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minnesota_state_capitolI spend so much time ripping on the Party of Trump-controlled 2017 Minnesota legislature, all of it deserved, that I feel a need to note that there are good things happening there, too.
 

The House on Monday approved a bill that would extend and expand benefits to people with autism and related conditions.
 
Sponsored by Rep. Roz Peterson (R-Lakeville) and Sen. Jim Abeler (R-Anoka), HF919/ SF562* modifies a 2013 law that provided intensive treatment for children with autism spectrum disorders. Passed 131-0, the bill would extend the benefits, called Early Intensive Developmental and Behavioral Intervention (EIDBI), to 21-year-olds and expands qualifying conditions.
 
After passing the Senate March 20 by a 66-0 vote, the bill now heads to Gov. Mark Dayton.
(Session Daily)

Unfortunately, based on this, as far as I can tell the next one didn’t make it through the committee process, this session. Hopefully they’ll keep trying.
 

The Wilder Foundation is pushing Minnesota lawmakers to pass a bill that would set aside $5 million dollars a year to expand CLASS Act to other cities. And backers have found strong support on both sides of the aisle.
 
The measure allocates $10 million from the state’s housing trust fund over two years to secure stable housing for families with children in pre-K through grade 12. The bill expands a pilot program that helped 277 students over the past two school years.
 
Republican Bill Weber of Luverne is chief author of the measure in the Senate. Even with a $1.65 billion budget surplus, Weber said lawmakers need to be careful about how they spend taxpayer money.
 
He said the rental assistance pilot is worth funding because it has a proven track record.
(MPR)

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trump16Incompetent and delusional.
 

First, of course, is the fact that Trump’s own businesses don’t come close to fulfilling his big “Buy American, Hire American” talk. The Washington, D.C., hotel that opened while he was out campaigning on making America great again is filled with imported products. He used Chinese steel in recent construction projects. Ivanka Trump-branded clothes continue to be made in China. Eric Trump’s winery has applied for dozens of guestworker visas since November’s election.
 
The fact that Trump talks the talk but doesn’t walk the walk in his business life isn’t the only problem here, though. Take his pledge to crack down on H-1B visas…
(Daily Kos)

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733903_10151935016956738_272268164_nOf course they are. It’s like the moon and the tides, and with about as much thought put into it all.
 

State-sponsored health programs administered by the Department of Human Services would not be able to pay for abortions, except as needed to continue participation in a federal program.
 
The House passed HF809 Monday 77-54. Sponsored by Rep. Mary Franson (R-Alexandria), the bill now moves to the Senate, where Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer (R-Big Lake) is the sponsor…
 
Rep. Laurie Halverson (DFL-Eagan) said the entire range of health care should be available to women in Minnesota regardless of whether they are wealthy or poor.
 
“We’re developing a habit of not listening to low-income women and not listening to women of color within the Legislature,” said Rep. Peggy Flanagan (DFL-St. Louis Park).
(Session Daily)

Also “House passes measure to require licensure of abortion clinics.”
 

Rather interesting. The part about “running out of measures to introduce,” in many states, is my pick.
 

“There is this competition to the bottom that has been happening with state legislatures and abortion over the past six years,” says Elizabeth Nash, the state issues manager for the Guttmacher Institute and the lead author on the report. But in 2017, she adds “the scale has changed.” She explained that compared with the same period from 2011 to 2016, “we haven’t been seeing as much activity on abortion as we have seen.” Rather than suggesting a diminished interest in abortion restrictions, Nash explains that given the onslaught of new abortion restrictions in the past six years, some states might simply be running out of measures to introduce. But beyond that, health care reform, state budgets, and the opioid crisis might have caused conservative state legislatures to focus their attention elsewhere at the beginning of their legislative sessions, suggesting that anti-abortion activity might pick up later in the year.
(Mother Jones)

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paulsenAnother recent indicator that Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-MN) may be the current U.S. House’s most atrociously fake “moderate” was his intent to vote for Trumpcare 1.0, had it come to a vote there. So we’ll see where he’s at on the next iteration.
 

Based on our analysis, we estimate that individuals with even relatively mild pre-existing conditions would pay thousands of dollars above standard rates to obtain coverage. For example, because an individual with asthma costs an issuer 106 percent more than a healthy 40-year-old, she would face a premium surcharge of $4,340. The surcharge for diabetes would be $5,600 per year. Coverage could become prohibitively expensive for those in dire need of care: Insurers would charge about $17,320 more in premiums for pregnancy, $26,580 more for rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune disorders, and $142,650 more for patients with metastatic cancer.
(Center for American Progress)

InvisibleRiskPool-WEB-table1-693

An additional Paulsen thing, about the fact that suspending the medical device tax has not resulted in any U.S. jobs boom in the industry: “Was Erik Paulsen Duped By Medical Devicemakers Or Is He Promoting Alternative Facts?” (MN Political Roundtable)
 
Comment below fold.
 
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trump7Prioritizing matters here at home, all right.
 

In his less than three months in office, Donald Trump has escalated four wars, and all of his escalations have been failures…
 
Trump campaigned on reducing such foreign entanglements and focusing on the US and its needs. But in office he has declined to rethink any of these commitments and indeed has escalated in each theater…
 
What all four Trump interventions in his ongoing US wars in the Middle East have in common is that they were splashy, produced headlines for a day, and altered the course of the conflict not a jot or a tittle.
(Informed Comment)

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The “R” Word

by Bill Prendergast on April 22, 2017 · 0 comments

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trump6(In Part 1 I blogged about the Great American Stupid. In Part 2, about voting numbers and trends.)
 

There is no question that corporate media (CM) horrifically failed the American people in the 2016 election cycle. By treating Hillary’s email server as the very scandal of the millennium, while Donald Trump’s virtually endless litany of failings as a candidate for the highest office and as a human being were presented as just more tidbits in the here-today-gone-tomorrow news cycle (in which actual policy issues went virtually unmentioned, in any meaningful way), CM unquestionably played a key role in the disastrous outcome.
 

I’ve never seen anything like CM’s open, flagrant bias in this one, and my paying attention to presidential campaigns goes back to 1972. (Yeah, I was all of 11 at the time, but intellectually precocious. And a fervent Nixon Republican. But that’s another matter.) But the thing is, I don’t know that much of CM really wanted Pr*sident Trump to actually win; I don’t think they actually believed that he really could, any more than, for example, I did. Trump was seen more as ultimately harmless entertainment (and, of course, ratings-bait) than as a real threat. The intent was to create a close election, and blunt Democratic downballot gains. And as far as the fallout now coming down on corporate media, because of it all…well, everything about “President Trump” is too serious, and disturbing, a matter for any gleeful schadenfreude, on my part.
 
As always, sweeping statements like those in the first paragraph above, while possessed of ample truth, require a measure of qualification, here in the messy, uncertain world of…reality. How much influence does corporate media really have? Let’s consider some numbers.
 
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Downsizing Applebee’s: A Canary in the Coal Mine

by Invenium Viam on April 19, 2017 · 1 comment

applebees_closedLast month, on March 3, 2017, Business Insider announced that Applebee’s Restaurants would close “… between 40 and 60 locations this year.” One of those locations is a couple of blocks from my house, which closed its doors a few days ago.

 

“We believe that restaurant closures are an important tool to preserving the financial health of the system,” acting CEO Richard Dahl bloviated in a call to investors. While Dahl’s statement was PR honey-and-lemon-flavored ear wash intended to put an ExecuSpeak spin on things, the fact is that Applebee’s had already closed 46 locations in 2016 in anticipation of what analysts feared might be the onset of a ‘restaurant recession’ this year, whatever the hell that is.

 

Dahl became the acting CEO when former CEO Julia Stewart – one of the highest-profile and longest-serving chief executives in the casual restaurant industry – was forced out on February 17 (along with her CFO) and formally resigned on March 1. Stewart’s departure is the latest in a long string of restaurant-chain CEO resignations in the wake of declining sales and traffic industry-wide over the last year. Her beheading came after a failed campaign to recapture market share with an attractive new menu of $10 entrees. As a marketing professional, the meaning of that campaign was crystal clear to me – Applebee’s primary clientele, a vast swath of the wage-earning middle-class, was extremely price sensitive and the target price point is $10.

 

Ten dollars.

 

Business Insider attributes Applebee’s lackluster sales to ” … the rise of fast-casual restaurants like Chipotle and Panera, and the fact that more people are eating at home because grocery prices are falling …” but that argument is missing the forest for the trees. It is informed by competitive positioning and sales figures (two data sources that consume enormous mind share of business executives to the point of tunnel vision), based on the presumption that if restaurant customers in their market demographics are not buying from us (i.e., Applebee’s), they must be spending their food dollars elsewhere. That’s a bad assumption, utterly without foundation.

 

There are many reasons why that argument doesn’t hold water. First, Chipotle is only now showing signs of renewed life after a disastrous 2015 loss of market share and tumbling stock prices due to E. Coli deaths and illnesses from food-borne pathogens at restaurants across the country. The current stock price is $470, only somewhat improved from a low of $413 on January 8, 2016 and still down more than 25% from an all-time high of $640 on October 30, 2015 – the day before the E. Coli outbreak went public. To be sure, Panera’s sales, market share and stock prices have all jumped, partly based on a “clean food” initiative that appeals to high-wage techies and well-compensated DINK’s, but that is a notable exception to current trends. Besides, have you noticed grocery prices going down? I haven’t. The historical trend in grocery prices is an increase of 2-3% annually and that trend has held for a couple of decades, at least. In 2014, there was a huge jump in prices at the grocery store and even with stable prices in the cost of gasoline over the last several years, the cost of groceries hasn’t declined. And even if grocery prices were declining, wouldn’t that translate to more money in the pockets of consumers and more of their food dollar being spent dining out? No, it makes no sense …

 

All this begs the question: Is there a better explanation of why Applebee’s was forced into a survival-mode strategy of cutting 100+ stores? And just how is all this political, guy? Answers: Yes, there is a better explanation. And it’s political because downsizing Applebee’s is a metaphor of a downsizing middle-class.

More below the fold

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Trumped: Trump’s Right! The Media IS The Enemy!

by Bill Prendergast on April 18, 2017 · 0 comments

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Script/Layouts: Bill Prendergast Art: Will Dinski

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MN lege: When will the crazy end? Part 3

by Dan Burns on April 18, 2017 · 0 comments

mn_capitolCrunch time is upon us, and these three items are being presented here as a way of sort of summarizing where things are at.
 

The MN GOP House Republicans make a couple of false arguments. First, they insinuate that they are protecting rural Minnesota’s roads and bridges. They have falsely stated that somehow light rail takes money away from those needed road and bridge repairs. Federal funds for light rail can go nowhere else – it is how the funding operates. Secondly, they make this fantasy argument that by rejecting light rail funding, that somehow they are giving some kind of windfall to the taxpayers of Minnesota. Not true. In fact, they are not saving taxpayer dollars here or anywhere. That money is appropriated for that purpose. It doesn’t go back into the US treasury. It doesn’t get rebated back to the state. It will simply go to another project in some other state. And Minnesota’s portion of the tax payments go with it.
 
Rural Minnesota absolutely needs road and bridge repairs. But it is an issue that is separate from metro transit. It must be funded via the gas tax money or the general fund or some other statutory method. But the MN GOP is disingenuous to be making rail transit an us vs them false equivalency. It is an “alternative fact”, and the GOP needs to be honest about what they are saying.
(mnpACT!)

This next one is titled “The 7 plagues of the Republican budget.”
 
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