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schoolsWe’ll see how hard the deformers push this in the legislature, when crunch time comes. Traditional public schools these days are turning out kids who are simply too smart to buy into conservatism – the failed ideology of f*cking idiots. The righties are beyond desperate to undermine that.
 

Gov. Mark Dayton has been a longtime opponent of efforts to allow public money to follow students to private schools.
 
But the governor said he was asked to publicly repeat his position, so that’s what he did Wednesday: “I will veto any bill that has vouchers attached to it.”
 
That’s not all, though.
 
Dayton clarified that his opposition extends beyond the traditional concept of private school vouchers. He opposes provisions in the House and Senate tax bills that would give breaks to people who donate to organizations that deliver private school scholarships, saying too many charities would want similar status.
(MPR)

Here is important background information.
 

Conservatives continue to push vouchers and private school tax credits, despite new research (summarized in a recent North Star article) indicating that this approach is counter-productive to improving student achievement. Minnesota is among the states considering expanding the K-12 education tax credit to include contributions by individuals and corporations to foundations that provide vouchers and other funding for private schools. If we do the math, it becomes apparent that a large portion—up to 82 percent—of these private contributions to private schools would be effectively paid for with public dollars…
 
Ultimately, these educational tax credits for individuals and corporations will result in de facto public funding of private educational choices, with relatively little public oversight over how the dollars are spent and without proof that student achievement goals are being met (or even adequately measured) or that teachers are fully qualified. In some instances, public dollars could be subsidizing institutions that have a political affiliation or social agenda. The public will not decide how these public tax dollars are spent, but rather private corporations and wealthy individuals, whose goals may not align with the public interest.
(North Star Policy Institute)

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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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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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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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minnesota_state_capitolAt least, that seems the readily apparent interpretation, to me.
 

Minnesota Management and Budget commissioner Myron Frans held a state Capitol news conference Wednesday to say the budget proposal Dayton released in January and updated last month is fiscally responsible, while the House and Senate GOP plans are not.
 
“The Legislature’s math just does not add up,” Frans said.
 
Frans accused Republican leaders of using “fuzzy math,” as well as “phony savings” and delayed payments to pay for a large tax cut bill. He suggested many of the bills could be headed for vetoes if not altered.
 
Frans highlighted several examples in the finance bills for Health and Human Services and State Government.
 
“The legislative budget bills we have seen are not serious attempts to govern Minnesota,” Frans said. The bills are designed to be talking points to start negotiations with the governor from an imaginary position, a made up starting point if you will.”
(MPR)

And here’s an example of that “starting point.” Legislators in the Party of Trump actually have the gall to call it the “Minnesota Way.” They should be saying the “ALEC Way.”
 

The Minnesota budget blueprint produced (March 20) by majority House Republicans seeks hefty tax cuts and aims to pare down expected costs in publicly subsidized health and welfare programs.
 
GOP leaders said their framework would deliver long-overdue tax relief given a sizable state budget surplus. The plan would make $1.35 billion in tax cuts the next two years with the details to come later.
(MPR)

 
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smokestacksThere will be a rally at the Minnesota Capitol today, scheduled to start at 11AM, opposing pro-oil pipeline policies included in the Omnibus Jobs and Energy Bill.
 

When: (Today), Thursday April 6th at 11:00am
Where: MN State Capitol (basement level) Room B971
 
What’s happening: The proposed Jobs and Energy Omnibus Bill has a lot of terrible things in it, including 2 changes to state law that would fast track pipelines (including Enbridge’s Line 3) and eliminate some of our most important tools for environmental and social protection. The bill has been approved by the Senate and the relevant committee in the House and is now moving to the House floor for review.
 
The bill would:
1) Exempt oil and gas pipelines from the “Certificate of Need” part of the permit process. This means Enbridge would no longer have to prove that Line 3 (or other proposed pipelines) are actually needed. The CON process is the state’s only mechanism for rejecting a project.
2) Prevent regulators from considering alternative routes that don’t start and end where Enbridge wants them to. This means that Enbridge would get to define the project based on what’s best for their profits, and the State of MN would no longer be able to consider other routes that could get oil to market with less impact on our land, water, health, and human rights.

 
The Omnibus Legacy Bill is similarly odious. And potentially disastrous.
 

Minnesota’s Party of Trump in the legislature is full-on on removing public protections through any means possible. That has little to do with what Minnesota’s residents want (more here), but they don’t care about that.
 

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imagesqtbnANd9GcRhlLTHok0fDiQpsx_IVQRQg-lVMpygkf1rEyJsns1mZT-bzjRXNo one cuts through Party of Trump bulls*it in Minnesota – and uncritical corporate media amplification of it – like the outstanding North Star Policy Institute.
 

Exempting Social Security income from the state income tax—even if it is somehow targeted to households with incomes under $120,000, as promotional material released by Senate conservatives suggests—is likely to benefit higher income seniors. That’s because low- and middle-income seniors are already paying little or no tax on their Social Security income because the first $32,000 of this income is already exempt and only a portion of the income above $32,000 is taxed on a sliding income-sensitive scale. Based on 2012 data, sixty percent of Social Security recipients already pay no tax on their Social Security income; the forty percent that pay any tax on Social Security income tend to be of relatively high income…
 
The second main feature of the conservative Senate tax plan is to reduce the state business property tax levy. A portion of this reduction—the exemption of the first $100,000 of taxable value—at least has the benefit of directing a sizeable share of the tax relief to the smaller businesses, as noted in a recent North Star article, but the elimination of the annual inflation adjustment to the state business property tax will direct the overwhelming bulk of tax relief to extremely high value businesses, with the top one percent of businesses by value getting 30.5 percent of the tax relief, while the bottom 75 percent of businesses by value get only 14 percent of the relief. In future biennia, the cost of eliminating the inflation adjustment is likely to grow rapidly and quickly surpass the amount of relief given through exempting the first $100,000 of value.
(North Star Policy Institute)

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Gov. Dayton vetoes GOP assault on renewables

by Dan Burns on March 21, 2017 · 0 comments

solar2The Minnesota Party of Trump in the legislature has been pressing ahead with a radical-right agenda, despite what’s going down with their hero in the White House. Thankfully, in this state there is a remaining check and balance. From yesterday:
 

Since late January, Bluestem has chronicled the problems with HF234 in posts like “Are King Coal’s foxes to guard the co-op? HF234 would leave rural utility customers on defense” and “From our friends at CURE: tell Governor Mark Dayton: veto bill, protect solar in Minnesota.”
 
We are pleased as are so many friends that the governor chose to veto the bill today.
(Bluestem Prairie)

I’m adding some items that I’ve had sitting in my “environment” file for a while.
 

A five kilowatt rooftop solar installation now costs just $12,500 on average after tax credits, and pretty soon, installing one might soon be a matter of re-tiling your roof. Whether it’s right for you, however, depends in large part on how much sun your house gets. That’s where Google’s Project Sunroof comes in — launched just two years ago, it has now surveyed over 60 million US buildings in 50 states. That means there’s a good chance you can see the electricity production potential in your city, neighborhood and even specific house.
 
Google calculates the amount of sunlight on your roof based on “3D modeling of your roof and nearby trees,” weather patterns, the position of the sun in the sky during the year and shade from buildings, trees and other obstructions. That info is then converted to energy production “using industry standard models for solar installation performance,” Google says.
 
The results are surprising: 79 percent of all US rooftops are solar viable, meaning they have enough unshaded area for solar panels. Obviously, some regions are better than others — over 90 percent of homes in Hawaii, Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico are technically viable, but even northern states like Pennsylvania, Maine and Minnesota are over 60 percent. Houston, Texas has the most solar potential of any US city, with 18.9 gigawatt-hours of total power generation capability if all roofs had solar panels.
(engadget)

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minnesota_state_capitolMaybe the GOP legislature could use some of the budget surplus to help out “school kids or senior citizens, the disability community” instead of looking to blow big chunks of it, yet again, on handouts for the rich man.
 

House Speaker Kurt Daudt said Tuesday he is having legislative legal and human resources staff examine whether a hefty pay raise for lawmakers is truly binding or if the Legislature can summarily turn it down.
 
The raise takes lawmaker salaries from about $31,000 to $45,000 beginning in July, a 45 percent jump that the Legislative Salary Council framed as a catch-up for years of stagnant pay…
 
“Think about if this is binding on us, it means I have to give, or we have to give legislators a pay increase when we can’t give that same kind of pay increase to school kids or senior citizens, the disability community, you pick your interest group that is frankly deserving of some increase,” Daudt said. “That’s the tough position it puts us in.”
(MPR)

In recent years, the low pay has made it more likely that people able and willing to be in the legislature have been financially independent, or retirees with solid pensions. That group on the whole tends to be conservative Republicans. Reasonable compensation could well produce higher interest in running among eager, high-energy, and just generally smart and impressive young progressives, and that is Daudt’s real concern.
 
The right-wing likes of Speaker Daudt have no idea how readily intelligent people see right through them. One sees manifestations of that all the time, among conservative politicians.
 
Comment below fold.
 
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ottertaillakeriverinletDespite the reality of what’s happening to Minnesota’s waters, many people just will not face the crying need for things like buffers. And now the Minnesota Party of Trump wants to revert entirely, by whatever means.
 

– H.F. 167 (Green): Eliminates buffer rule.
– S.F. 465 (Draheim)/H.F. 1859 (Miller): Delays the buffer rule for two more years.
– H.F. 684 (Backer): Prevents enforcement of the buffer law until/unless local governments approve of buffer maps first.
– H.F. 776 (Backer): Formally exempts all public water wetlands and most smaller streams from buffer rule.
– S.F. 938 (Westrom)/H.F. 683 (Backer): Two-year buffer delay, and prevents enforcement unless taxpayers pay 100% of buffer installation.
– S.F. 835 (Draheim)/H.F. 1858 (Miller): Buffers are not required unless/until local seed is available for planting the buffers.
– S.F. 1693 (Westrom)/H.F. 1994 (Torkelson): Similar to H.F. 1466 DE2; bars local enforcement, redefines public waters needing a buffer, delays the deadline for remaining buffers by one year, prohibits any enforcement of the buffer law unless public funding covers 100% of the cost of establishing and maintaining all buffers.
(Friends of the Mississippi River) (Follow that and then click on an action link to see the list.)

And this is from an email I got from Minnesota Interfaith Power & Light.
 

SENATE
 
SF141: Creates barriers for solar by increasing the power of co-op utilities and stripping the Public Utilities Commission of regulatory authority.
SF214: Eliminates a pro-solar program that has been an important driver of jobs and innovation in renewable energy.
 
HOUSE
 
HF1291: Eliminates the state’s Environmental Quality Board — at a time when the board’s oversight should be strengthened.
HF1377: Restricts the options available to homeowners for financing energy improvement projects.

I’m sure there are plenty more, but you get the point. I suspect that a significant part of how many strokes Minnesota’s Republican legislators get from ALEC is based on the sheer number of bulls*it bills that they introduce.
 

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