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Capitol Chatter: Smith opens climate change office

ST. PAUL -- Minnesota's lieutenant governor has launched a state office that could draw Republican scorn.

The Office of Enterprise Sustainability is designed to combat climate change, which many in the GOP deny is a problem.

The new office is to provide agencies assistance to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and water usage, increase energy efficiency and boost recycling.

"State government has many opportunities to fight climate change -- by ensuring buildings are energy efficient, increasing our reliance on renewable energies, choosing more fuel-efficient fleet vehicles and making more informed purchasing decisions," Lt. Gov. Tina Smith said.

Smith made the announcement in a news release, with the only reference to Gov. Mark Dayton a fleeting comment about the Dayton-Smith administration.

Dayton has given Smith more work, and much more visibility, than other lieutenant governors have enjoyed. Some in political circles speculate that is because he wants to give her an advantage in the 2018 governor's race, which many expect her to enter.

Her announcement of the new office is a rare move she has taken that could be controversial, given Republicans' stance.

Larry Herke will be director of the Office of Enterprise Sustainability. Herke is an Army veteran and worked in construction and facilities management.

Will 'cave' comment affect talks?

It will be interesting to see if House Speaker Kurt Daudt saying that Gov. Mark Dayton gave up his demands for his bills to be heard in a special session will affect negotiations.

The Star Tribune's Pat Condon Thursday tweeted a Daudt comment from the Republican National Convention: "We're getting close to special session. Let me decode that for you. The governor has caved on almost everything."

Within moments, fellow tweeters began to wonder if such a comment would encourage Democrats to urge Dayton to back away from his agreement with Republicans and let them get blamed for not finishing legislative work this year.

Legislative leaders and Dayton announced a few days before the GOP convention began that they mostly agreed to an August special session agenda to pass a tax-cut bill and provide money to public works projects, including road and bridge work. But they said no final agreement would come until after the national political conventions since key negotiators were off to Cleveland and Philadelphia.

Getting farmers money

Minnesota and North Dakota U.S. senators have introduced legislation to increase farmer loans.

Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and John Hoeven, R-N.D., say their bill would increase the maximum loan that an individual farmer or rancher is able to receive under the Farm Service Agency’s loan programs.

"Farmers and ranchers strengthen rural communities and form the backbone of our state’s economy," Klobuchar said. "Our bipartisan legislation would help provide them with the support they need to start or grow their farming operations during tough economic times."

Added Hoeven: "This legislation will increase the FSA loan amounts for our farmers and ranchers, which is really important for them now so that they can get access to credit during these challenging times with low commodity prices. It will help them to maintain their operations so that they can continue to provide affordable, high quality food to the American people."

In some cases, the bill doubles how much farmers may borrow.

Federal farm loans include direct loans that provide family farmers funds to start or expand farming operations and guaranteed loans that provide local lenders promises of repayment of farm-related loans.

Trump, Clinton or ...

With all the discussion, especially on cable news channels, about dysfunction within the two major political parties, Democrats and Republicans have few options on Election Day other than their endorsed candidates.

There are a few third-party candidates, but even reasonably well-known Libertarian Gary Johnson cannot expect many votes.

Former House Minority Leader Marty Seifert of Marshall said some Republicans who cannot support Trump may turn to Johnson, who grew up in the Upper Midwest.

The 63-year-old is a former New Mexico governor and one-time Republican presidential candidate. He grew up in Minot, N.D., with a father who sold tires in Minot, Aberdeen, S.D., and Moorhead, Minn. His mother worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, whose work landed the family in New Mexico.

While Johnson no longer has North Dakota family, when he was the New Mexico chief executive he did visit the state's Badlands for a Western Governors' Association meeting. While there, he took a bicycle out and explored the Badlands on his own while other governors did things a bit less strenuous.

'Do as I say...'

State Climatologist Pete Boulay does a good job of warning Minnesotans how to prepare for severe weather.

So what was he doing the other day as heat ramped up to dangerous levels? "I'm getting the air conditioning fixed in my car today," Boulay admitted.

Davis covers Minnesota government and politics for Forum News Service. Read his blog at http://capitolchat.areavoices.com/ and follow him on Twitter at @CapitolChatter.

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