DFLers at the Capitol are tackling a major problem that's developed during this session -- too many people want to tell Minnesotans what they're doing.
It started innocently enough. A few bloggers and online news organizations asked for the same access on the House and Senate floor as mainstream journalists.
That not only didn't happen, but yesterday, WCCO reported that the DFL cracked down on the filming of committee hearings. According to reporter Esme Murphy, the sergeant at arms has proposed a new sweeping set of restrictions that will prevent almost any TV coverage of hearings at the Capitol that the leadership doesn't want covered.
The apparent crackdown on coverage isn't just limited to TV reporters.
Don Davis, the Capitol reporter for Forum Communications' newspapers, says he was hassled while trying to cover a hearing.
Two hours after Wittenborg's meeting, I was trying to take a photo of Rep. Paul Marquart of Dilworth presenting a bill to a House committee. A page approached and asked to see my credentials before she would allow me to take photos. Recalling Wittenborg's assurances that no credentials were needed, I told her that I had just been told I did not need to present credentials (which, by the way, hung in plain sight from a lanyard around my neck) and I continued to photograph Marquart.
Soon after I returned to my seat in the back of the room, two state troopers approached me after the page had called them, apparently to kick out this photographer. Both had seen me plenty of times and knew I was legitimate, so gave me little hassle.
Not long after I returned to the office to write my story, House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher called to apologize for the incident and promised it would be investigated. And Marquart called to apologize, even though he did not even know the troopers were talking to me at the time and had no knowledge of the proposed rule changes until I told him.
Earlier in the day, according to Marty Owings at the blog Radio Free Nation, reporters and bloggers gave House officials the "what for" over the issue:
Mary Lahammer of TPT's Almanac suggested that any lawyer who proposed these rules should be "disbarred". Tom Hauser from KSTP agreed and added that it was "absurd" that any Law Maker would even propose these rules. Jason Barnett of the Uptake.org asked what the real issue was. Mr. Whittenborg said it ran the gamut from "space concerns" to "security issues." He said some concerns were raised about who was filming Law Makers and that some of them were "weirded out" while others welcomed the cameras.
Mr. Whittenborg pointed out that Leadership was aware that there were cameras every where now and that they were looking at these issues. Everyone in the room, including Mr. Whittenborg agreed that restricting cameras was not a solution. What about space issues? Mr. Whittenborg mentioned that this could be a concern. Noah Kunin from the UpTake.org suggested that space be allocated on a first come, first serve basis.Minnesota's Society of Professional Journalists isn't happy either, according to a statement.
"If there is an issue of decorum, safety or logistical space, elected leaders have appropriate methods in place. Rather than create additional rules that imply a person's credentials will be issued based on where a person works or how long a person will be reporting at the Capitol, SPJ would encourage legislative leaders to lessen the rules to allow more people to report in new and innovative ways to reach more of the public. The Legislature should establish equitable rules for all media, with no bias awarded anyone based on medium, method or viewpoint. If this proposal reflects the Legislature's attempt to do that, they have missed the mark."
The action comes at a time when legislative coverage is at an ebb. News organizations have cut reporters and time for legislative coverage, and Channel 17's all-day live coverage of the Legislature has disappeared for many viewers in the metro area because of the switch to digital programming.
There's virtually no reasonable case to be made that inviting a few bloggers in to inspect the workings of elected officials would cause an undue burden on the lawmakers who, for the record, asked for the job. The third month of the legislative session has started and the Legislature still hasn't produced a major piece of legislation or even an alternative to the budget proposed by Gov. Tim Pawlenty. And most of the critical decisions of the session will continue to be made behind solidly closed -- and occasionally guarded -- doors by a small handful of people.
Of all the problems currently facing the people of the state of Minnesota, being too informed about what the pols are doing at the Capitol isn't one of them.
Update 3:28 p.m. - It's worth reading Mary Lahammer's blog today. It sounded like things were cordial, but tense at the House Taxes Committee hearing today.(23 Comments)
How long could the United States continue to crank out lawyers at the rate it has? About this long, according to a story in the Washington Post.
The recession has taken its toll on the industry that once was -- and still is, really -- synonymous with a way to make a ton of money.
But corporations no longer have a ton of money to spend on lawyers, the big law firm model is failing, and even "globalization" is hitting the business.
"We have 300 people in India. We've added 50 people" in recent months, said Michael J. Dolan, chief executive of the Tusker Group in Austin. Dolan said his lawyers charge $25 an hour, compared with $150 to $300 an hour billed by paralegals and associates doing the same work at law firms. "We're in the process of adding another 30 people."
Across the country, lawyers are being axed from law firms in favor of either lower-priced offshore lawyers, or those graduating from law school who'll work for cheap. "Cheap" in the business, however, is about $130,000 a year.
"Everything you hear is a horror story [but] it's hard to grasp how bad it is," John McBeain, a student at William Mitchell College of Law told Minnesota Lawyer last month.
If a blizzard doesn't hit the Twin Cities, is it still a blizzard?
This is a tough time for the news media which, understandably and justifiably, gets criticized for making things sound worse than they really are. "Mother Nature is going to throw everything she's got at us," KARE 11's anchor announced last night, shortly before throwing it to the weatherperson standing outdoors with an umbrella even though it wasn't snowing or raining, and ignoring that earthquakes, volcanic disruptions, floods, tornadoes, and drought weren't in the forecast.
So when we look out the window in the Twin Cities and see gray skies and drizzle, it's easy to give them a little shot for their hyperbole. The problem is, it's a big state and -- cover your ears, Twin Cities -- there's more to it than just the metro. And this particular blizzard really is bad -- and I guess newsworthy -- for the people in the northwest and west-central part of the state. For example, the Minnesota Department of Transportation and the Minnesota State Patrol have closed Highway 210 from Fergus Falls to Breckenridge in the last few hours. I-94 from Moorhead to Fergus Falls is closed as is the stretch from Fargo to Jamestown, and Highway 10 from Moorhead to Lake Park. (See other road closings)
It doesn't appear the blizzard is going to affect the Twin Cities, leaving those of us who lamented the prospect of another snowstorm feeling just a little -- admit it -- left out of the excitement.
I'm not sure exactly what to say about this story that crossed the Associated Press a few minutes ago. Plus, it's a minefield. The story? Women being laid off are getting to know their kids better.
Lucas and other laid-off women like her are involuntarily experiencing the life of a stay-at-home mom, and they are getting to know a lot more about the details of their children's daily existence. They are also discovering some of the things they have
Couldn't the same be said of men getting laid off?(8 Comments)
Is it still possible to make money in this economy? Apparently so.
The price of a share of General Electric has shot up 32 percent in less than a week, and in the process gave some hope to people wondering if we've hit bottom.
"The rundown due to finance exposure has been excessive. It is still a very large, well operated industrial company and I think the pessimism about the finance sector has hurt the value of the stock much beyond reason," Peter Jankovskis, co-chief investment officer at Oakbrook Investments in Lisle, Illinois, told Reuters.
That's his take, financial writer Terry Keenan looks at the same stock and sees this:
"Having lost 48 percent of its value just since Obama took office, GE shares traded at 16-year lows this week and its very survival is being questioned. The stock, once a store of savings for millions of retirees, has lost $380 billion in value in the past 18 months, the greatest wealth destruction by any stock in history."
So which is it? A company on life support or a company coming back? It's a microcosm of every conversation surrounding the economy.
GE is still down 30% from Inauguration Day, but that's still an 18% climb back.
And it's not as if there aren't a few positive news nuggets about the markets:
Granted things are bad; nobody can argue about that. An unemployment will continue to increase even in the initial stages of a recovery. It took months of arguing about whether we were in a recession before we finally determined we were, it'll probably take months of arguing about whether we're in a turnaround before we determine that we are.
At the very least, there's at least a whiff of better times.
Update 3:04 p.m. - Here's where it gets frustrating. Listen to Sen. Arlen Specter claim we're on the verge of a depression. He says our economic problems are "more serious than are publicly disclosed." Perhaps he should disclose them, then.(1 Comments)
The nation's heavyweight political bloggers have rediscovered the Minnesota Senate race for some reason this week. It comes on the day Al Franken took a semi-victory lap around the Capitol, and the day before Franken's team ends its case in the election trial.
The Hill reported that Sen. Harry Reid discussed committee assignments with Franken.
The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza, who writes The Fix says the average Minnesotans "wants to move on from this story, the better for Franken -- thanks to the fact that he currently leads the race. Voters pay only marginal attention to elections in the immediate run-up to an election, and generally see politics as tangential (at best) to their daily lives."
Maybe, but that's what people were saying a week after the election, too. But ask almost any Web editor how their Web traffic is for a Franken-Coleman story, compared to almost any other story, and it's almost certain that the Franken-Coleman race remains a high priority for news consumers, even though they are, indeed, sick of it.
The L.A. Times also weighed in on the race in its Top of the Ticket blog, taking a whack at Franken for sounding like a politician, and using this clip as evidence:
Franken, for the average Minnesotans back here, stopped being a comedian almost two years ago, and has been a politician ever since because, well, that's what people who run for political office are.
The Left Coast also makes a funny over an old-timer's observation that they should just flip a coin, oblivious to the fact that Minnesota law requires exactly that in the case of a tie.
And finally, Michael Barone has just posted a column on his US News & World Report page saying it's time to revote the race, apparently oblivious to the fact there's no provision in Minnesota law for such a thing, according to Secretary of State Mark Ritchie.
(MPR file photo/Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)(6 Comments)
A tent city of homeless people is starting to fill up in Sacramento. It got some publicity last week on Oprah, and now several social service agencies are telling people not to "cater" to the homeless, according to MSNBC.
"It's really not a very good thing to do," says Sister Libby Fernandez, the executive director of Loaves & Fishes. "For one thing, you have to have trash pickup. You bring things out there like clothing, suitcases food, water ... it just builds up an accumulation of trash."
As many as 50 people a week are turning up and the authorities estimate that the tent city is now home to more than 1,200 people, the Daily Mail reported.
What are people and cities supposed to do? The city is thinking about providing some services on the site -- portable toilets, for instance -- but a TV station looked into another tent city in Ontario, California and found as soon as the city did that, people from out of the area moved in.
(Photo via Getty Images)(4 Comments)