Tom Steward covers government waste, spending and policy issues in his home state of Minnesota. Also a documentary filmmaker and in-depth broadcast journalist, Tom's work has appeared on NPR, Animal Planet, WCCO-TV, WGBH-TV, PBS, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, KSTP-TV, CBC, among other outlets. Highlights include the fall of the Berlin Wall, a Peabody Award, the first footage in the wild of the endangered Sumatran tiger and rhino and countless individuals who shared their stories, big and small. Steward served as a communications strategist in the U.S. Senate before returning to reporting on issues and people often overlooked by other media.

State owes Minnesotans millions, if they only knew it

By   /  April 17, 2015  /  Legislature, Minnesota, State Government, Uncategorized  /  No Comments

Watchdog Photo

It’s like winning the lottery without buying a ticket. But, odds are, you may never see the payout.

The Minnesota Commerce Department holds a $650 million jackpot of unclaimed property — mainly lost funds held by the state — waiting for tens of thousands of Minnesotans to redeem.

It’s not the government’s money. State law requires the unclaimed cash to be kept in perpetuity for the rightful owner. The state contracts with the Missing Money website to connect people with their unclaimed money, but few Minnesotans hear about it.

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Signed, sealed and sold: Controversial legislative fix gone with the wind

By   /  April 15, 2015  /  Energy and Environment, Government Regulation, Legislature, Lobbying, Minnesota, News, State Government  /  No Comments

US Dept of Energy Photo

After signing most — but not all — landowners to new leases, Geronimo Energy has dropped a controversial move over a state deadline, which threatened construction of the Black Oak Getty wind farm.

The breakthrough with leaseholders coincides with an announcement the wind and solar energy developer has sold the $135 million venture to a California company — Sempra U.S. Gas and Power.

“Geronimo has formally withdrawn the legislation on leases because we have achieved our goal of signing the critical landowners in the project to new leases,” said Betsy Engelking, vice president of Geronimo Wind Energy, in an email.

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Teachers sue state board over license delays, denials

By   /  April 10, 2015  /  Education, Government Regulation, Minnesota, News, State Government  /  No Comments

MDE Photo

Four teachers are suing the Minnesota Board of Teaching for arbitrarily denying licenses “to well-qualified teachers who clearly meet the statutory requirements.”

So, what’s it take for teachers licensed in another state to obtain a license to continue their careers in Minnesota? A Harvard education? Bilingual capabilities? Years of teaching disadvantaged children? A special education degree?

None of the above?

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Wind developer seeks new leases, legislation to protect Minnesota project

By   /  April 9, 2015  /  Energy and Environment, Federal Government, Government Regulation, Minnesota, News  /  No Comments

UOM Photo

Wind developer Geronimo Energy confirmed Wednesday it’s attempting to sign new leases with landholders at Black Oak wind farm in response to a deadline in state law that voids a lease if a project doesn’t begin commercial operation within seven years of the original contract signing date.

At the same time, the Edina-based wind and solar developer continues to pursue Plan B, a legislative fix for an up-to-82 megawatt wind facility apparently facing an uncertain future.

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Contract extension could leave landowners flapping in the breeze

By   /  April 8, 2015  /  Energy and Environment, Government Regulation, Legislature, Minnesota, News, State Government  /  No Comments

UOM Photo

Critics say a proposed legislative fix violates the spirit of the law against special legislation for corporations and undercuts options for landowners who may rethink their involvement with wind developers.

The controversy focuses on the 82-megawatt Black Oak wind farm — on the drawing board in Stearns County since 2008. State law requires that wind energy projects be operational within seven years. If not, landowners with the seven-year itch can renegotiate or reconsider their options.

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Fore! Cuts coming to Minnesota public golf courses

By   /  April 6, 2015  /  Local Government, Minnesota, News  /  No Comments

City of Buffalo/Wild Marsh Photo

Thirty-six municipalities in Minnesota are operating golf courses at a loss to taxpayers, according to the latest statewide figures are available from the Minnesota state auditor.

The 36 cities golf courses operating as enterprise funds — a fee-based city service — ran up deficits totaling more than $4.5 million. A third of those cities recorded losses of more than $100,000.

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