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Dan Burns

Minnesota-State-CapitolI rarely pass along any editorializing from anybody at the Minneapolis Star Tribune, partly just because it’s corporate media, and partly because they have insultingly thrown in their readers’ faces over the years the likes of Katherine Kersten and Jason Lewis. But some of it, like this from Jon Tevlin, is very good. In practical terms, it also provides a useful list of the most egregious results of the GOP blocking a bonding bill.
 

This weekend, tens of thousands of Minnesotans will travel to their vacations on scenic, crumbling highways to bike on stunning, pockmarked trails and fish in Lake Superior estuaries teeming with trout, dioxins and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.
 
It will be a special time, a time to connect with family, grill Omaha steaks and take note that the bad roads and polluted rivers could remain so at least another year because your elected officials apparently care more about political games than deteriorating infrastructure, clean water or your summer vacation.
 
If you plan to be in the Duluth area, you may want to stop at the Twin Ports harbor, where money was supposed to flow in to help remove the harbor from the federal list of polluted sites. But the Legislature’s failure to agree on a bonding bill now puts that project, with matching federal money, in jeopardy.
(Star Tribune)

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MN lege: The great imploding session

by Dan Burns on May 24, 2016 · 0 comments

mn_capitol“Imploding” seems to be a popular description for how it ended, though in practical terms it was pretty much exactly the sort of ending predicted by many. Anyway, I agree with this:
 

But the lion’s share of fault has to fall on the shoulders of Speaker Daudt. He has been a total failure. He can attempt to spin this. He can play the “he did it first” game or “he didn’t play fair” game; but Speaker Daudt controls the purse strings of the state because he leads the House…and frankly, he did not lead.
 
Daudt refused to move on compromise for transportation. He pushed the end game on bonding to the brink figuring that he could force the Senate to play his hand like they did last year.
 
But his games were losers this time. And Minnesota pays the price.
 
Rep. Thissen made a speech on the floor saying that these last minute games have to be changed. I hope he is serious, because they do. Minnesota deserves better than this. The average taxpayer does their job and pays their taxes and expects government to work.
(mnpACT!)

This, from MPR, details what did and didn’t happen.
 
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again and again: The first, essential step in creating lasting change for the better is getting conservatives out of power, and keeping them out. They can’t govern. They don’t have what it takes. They’re too stupid.
 
As of this writing, it’s unclear whether Governor Mark Dayton will call for a special session. Republicans have refused such requests from him in the past. And most of us know what it’s like, trying to deal with people whose minds in many respects work like those of little kids.
 

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MN_GOP_logoUh-huh.
 

Minnesota Republican Party leaders are calling for unity behind presumed presidential nominee Donald Trump as GOP faithful gather at their state convention this weekend…
 
Not everyone was aboard the Trump train.
 
In party meetings Friday ahead of the convention, a resolution reaffirming the right of party members to “focus efforts on races of their own choosing” failed on a voice vote. The majority of members of the Minnesota GOP’s governing body, the State Central Committee, voted against the measure indirectly aimed at Trump.
(Rochester Post-Bulletin)

The big question is whether long-time Republican voters who will simply refuse to vote for a presidential candidate who openly stands for racism, bigotry, and misogyny – and there are plenty; I know some, myself – will show up to vote in down-ballot races. I don’t know of a way to predict that, at this time.
 

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StrasWebTrump’s list has drawn hoots and derision, but also a measure of concern. Associate Justice David Stras was appointed to the Minnesota Supreme Court in 2010 by Minnesota’s Worst Governor Ever, Tim Pawlenty.

 

Ironically, much of Stras’ scholarship prior to joining the bench offered ideas to limit the power of the United States Supreme Court. Stras proposed creating a “golden parachute” for justices to encourage them to retire. He also proposed requiring justices to “ride circuit,” a practice abandoned more than a century ago whereby Supreme Court justices would spend much of their time traveling to various parts of the country to hear ordinary cases rather than focusing exclusively on the difficult and contentious cases that reach the Court in Washington, DC.
(Think Progress)

Stras has not been able to do a lot of mischief while on Minnesota’s top court, which has thankfully moved a little leftward since Gov. Mark Dayton has been making the picks. It’s tough to find much about Stras’s actual record; at least, it was for me, despite trying numerous search parameters and looking all the way to page 8 or 9 in some cases. A recent article notes that he would likely not be good for LGBT rights. This older one points out his limited qualifications, and the likelihood that he was wholly a political pick by Tea-Paw. And an article from this very blog does have specifics about his record prior to his elevation. (Like the Pawlenty article linked above, it’s from before we changed platforms, and I apologize for the crunched formatting. The reasoning from fact therein nonetheless remains entirely valid.)
 

Speaking of Trump, check this out, too. Hilarious.
 
Comment below fold.
 
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palestineJ Street is an organization that supports both Israel, and Palestinian rights. Whatever you may think of certain of President Barack Obama’s policies, and perhaps even more so missed/declined opportunities, objectively he’s going to go down as one of the better presidents. Right now, without thinking about it very hard, I could see him rated as highly as #8, and probably no lower than maybe #13. It could help him to the top of that range, or even higher, if he can somehow make real progress in the Mideast. I know it’s a long shot, but there’s certainly nothing to lose.
 

President Obama has eight months remaining in office and one last meaningful opportunity to take concrete action on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
 
Of course, we’re under no illusion about what’s possible. There’s little chance of renewed negotiations, let alone an agreement during the Obama Presidency.
 
But the President and his team, as they consider their overall legacy, are well aware that, in the absence of diplomacy, the situation on the ground between Israelis and Palestinians is going from bad to worse.
 
The choice for the President in his remaining time in office is clear: Take meaningful action that charts a course for Israelis and Palestinians toward a two-state solution or do nothing and walk away.
(J Street)

“Middle East – The Mother of All Humanitarian Crises”
 
Comment below fold.
 
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New overtime pay rules to take effect

by Dan Burns on May 18, 2016 · 0 comments

scotusThis is from an email I got last night. As one of the brilliant, beautiful, and well-informed people that reads MN Progressive Project, you probably got the same thing, or something like it. Here’s the link embedded therein.
 

I wanted you to be the first to know about some important news on an issue I know you care deeply about: making sure you’re paid fairly.
 
Tomorrow, we’re strengthening our overtime pay rules to make sure millions of Americans’ hard work is rewarded.
 
If you work more than 40 hours a week, you should get paid for it or get extra time off to spend with your family and loved ones. It’s one of most important steps we’re taking to help grow middle-class wages and put $12 billion more dollars in the pockets of hardworking Americans over the next 10 years.

And here’s something that I think will happen, and I’m sure that I have plenty of company. Some right-wing lawsuit mill already has one ready to go to block this, and most importantly, has already identified the right judge to go to, a reactionary extremist who on both intellectual and psychological grounds should never have even been admitted to the bar, much less given a seat on the federal bench. He or she will issue the desired “halt” order, and millions will continue to be grossly overworked and underpaid as this slowly makes its way up the judicial ladder. Corporate media, meanwhile, will present it as a disastrous “burden on job creators,” or some such infantile nonsense. Progressives need to do what we can to make electoral hay of this, and to work toward a moderate – perhaps even a little bit “liberal,” – U.S. Supreme Court, for when this and so many other items ultimately end up there.
 

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mn_capitolThis qualifies as close to criminal incompetence.
 

Investments in the latter category comprise a goodly share of the Senate’s bonding bill. By Senate bonding chair LeRoy Stumpf’s count, it would provide the requisite state matches for $917 million from federal, local and/or private sources. Some of that matching money will evaporate if the state fails to act this year. For example, the cleanup of contaminated sediment in the St. Louis River estuary is ready to proceed as a four-year, state-federal project with the feds bearing two-thirds of the $72 million cost. But the federal money is likely to go elsewhere if the state does not make a first payment of $12.7 million this year.
(Star Tribune)

Republicans have yet to release their bonding proposal. My guess is that it has almost all projects in GOP districts, and they will look to blame DFLers for no bonding bill when that doesn‘t fly. (Note that what is, to most people reading this, crass and transparent idiocy, is to a conservative politician complex and subtle strategy. They‘re not very bright.) Good one, wingnuts.
 

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prison2Dig:
 

A bill that would substantially revise the state’s drug laws for the first time in nearly three decades sailed through its first legislative hearing Monday.
 
The bill, sponsored by Senate judiciary committee chair Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park, represents a compromise between law enforcement, defense attorneys and some lawmakers, worked out in private talks over the past several weeks.
 
Monday’s hearing by the Senate judiciary committee was the first time that compromise received formal feedback at the Legislature; it passed unanimously Monday out of the Senate’s judiciary committee to the finance committee.
(St. Paul Pioneer Press)

The changes originally proposed by the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission would take effect in August in any case. In some ways this legislative compromise, which would supersede that, is a step back from those. But still a solid change for the better, overall, and that’s a damn tough thing to accomplish with a legislature half under the control of Koch/ALEC puppets.
 

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Tar Sands by Garth Lenz_0It’s one of those never-ending sagas.
 

After 22 public hearings, long proceedings before the state Public Utilities Commission and a Minnesota Court of Appeals case, two proposed pipelines that would together carry more than one million barrels of oil per day across the northern part of the state find themselves again at the beginning of a long regulatory process…
 
The hearings were prompted by a Minnesota Court of Appeals decision last September. The ruling overturned a June 2015 decision by the utilities commission to grant the proposed Sandpiper pipeline a so-called “certificate of need,” saying state regulators first needed to complete a full-blown environmental impact statement for the project.
 
Calgary-based Enbridge has proposed two pipelines that would each stretch about 300 miles across the state. Sandpiper would carry 225,000 barrels of oil per day from the Bakken region of North Dakota to the company’s hub in Clearbrook, Minn. From there it would carry 375,000 barrels per day to Superior, Wis.
 
The company also plans to replace its existing Line 3, which was built in the 1960s and transports crude from the oil sands region of Alberta, Canada. By replacing the aging pipe, the company plans to boost the line’s capacity back up to 760,000 barrels per day.
(MPR)

A couple of relevant additional items:
 
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bwcaOne likely result of Minnesota legislative Republicans’ arrant foolishness, short-sightedness…all of the things that conservatives everywhere are primarily defined by, is that we will likely lose out on a big federal match for Reinvest in Minnesota/Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program funding.

 

RIM/CREP $30 million bonding is critical because Minnesota would receive a $60 million (2:1) federal match for a total of $90 million. It also protects thousands of acres of the most environmentally sensitive land; the CREP initiative will impact 100,000 acres during the next five years. Finally, $90 million would create or maintain over 800 jobs (according to Assessing the Economic Impacts of WRP and RIM on the Minnesota Economy, USDA-NRCS).
(Audubon Minnesota)

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