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Jessie Van Berkel

Reporter | Politics and Government
Jessie Van Berkel writes about Minnesota state government and politics. A Minnesota native and University of Minnesota graduate, she returned to her home state after covering local government in Florida for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune and public safety at the Post-Crescent in Appleton, Wis.
Recent content from Jessie Van Berkel
“[Trump]’s got a mouth that runs, but he gets things done,” Jim Fisher said as he got a haircut at Cowboy Mel's Barber Shop in Anoka.

Many Anoka Co. Trump voters still back him, but doubts grow

As the Russia controversy roils the White House and prompts open concern from leading Republicans, it's not hard to find new signs of voter uncertainty.
Licenses for Minnesota drivers under age 21 will be oriented vertically.

New Minnesota drivers' licenses are vertical for those under 21

The versions that come out in August will not comply with the Real ID Act that Congress passed more than a decade ago to improve security after Sept. 11.
When state Rep. Ilhan Omar moved to run for the U.S. House, seven DFLers made the 11th-hour decision to run in one the most left-leaning legislative d

Rep. Ilhan Omar's open seat draws wide pack of DFLers

Mohamud Noor hopes to maintain Somali-American voice at the State Capitol, but he's got plenty of company.
U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison was joined by Sen. Bernie Sanders on Friday, July 13, 2018, at First Avenue in Minneapolis.

Sen. Bernie Sanders rallies for Rep. Keith Ellison

Sanders called Ellison, running for Minnesota attorney general, a "personal friend" and "vigorous fighter."
House Speaker Paul Ryan visited Minnesota on Monday, where he spent time at Best Buy HQ with Rep. Erik Paulsen, then held a roundtable discussion with

Paul Ryan talks jobs, taxes with Reps. Paulsen, Lewis at Minnesota firms

U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan visited several Twin Cities businesses Monday, touting tax cuts and technical careers while also talking up the chances of two fellow Republicans facing competitive congressional races this year.
Surrounded by commissioners, legislators, workers, and retirees in the Capitol Rotunda, Gov. Mark Dayton signed the pension bill into law Thursday. Th

Moody's warns Minn. pension changes are 'far from a cure-all'

But state official defends the legislation, saying the overhaul wasn't intended to fully fix the system.
Clockwise from top left: Kirsten Kennedy, Michelle Lee, Jason Metsa, Joe Radinovich and Soren Sorensen, who are all running in the DFL primary for the

5 Democrats battle for nomination in Nolan's 8th District seat

Once a DFL stronghold, the region reveals party divide in race for open seat.
The scene inside the St. Paul License Bureau in Sears in St. Paul in 2017.

Minnesota's troubled licensing system gets update, but frustrations remain

A recent round of updates has helped, but some holes in the system persist.

Republican endorsed in state House race declared bankruptcy

The Republican-endorsed candidate for state House in a western Hennepin County district declared bankruptcy in 2010 with more than $1 million in liabilities and a…
Rabbi Sim Glaser of Temple Israel joined DFL legislators and other religion leaders at a news conference Tuesday to call for an end to the zero tolera

Minnesota AG Lori Swanson joins 16 states suing over family separation

Attorney General Lori Swanson joined other states to sue the Trump administration.
President Donald Trump made his first visit to Minnesota as president on Wednesday, culminating in leading a rally in Duluth.

At rally, Trump touts economy, ability to win Minnesota in 2020

President Donald Trump hailed the impact of his deregulatory policies and steel tariffs Wednesday, and predicted he would win Minnesota when he runs for re-election in two years.
Kelly Moller, a first-time candidate who hopes to represent Arden Hills, Mounds View and Shoreview in the state House, knocked on doors in Mounds View

Race for Minnesota House picks up steam amid busy election year

Democrats have to gain 11 seats to flip control of the Republican-led House.
Jonathan Warren, 14, of Richfield, carried some fish he and a few friends had caught while at at Fort Snelling State Park in 2017.

Minnesota launches new tool to find outdoor adventures

Centralized site features hundreds of regional and state parks and trails.
In February, MNIT Commissioner Johanna Clyborne explained the case for additional funding from the legislature to keep MNLARS afloat. On the left is D

MNLARS fixes continue, but funding shortfall looms

Legislature appropriated about $33 million less to the project than was sought.
FILE - In this Sunday, June 10, 2018, file photo, U.S. President Donald Trump arrives at Paya Lebar Air Base for a summit with North Korean leader Kim

President Trump headed to Minn. for first visit since election

The president's June 20 rally in Duluth will come just under two months before Minnesota holds its primary election.
DFL Attorney General candidate Matt Pelikan accepted the party's endorsement in Rochester after Lori Swanson withdrew Saturday morning.

DFL underdog now faces heavy hitters in Minn. attorney general race

Days after getting the party's endorsement, first-time candidate Matt Pelikan once again was battling, this time a crowded field led by U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison.
Former Minnesota Attorney General Mike Hatch filed paperwork to run for his old job on Tuesday.

Hatch says he'll withdraw from Minn. attorney general race

He was one of six DFLers who filed to run for the office Tuesday. "I didn't know so many people would go in," he said.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison was greeted by his son and supporters after filing to run for Minnesota attorney general.

District 5 hopefuls file candidacy as Ellison announces run for AG

With Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson running for governor, U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison filed to run for the AG's office. Mike Hatch, who served two terms as attorney general, also filed his candidacy for his old job.
DFL gubernatorial candidate Erin Murphy, left, cheered running mate Rep. Erin Maye Quade at the party convention in Rochester on Sunday.

Maye Quade gets DFL endorsement as Murphy's running mate

DFLers also endorsed Julie Blaha for auditor Sunday.
Minnesota attorney general Lori Swanson talked with delegates during the DFL State Convention Friday.

Attorney General Lori Swanson loses DFL endorsement

Swanson did not immediately reveal whether she plans to run in the DFL primary in August against party endorsee Matt Pelikan.
U.S. Sen. Tina Smith, top left, is expected to be challenged by GOP Sen. Karin Housley, top right, in November, while U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, bottom

GOP, DFL endorse U.S. Senate candidates for the fall election

At dueling political conventions the same weekend, Minnesota Republicans and DFLers gathered to endorse candidates for what promises to be the most significant election cycle in the state in decades.
Gov. Mark Dayton waved to the crowd on the upper floors of the Capitol rotunda before signing the bill. “I can’t tell you how many retirees and ac

Dayton signs pension bill aimed at long-term stability

Without action, public employee pension funds in Minnesota would have eventually run short.

Two DFLers enter state Senate race to replace Fischbach

They are running against GOP state Rep. Jeff Howe.
Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt lauded Rep. Joyce Peppin’s work, and said he’s sad to see her go.

Minn. House Majority Leader Joyce Peppin to resign her seat

Peppin resigning House seat, will take a job with the Minnesota Rural Electric Association.
GOP gubernatorial candidate Jeff Johnson, shown earlier in the month at the Edina Country Club.

Jeff Johnson heads to GOP convention with momentum, but bigger test looms

He's banking on the Republican Party convention nod this weekend in Duluth, with former Gov. Tim Pawlenty skipping for primary.
Rep. Jeff Howe, R-Rockville.

Rep. Jeff Howe enters race to determine control of state Senate

Central Minnesota race will decide control of the chamber by one seat.
Gov. Mark Dayton announced that he made good on a vow to veto the Republican tax and omnibus budget bills.

Dozens of smaller bills survived Dayton's veto pen

Rape survivors, hotel staff, athletic trainers and motorcyclists are among the Minnesotans who will be affected by this legislative session. Although Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed…
Gov. Mark Dayton announces that he made good on a vow to veto the Republican tax and omnibus budget bills Wednesday.

Gov. Dayton vetoes tax, spending bills, the major work of session

Republicans who crafted measures say vetoes have major consequences for Minnesotans.
Minnesota gubernatorial candidate and State Auditor Rebecca Otto today named Zarina Baber, left, as her running mate.

Otto picks IT pro and health care advocate as running mate in gov race

Zarina Baber is also a health care advocate, and she calls for greater unity.
Vile, appalling disgusting, debacle, badly mismanaged, beholden to special interests, just some of the ways Gov. Mark Dayton described actions by by t

Dayton veto threat hangs over legislative session's final bills

Minnesota lawmakers adjourned late Sunday after finalizing a handful of tax and spending measures, but with little chance they'd have much to show for three months of work as Gov. Mark Dayton vowed to veto most of their major efforts.
Republican leaders including Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka and House Speaker Kurt Daudt entered the Governor’s Cabinet room on Friday.

Dayton, lawmakers agree on school safety, little else

They have not reached an agreement on "emergency" school funding and a tax bill.
Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty at a campaign appearance in Eagan in April.

Pawlenty will not seek GOP endorsement in governor's race

He will skip the party's convention and focus on the August primary. Three other candidates are seeking the endorsement at the party's convention in June.
Protestors stood facing Interstate 94 after police forced them off the freeway near Dale St. in St. Paul on July 11, 2016. The protest was in response

Freeway protest bill OK'd, but Dayton is on the fence

The Senate approved increasing punishment to a gross misdemeanor.
Gov. Mark Dayton

Dayton won't negotiate tax bill unless legislators consider school plan

Governor and legislative leaders will meet Tuesday, with the session adjournment deadline looming
Republican candidate for governor Jeff Johnson announced Donna Bergstrom as his lieutenant governor running mate Monday at a Capitol news conference.

GOP's Jeff Johnson picks Donna Bergstrom as running mate in governor's race

Red Lake Nation member is a retired Marine Corps intelligence officer.
As they head into the last week of the legislative session, state lawmakers are racing to reach agreements on a handful of major initiatives under dis

Taxes, spending, bonding differences linger between Gov. Dayton, Legislature

Gov. Dayton is focusing on schools during his final end-of-session push.
Rep. Greg Davids, chairman of the House Taxes Committee, shown in February.

Minnesota House, Senate strike a deal on tax measure

It sets up a showdown with Gov. Mark Dayton in session's final days.
Minnesota Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt in a 2017 file photo.

Republicans at the Legislature suggest tapping lottery trust fund for public works

The GOP is turning to an obscure state entity that gets its money from the State Lottery to borrow as much as $100 million for public works projects.
Rep. Nick Zerwas, R-Elk River, argued for his bill that would increase the criminal penalties for obstructing traffic.

Minnesota House passes harsher freeway protest penalties

Dayton said the protests are a "nonproblem" and lawmakers should focus on other issues.
Rep. Sarah Anderson, R-Plymouth, is the author of two gun-related bills introduced this week.

Suburban House Republicans propose gun measures at 11th hour

Gun control advocates said they are too little too late.
Former Lt. governor Carol Molnau announced that she supports Republican gubernatorial candidate Jeff Johnson in his bid for Governor.

Carol Molnau, who was Pawlenty's lieutenant governor, endorses his GOP rival

Carol Molnau, who served two terms as Tim Pawlenty's lieutenant governor, is backing Jeff Johnson for governor over her former boss.
Sen. Karin Housley, R-St. Marys Point, said a bill she sponsored to broaden the definition of sexual harassment in state law will not move ahead this

Push to widen sex harassment standard stalls in Minn. Senate

Sen. Karin Housley said they will take up the issue next year after business groups, others raise concerns.
Rep. Dean Urdahl, shown in April, said the public works bonding bill was "addressing the important needs of our cities and state, while respecting the

Minnesota House GOP debuts $825 million public works bill

The public works proposal includes a number of local projects, but is just over half what Gov. Mark Dayton wants to spend on infrastructure.
Officers met supporters of Philando Castile on Interstate 94 in St. Paul near Dale Street in St. Paul in June. Lawmakers in the Minnesota House consid

House advances bill with increased penalties for freeway protests, pipeline damage

Blocking freeways or damaging pipelines could lead to stiffer penalties.
Members of the group Protect Minnesota stood outside the Senate Chambers as senators entered Thursday.

Gun proposals, including expanded background checks, fail in Minn. Senate

Gov. Dayton said legislators should have gun debates on the floor so people know where they stand.

Minn. House alters sexual harassment policy to address third parties

House staffers are adding a hotline for harassment and discrimination complaints.
“Our rural vets have gone too long without the care they richly deserve,” Marvin Garbe, commander of the Montevideo Legion Post said at a news con

Veterans ask Minn. legislators to use Vikings stadium reserve to build care homes for vets

Gov. Dayton said there should be a "strong fiscal cushion" for the stadium.
Rep. Paul Thissen laughed as he addressed attendees of Tuesday's press conference in which Thissen was introduced as Minnesota's new Supreme Court Jus

Paul Thissen, ex-House speaker, to join Minn. Supreme Court

Gov. Mark Dayton appointed Thissen, a lawyer and a state representative from Minneapolis, to the state's high court.
A coalition of groups including Main Street Alliance, TakeAction Minnesota, Neighborhoods Organizing for Change (NOC), SEIU Minnesota, AFL-CIO, and Is

Battle over local control is about-face for GOP legislators

As progressives turn to cities for action on divisive issues, GOP legislators have introduced more than 50 bills to block the local rules.
Phifer, DFL candidate for Congress in the Eighth Congressional District.

DFL confronts scrambled race to defend Nolan seat in northeastern Minnesota

None won endorsement; most say they'll pursue individual primary bids.

Pension bill in limbo as legislative session progresses

House Republicans said they expect to pass bill.
Angie Craig, left, and Dean Phillips won DFL endorsements in their endorsing conventions Saturday for U.S. House races.

Angie Craig, Dean Phillips get DFL endorsements in U.S. House races

In the Eighth District, a candidate was not able to emerge from the pack vying for party nod for Rep. Rick Nolan's seat.
At a Nov. 15 hearing, Sen. John Jasinski, R-Faribault, described how some constituents received two sets of license tabs due to problems with the MNLA

Lawmakers consider changes to state IT agency after MNLARS debacle

Legislators want private vendors to handle future IT projects.

DFL lawmakers call for changes to child protection system's treatment of black families

Children would be placed with family members instead of in foster care.
Deputy Register 035 Vinton Lewis and his wife Janet who run the South Saint Paul Quick-Serv License Center have had to take tens of thousands of dolla

Minnesota to spend $1.3 million to add staffers to handle calls about MNLARS

State officials are still struggling to respond to the onslaught of calls from people with questions about driver's licenses, tabs and vehicle registration.
Gov, Mark Dayton and Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka spoke in February.

Taxes top state lawmakers' agendas in second half of the legislative session

Debates on issue will likely obscure others in final six weeks.
Leah Jackson, 23, of Minneapolis, illegally turned through a red light in 2014 and landed in an expensive spiral that has caught many Minnesotans. Som

License suspensions a 'Catch-22' some Minn. lawmakers aim to fix

Legislator, attorneys say Minnesota laws on license suspensions amounts to criminalizing poverty.
The Minnesota State Capitol.

GOP lawmakers start school safety push, but minus gun restrictions

The $50 million plan did not include gun restrictions, which DFL lawmakers say is a vital component to making schools safer.
Representative Mary Franson, R-Alexandria, spoke on the House floor in 2017.

Minn. legislator's posts appear to compare marchers to Hitler Youth

Rep. Mary Franson said she did not mean for the two posts to be connected.
Voters head to the Brian Coyle Center in Minneapolis to cast their vote Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017. A Republican proposal at the Legislature would prevent

Minnesota lawmakers push to prohibit ranked-choice voting

Minneapolis and St. Paul use ranked voting. Other cities are looking into it.
Students holding signs protesting gun violence, including Andrea Thompson, 16, of White Bear Lake gathered Saturday at the State Capitol for a rally.

Students, DFL lawmakers aim to harness gun protest momentum

But the GOP chairman of the Senate Public Safety Committee said the likelihood that any gun restrictions will get votes this legislative session is "getting narrower."
The South Saint Paul Quick-Serv License Center in 2017, one of the sites wrestling with changes in the state's vehicle-registration system.

Gov. Dayton signs compromise giving $10 million to fix vehicle registration system

State's vehicle registration system still won't be fully functional even with fix.

House bills would increase penalty for attacking an officer, prevent police disarmament

Lawmakers want to prevent cities from disarming officers.
A haul of fireworks bought in Wisconsin and brought back to Minnesota. Wisconsin’s border with Minnesota is lined with fireworks businesses, say adv

Minnesota legislators rekindle fireworks debate

Minnesotans now just head to other states to buy the big ones, some say.

Groups spend $74M to lobby policymakers and the Public Utilities Commission

Business interests and the teachers union also spent a lot to influence officials.
Donny Vosen, left, deputy registrar in Brainerd passed State Legislative Auditor Jim Nobles as they spoke to the committee about the problems with MNL

Senate approves $10 million for MNLARS, but cash will go fast

Bills to fix vehicle licensing system are now headed to conference committee.
Along with the tax changes, Gov. Mark Dayton laid out a long list of areas where he wants to spend the state’s $329 million surplus.

Dayton spending plan aims for tax relief for many Minnesotans

It would reverse some of the tax cuts legislators added last year, while retooling state tax code after federal changes.
Minnesota sample identification card and drivers license.

Minnesota could get another Real ID extension

Dayton says Homeland Security may be flexible.
In this 2006 photo, Minnesota State Patrol trooper Adam Flynn handcuffed a driver suspected of operative a vehicle while intoxicated.

Repeat drunk drivers would lose Minnesota license under new bill

Proposal under consideration at Capitol would let offenders petition court after 10 years to restore their license.
Gov. Mark Dayton waved and smiled at his family in the gallery at the beginning of his State of the State speech on Wednesday night.

Dayton wraps up final State of State with a focus on finances

He also called for more state spending on education, public works infrastructure and school safety, saying he wants to leave the state in better financial condition than he found in 2011.

GOP proposes work requirement for Minnesotans getting medical assistance

Medical Assistance recipients who are not working, job hunting or volunteering could lose their benefits under a measure Minnesota legislators proposed Monday.Republicans in the House…
Thousands of high school students walked out of their schools and marched to the State Capitol to protest gun violence and pressure lawmakers to enact

State senators propose universal background checks, reporting

The four legislators, who represent areas where there is strong support for gun rights, said the stories of high school students compelled them to push the measures.
Patty and Jerry Wetterling have asked to keep some documents related to their son Jacob's disappearance out of the public eye.

Wetterling legal battle over documents leads to bill to make more info private

Opponent says the measure would block access to more data than the author intended.
FILE - In this April 1, 2017 file photo, a service dog strolls through the isle inside a United Airlines plane at Newark Liberty International Airport

Minnesota lawmakers aim to crack down on fake service animals

About 20 other states have passed similar laws to block impostors.
Sen. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park, said it does not make sense to him that someone who is not yet allowed to drink alcohol can purchase an assault wea

DFL legislators propose raising age to buy semiautomatic weapons

Gov. Dayton has said he would support the idea, but lawmakers have seen little progress on other gun control bills this session.
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