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President Donald Trump praised a new sugar deal with Mexico in this Thursday, June 29, 2-017, tweet.

Capitol Chatter: Sweet tweet makes sugar producers happy

ST. PAUL — It was not his best-known tweet, but a short Thursday, June 29, message from President Donald Trump was sweet to American sugar producers.

"New Sugar deal negotiated with Mexico is a very good one for both Mexico and the U.S. Had no deal for many years which hurt U.S. badly," the president tweeted that morning.

The tweet came the same day that Trump shot out an incendiary one about a couple who hosts an MSNBC show.

The sugar tweet received by sugar country praise, although people in places where candy is king, such as Hershey, Pa., were not so sweet on recently concluded talks with Mexico aimed at keeping U.S.sugar beet and sugarcane prices high.

Republican Pennsylvania U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey tweeted in response to Trump: "I disagree — the new sugar deal hikes prices for consumers even more."

American sugar farmers and producers say they are happy with Trump's Commerce Department negotiations with Mexico.

"As President Trump has said repeatedly, trade agreements and U.S. trade laws don't work without strong enforcement," Phillip Hayes of the American Sugar Alliance said. "For too long, Mexico was allowed to sidestep our trade laws, but those days are over."

The alliance says Minnesota gets a $3.5 billion annual boost from its sugar beet industry, which employees 28,000 people. The other other area state into sugar beets is North Dakota, with a $1.8 billion impact.

Louisiana edges out Minnesota with a $3.5 billion industry, but has far fewer workers.

Sugar is produced in 22 states.

State adds Bolts

Some Minnesota government workers are driving the electric cars.

The state partnered with Minneapolis, Ramsey County, the Metropolitan Council and University of Minnesota to buy 22 Chevrolet Bolt all-electric cars. Officials say the 22 cars will get 238 miles per charge and over their lives will cost less than gasoline-powered vehicles.

"These electric vehicles will save Minnesota taxpayers thousands of dollars each year in fuel costs," Lt. Gov. Tina Smith said.

The state has installed 69 charging stations throughout the Capitol complex. Several state agencies will use the cars.

While most agencies to use them are Twin Cities based, the university plans to have at least one at its Morris campus.

Ditch mowing unchanged

Urban dwellers would not understand, but the biggest agriculture issue in the 2017 Legislature may have involved ditch mowing.

For farmers who did not get the word: Nothing has changed, yet.

State Rep. Paul Anderson, R-Starbuck, reports that he is getting lots of questions about whether the state is going ahead with its plan to require permits before farmers can mow roadside ditches and regulating when they could mow.

"Concerns were raised about the new regulations, which many landowners thought were too burdensome." Anderson said. "As a result, legislation was passed calling for a moratorium, which essentially pushed back by a year any new requirements. During that time, negotiations are supposed to take place and new, less onerous rules are to be proposed."

So go ahead and mow, farmers, at least this year.

Female judge record

Half of Minnesota's chief district court judges are female, a first for the state.

The state's 87 district courts are organized into 10 districts, with five now headed by women.

But Minnesota is no stranger for giving women judicial power. In 1991, Minnesota became the first state to have a female majority on its Supreme Court.

Gambling bill planned

Minnesota state Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, says the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to hear a New Jersey sports gambling case will lead to him introducing a sports gambling bill next year.

"It is time for Minnesota's sports gambling laws to move out of the caveman era and into the 21st century," Garofalo said. "Hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans already wager on sports. In the 2018 legislative session, I promise to introduce legislation that will regulate and legalize sports gambling in Minnesota."

A federal court ruling legalizing New Jersey's law would help his cause.

'No trust there'

The longest-serving Minnesota House Republican has problems with Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton.

"There just is no trust there," Rep Greg Davids of Preston said.

Dayton upset lawmakers when he vetoed legislative funding in an attempt to get them to consider rewriting five items in bills he just signed. Instead of returning to a special session to rewrite laws, the Republican-led Legislature sued the governor.

Most of the changes Dayton wants are in tax laws, and Davids is House tax chairman. He said his committee "spent hours after hours after hours with commissioner (Cynthia) Bauerly" of the Revenue Department. She gave no indication that the veto and demand to rewrite laws was coming, Davids said.

"There are no do-overs," he said, adding that he never has seen anything like the Dayton demands in his 25 years in office.

Securing courthouses

Fifty-seven Minnesota courthouses are getting state money to improve security.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie S. Gildea announced $1 million in grants, ranging from $514 to $68,000 per courthouse, will be used for work such as professional security assessments; security training, installing bullet-resistant glass at public service counters; replacing aging security equipment; adding door locks, cameras, key card readers and alarms; and installing or upgrading security screening stations at courthouse entrances.

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.