION NIGHT': One after another Saturday, leading Minnesota Republicans bluntly described the party's dreadful performance in last month's election in an exercise aimed at retooling for the future: "We got our butts kicked." "We got thumped." "Up and down the ticket, we didn't do very well." Or as Republican National Committeeman Jeff Johnson put it, "Yes, we had a crappy election night in 2012."
Dakota Indian horseback riders and support teams are gathering in South Dakota on Monday for an annual memorial journey to southern Minnesota. Their ride will end in Mankato on Dec. 26, the 150th anniversary of the largest mass execution in U.S. history. On that day in 1862, 38 Dakota men were hanged from a single gallows platform in downtown Mankato in retribution for the US-Dakota war. The horseback ride will grow as it moves east, with more groups joining in.
FLYOVER LAND: Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has some harsh words for rural America: It's "becoming less and less relevant," he says. A month after an election that Democrats won even as rural parts of the country voted overwhelmingly Republican, the former Democratic governor of Iowa told farm belt leaders this week that he's frustrated with their internecine squabbles and says they need to be more strategic in picking their political fights.
LOTS OF TOYS FOR TOTS: Small wooden cars, bulldozers, trucks and tractors line a table in Jim Frankard's brightly lit shop. The pine toys are just a few examples of the 450 others the Winona man began making this spring to donate to the Toys for Tots program. Local Toys for Tots organizers say the donation is the largest they've ever received of the kind.
SILENT SPRING: Historians have said that the beginning of the American environmental movement can be traced back to the date, 50 years ago, when Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring" was published. The work shocked the public, led to the passage of the Clean Water Act and the founding of the Environmental Protection Agency. William Souder, author of "On a Farther Shore: The Life and Legacy of Rachel Carson," joined The Daily Circuit Monday to talk about Carson's landmark book.
THE 47 PERCENT: Former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's comments about 47 percent of the population dependent on the government and "binders full of women" topped this year's best quotes, according to Yale University librarian Fred Shapiro, who just released his seventh annual list of the most notable quotations of the year.
SAME-SEX MARRIAGE: While nine states allow same-sex partners to marry, or will soon, 41 states do not. Of those, 30 have written same-sex marriage bans into their state constitutions. That fact is worrisome to those who firmly believe there is a constitutional right to marry, regardless of sexual orientation, but who also know that the Supreme Court does not often get too far ahead of the country on hot-button social issues. And the court has decided to take up two key same-sex marriage cases.
MINNESOTA MARRIAGE: As the court prepares to address the same-sex marriage issue, Jack Baker and Michael McConnell are looking on from Minneapolis. They became engaged in March 1967, McConnell accepting Baker's offer with a condition that was utterly radical for its time: that someday they would legally marry. It took 40 years for the nation's highest court to revisit same-sex marriage rights, and Baker and McConnell -- still together, still living in Minneapolis -- are alive to see it.