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Dan Burns

mn_capitolIt looks unlikely that there will be a special session, and therefore bonding, tax, or transportation bills. Corporate media is of course doing its “a pox on both their houses” thing, in fact trying to put the blame on the DFL as much as they dare. I’m confident that a majority of Minnesota voters see through that crap when they have the facts. For example:
 

(Minnesota House Speaker Kurt) Daudt introduced bills asking for private school voucher funding and local preemption during (June 21) negotiations. Local preemption would allow Minnesota to prohibit local governments from setting minimum wage or private benefit rules that exceed state and federal guidelines, effectively “preempting” those decisions.
(Mankato Free Press)

More on the latter:
 

Minnesota business groups and Republican legislative leaders are pressing for a new state law as they try to undercut a growing number of cities adopting paid-leave regulations.
 
The issue is a newly emerging wrinkle in negotiations for a special legislative session, as Republicans have added it as a condition for returning to St. Paul to approve unfinished funding for transportation and construction projects…
 
The proposed statewide law would undo Minneapolis’ new regulations requiring companies to provide paid leave and thwart St. Paul as its leaders work toward a similar measure.
 
The effort puts business leaders squarely at odds with community advocates and labor activists, who have focused on passing these changes at the city level, along with more favorable overtime guidelines for workers and a higher minimum wage.
(Star Tribune)

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scotusDon’t get me wrong, this is very much worth celebrating, and building off of.
 

Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt is a beat down of Texas’ anti-abortion law HB 2. Justice Stephen Breyer’s majority opinion piles facts upon evidence upon statistics to demolish Texas’ supposed justification for the law. At one point, Breyer even damns the law with words uttered by Texas’ own attorney. By the end of the opinion, it is surprising that Breyer did not finish with the two words “HULK SMASH!”
 
Even more significantly, Whole Woman’s Health leaves the right to an abortion on much stronger footing than it stood on before this decision was handed down. It’s difficult to exaggerate just how awesomely anti-abortion advocates erred in urging Texas to pass HB 2 in the first place. This law was supposed to provide those advocates with a vehicle to drain what life remains in Roe v. Wade. Instead, reproductive freedom is stronger today than it has been at any point in nearly a decade.
(Think Progress)

The decision, though, does nothing to rid the firmament of a plethora of other forced-birther crap like Minnesota’s mandatory misinformation and gratuitous waiting period laws. To fully protect women’s rights in this, and other, matters nationwide, we need definitive federal legislative action and therefore a progressive Congress.
 
What with Texas being governed largely by those of the sort with which one is almost ashamed to share the human form, the practical effects of the decision there may not be as hoped, either.
 
Update: Good news from this morning.
 

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court refused to review further restrictions on doctors who perform abortions in Mississippi and Wisconsin, marking the first ripple effect from Monday’s landmark ruling that overturned two abortion restrictions in Texas. In so doing, the Court ensured that Mississippi’s last remaining abortion clinic will be allowed to remain open.
 
At issue in both states were laws requiring abortion doctors to have “admitting privileges” at a nearby hospital, a formal affiliation that is difficult to obtain. The justices rejected the cases, letting the ruling of lower courts blocking the laws stand.
(Think Progress)

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MN Auditor lawsuit gets to court

by Dan Burns on June 27, 2016 · 0 comments

ottoAnd I for one wish the plaintiff very well.
 

Ramsey County Judge Lezlie Marek will decide in the coming weeks whether Minnesota lawmakers overstepped their authority by allowing counties to bypass the state auditor and hire private accounting firms to conduct financial audits.
 
State Auditor Rebecca Otto filed a lawsuit earlier this year challenging the 2015 law. Lawyers for Otto and the three counties she’s suing presented arguments during a court hearing Wednesday in St. Paul.
 
Otto contends the law is unconstitutional and will undermine the core function of her office. Her lawyer, Joe Dixon, described it as an “attack by the Legislature” and a “serious affront to the balance of power.”
(MPR)

If you don’t know the sordid background, here’s a primer. Judge Marek is a Pawlenty appointee, though I saw no indication during my admittedly brief and casual research that she’s notorious for partisanship from the bench. In his analysis, Prof. David Schultz seems to think it fairly likely that Ms. Otto will prevail.
 

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Minnesota water projects in limbo at best

by Dan Burns on June 24, 2016 · 0 comments

bwcaFMR is a cool and righteous organization. Click the link for specifics.
 

Our top special session priority is to secure full funding for clean water bonding projects. When Gov. Mark Dayton proposed a bonding package prior to the 2016 legislative session, it included robust funding for a variety of high-priority clean water programs and projects across the state.
 
Funding for many of these items was included in the final bonding bill, though not necessarily at the full amounts requested by the governor. We urge legislators to fund these priorities at the Governor’s original recommended levels in a special session bonding package.
(Friends of the Mississippi River)

Legislative leaders and Gov. Mark Dayton resumed their special session talks Tuesday after a week’s hiatus but somehow moved further from a deal to bring lawmakers back for a special session on transportation, taxes and construction borrowing.
 
But no one is ready to bail out of the negotiations or give in just yet, but at this point, it’s become a zombie session, neither dead nor alive.
 
“I don’t have a deadline. I’m not setting a deadline. But at some point we’ll have to see whether we’re making any progress or getting farther and farther apart, which is what the result is today,” Dayton said after about an hour of closed-door discussions. “We don’t need to get even still farther apart.”
(MPR)

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Big Polluters target state attorneys general

by Dan Burns on June 22, 2016 · 0 comments

desertAnd in some cases they’re using sorry red state AG’s to do it. Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson is part of a coalition looking to hold Big Filthy Fossil Fuels accountable on climate change. She is not among those being directly targeted in this petty, vindictive fashion, yet. But it’s presumably just a matter of time.
 

ExxonMobil has sued to derail a second attorney general’s investigation of the oil giant’s climate record.
 
The company filed a complaint in federal district court in Fort Worth on (June 15) against Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey. Her office subpoenaed Exxon records going back 40 years in an investigation of whether the company committed consumer or securities fraud by misrepresenting its knowledge of climate change.
 
In the same court, Exxon has a similar suit pending against Claude Walker, the attorney general of the U.S. Virgin Islands, who has launched a similar probe. Healey and Walker are part of a coalition of Democratic attorneys general trying to hold fossil fuel companies legally accountable for their conduct on climate change. The group was organized by New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, whose office initiated an Exxon inquiry last year.
(Inside Climate News)

You could call it the battle of the attorneys general: one side representing the public interest, exactly what attorneys general are supposed to do; the other side representing the special interests, exactly what they are not supposed to do.
 
In late March, 17 attorneys general held a press conference to announce they will defend the new federal rule curbing power plant carbon emissions and investigate energy companies that may have misled investors and the public about climate risks. They call themselves AGs United for Clean Power, and so far attorneys general from California, Massachusetts, New York and the Virgin Islands have launched investigations of ExxonMobil, the world’s largest publicly traded oil company, for fraud.
 
In response, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange decided to push back. On May 16, they intervened on behalf of ExxonMobil to quash one of the investigations of the Irving, Texas-based company, accusing AGs United for Clean Power of trying to stifle the “debate” over climate science.
(Huffington Post)

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paulsen2(You can help out the Democratic candidate, Terri Bonoff, here.)

 

Now Paulsen, the recipient of more than $500,000 in donations from the (medical device) industry, has thrown his wealthy handlers another bone. He cast a vote for a bill that would allow tax-exempt groups from ever having to reveal its donors — even to the federal government.
 
In other words, shill organizations masquerading as nonprofits like the Medical Device Innovation Consortium could spend gobs of money on mailers and TV commercials come election time, and nobody would be wiser as to who’s behind the cause or why.
(City Pages)

Paulsen’s A grade has been dutifully earned as well. Over an 18-month period, Paulsen voted 13 times to block efforts to bring a gun safety measure to the House floor.
 
Nicknamed “No Fly, No Buy,” the proposal would ban suspected terrorists on the FBI’s terror watch list from being able to buy guns. It seeks to close the loophole for people who the FBI has determined should not be on a plane, but can still legally purchase firearms.
(City Pages)

Too many people in Paulsen’s “moderate” district just sort of reflexively vote for him, unaware of what a farce his contrived “moderate” image is. It’s time to send this right-winger packing.
 
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millspartying1 stewartshorn

Since the narrow loss in 2014, the brains behind the U.S. House campaign of Stewart Mills III seem to have determined that they lost because of two (2) things: the hair, and the spoiled rotten rich kid image.
 
Regarding the former, I’ve provided “before” and “after” pictures. The story is that the change is the result of a “grilling accident.” It’s true that you’d be hard-pressed to think of a man elected to the U.S. Congress with flowing locks like “before” unless you went all the way back to the antebellum South. But, seriously, this guy somehow burned off his own hair, and we’re supposed to put him in Congress? (“We’re,” because I’m an MN-08 voter, myself, and very much desirous of continuing with the strong, mostly progressive representation of Rep. Rick Nolan (D-MN).)
 
Re: the latter, it still seems like a valid point indeed, especially since as far as I’ve seen Mills has never so much as been on a city council, much less paid some dues and learned something about governing by doing some time in the Minnesota legislature. Hence, this ad, in which viewers are assured by sincere eyewitnesses that as a child Stewart III in reality worked his fingers to the very bone. If you buy that, you probably buy the one about the grilling accident, and far worse the whole Guardians Of Privilege platform about how what we all really need are more tax breaks and other government handouts for the super-rich…like Mills.
 

Stewart Mills III supports Donald Trump for the Presidency of the United States.
 

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sulfideThis is not the PolyMet project. It is the one proposed for right next to the BWCA. Governor Dayton, among many others, already publicly opposes it. Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) has proposed federal legislation to block it.
 

U.S. Forest Service officials on Monday said they are “deeply concerned” about potential impacts of the proposed Twin Metals copper mine on the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and announced a public comment period before the agency’s decision on extending mining leases for the project.
(Duluth News Tribune)

More:
 

Antofagasta PLC holds two federal mineral leases that were issued in 1966 as part of their Twin Metals Minnesota proposal. One of these mineral leases includes land within a quarter mile of the wilderness boundary. The Forest Service has been asked by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management whether it “consents” to the extension of these leases for ten more years. If the Forest Service does not give consent to extend these leases, Twin Metals’ sulfide mine proposal on the edge of the Boundary Waters would be prevented from polluting the wilderness…
 
The Forest Service will start a thirty day public input period beginning on June 20th, one week from (Monday). They will also hold a public hearing on whether to deny the Twin Metals leases in Duluth on July 13th. The Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness will be there in force, and intends to gather tens of thousands of public comments supporting a decision that protects the BWCA from sulfide mining.
(Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness)

As for PolyMet, it’s still in the process of getting more permits. The world markets for copper and nickel remain ugly. (Click on the link and look at, for example, the five-year copper chart.)
 

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daudt2Of course he is.
 

Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Daudt is predicting that Donald Trump’s presidential bid could be helpful to Republican legislative candidates this fall in the state’s rural districts.
 
Daudt, R-Zimmerman, speculated on Trump’s potential down ballot impact Thursday during an interview on Fargo radio station KFGO. He said Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee, is “incredibly unpopular” in rural Minnesota districts, many of which are currently held by Republicans.
 
“With the seats that we’re defending, we think Donald Trump actually helps us on the ballot to retain our majority,” Daudt said.
(MPR)

I find myself in agreement with Rep. Daudt, to a point. Trump likely will make a difference with rural voters. But given his well-earned reputation for dishonesty, grandiosity, and morally loose conduct in general, not the one that Daudt claims.
 
It’s unlikely to matter in the big picture, but I’m curious to see how the ordinarily bright red, north-south trio of South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas goes on Election Day. Especially if someone comes up with audio of Trump disparaging “hicks,” “hayseeds,” or whatever. A recent poll in Kansas has Clinton up by seven. But that’s just one early poll, and Kansans may have the most compelling reasons of voters anywhere to detest all things right-wing, these days.
 

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It’s still tough for many new graduates

by Dan Burns on June 10, 2016 · 0 comments

graduatesThe purpose of this is mostly to pass along a recent EPI report, for anyone who is interested.
 

Young high school and college graduates were hit hard in the Great Recession. While young graduates’ economic prospects have brightened in recent years, they still face elevated unemployment rates and stagnant wages. Many groups—including young graduates of color, as well as young high school graduates entering the workforce—face particularly difficult economic realities…
 
The vast majority (65.8 percent) of people age 24–29 do not have a college degree. Access to good jobs for these individuals is especially critical, as stable employment allows them to build a career or pay for further schooling.
(Economic Policy Institute)

The fundamental problem is that in the last 35 years, give or take, real access to opportunity and resources has become concentrated in fewer and fewer hands. Namely, those of the parasitical plutocrat/warmongering class. Changing that is going to take a while.
 
Young people understanding what the real problem is, is part of that. Fortunately, it seems as though many do. They need to show up and vote, every time.
 

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