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MN lege: Off to a predictable start

by Dan Burns on March 6, 2018 · 0 comments

mncapitol2Individuals might of course interpret the word “predictable” in different ways, in this context.
 
– Funding for the legislature was restored without a hassle. Which left a lot of us wondering what the point of the whole de-funding exercise was supposed to be. I don’t get why there’s been no real effort to have the budget-busting tax cuts for the rich bill found unconstitutional, because that’s what the poison pill strategy used to get Governor Mark Dayton to sign it was. (Sen. John Marty floated a plan, a while ago, but got little support. Regarding that link, you probably know that Minnesota‘s Supreme Court ultimately did side with Gov. Dayton. Maybe he will use that to his advantage, on something or other this session.)
 

– Senate Majority Leader and purported Lieutenant Governor Michelle Fischbach (R-Paynesville) is indulging in rampant dereliction of duty.

 
– Republicans are being idiots about the issues with the new DMV computer system. (So it’s going to take more time and money. Big projects generally do, here in the real world.) To be fair, if the positions were reversed DFLers would be trying to make political hay of it as well. But they wouldn’t be so childishly obnoxious about it.
 

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In SD54, DFLer Karla Bigham won.
 
In HD23B, DFLer Melissa Wagner did not win.
 
The results were about what you’d expect for special elections in these districts in typical years. There was no evidence of the Trump backlash that has led to big upset wins for Democrats elsewhere in the country. I don’t purport to know why we didn’t see that here.
 
But I’ll speculate a little. For a long time things have been going a lot better in Minnesota than in places like Alabama, Oklahoma, and Missouri. So maybe there’s not the same motivation for people who wouldn’t ordinarily turn out for special elections in those places, but did, to do so here – in part to make a statement about the crass, demented, misogynistic, racist, treasonous buffoon in the White House. Maybe.
 
Update: The paragraph above about the election results was dashed off in haste and needs qualification. The standard that is being used for special elections is how much they changed from the amount by which they went for Trump on that awful day in 2016. DFL performance improved from that by about 5 points in SD54, and by about 7 in HD23B. So, not like quite a bit of what’s been happening elsewhere in the country, but not insignificant, especially for special elections in the dead of winter in Minnesota.
 

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mncapitol2The election is next Monday, February 12. The DFL candidate is Melissa Wagner. From her website:
 

As you might guess for someone who has worked as a school social worker for 24 years, I am a big advocate for kids and education. Children in rural Minnesota deserve to get a world-class education: to have a great school experience, to be educated in safe, well-functioning schools, and to have every opportunity along their educational path that students do in larger cities…
 
The single best way we, as a community, can make sure that all our kids have that chance is though strong public schools that are well-integrated and supported in the community and, most importantly, focused on student success, not just test scores.

Jeremy Munson beat Scott Sanders in a GOP primary. If you look at his website, Munson is about what you’d expect, politically, for someone looking to be the right-wing legislative heir to Tony Cornish. Note the complete lack of supporting references for some of the claims that he makes.

 

There is also apparently a write-in candidate. You can read about that at Bluestem Prairie, here.
 

A couple of notes, neither of them meant to be taken as suggesting that any kind of complacency is in order. Democrats flipped another deep red state legislative seat yesterday, this time in Missouri. And GOP participation numbers in yesterday’s Minnesota caucuses were disappointing. For the GOP, that is.
 

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Minnesota-State-CapitolThe special elections (I’ll post about the other one tomorrow) are being held next MONDAY, February 12. I haven’t troubled to find out why they’re not on a Tuesday as usual. Busy.
 

Karla Bigham is the DFL candidate in Senate District 54. From her website:
 

Whether it was fighting to complete the Wakota Bridge, supporting funding for the Hastings Bridge, working to expand education programs in our schools, or ensuring our communities were safe — improving the quality of life of our residents was always my top priority. I will bring that same level of dedication and advocacy to the Minnesota State Senate. When making policy decisions, doing what best for the residents of Senate District 54 will always come first. By working hard to actively listen to all residents, and partnering closely with local governmental units, I will ensure that our communities are the best possible place for us all to live, raise our families, and start a business. Thank you!

Denny McNamara was a GOPer in the Minnesota House for quite a while. He left rather unexpectedly, under a cloud. Bluestem Prairie has comprehensive material on the realities of his campaign fundraising, this time around, here and here.
 
There’s also a Libertarian candidate, Emily Mellingen. And for some reason there’s another Republican, James E. Brunsgaard III, still listed on the SoS website. I haven’t looked into that, either. What’s important, as always, is DFL voter turnout.
 

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MN lege: Two DFL retirements, one GOP

by Dan Burns on December 11, 2017 · 0 comments

Rep. Susan Allen and Rep. Karen Clark are getting well-deserved encomiums for their stellar service. Both are in safe DFL seats, and I anticipate that there will be considerable interest among potential candidates. In fact, several jumped in immediately (see the linked article).
 

Rep. Abigail Whelan (R-Ramsey) will presumably be best-remembered for her get-with-Jesus speech on the House floor, last session. I don’t bash others’ religious beliefs or practices, however tempting a particular context may be. Make up your own mind.
 


 
Tough, red district, but the way things are going any Republican-held seat could be competitive, and having no hard-right incumbent will only help.
 

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stopwaronworkersA**holes. Hypocritical a**holes. Plain and simple.
 

Members of Minnesota’s two big public employee unions suffered a setback Thursday when a legislative panel voted down their tentative contract agreements.
 
The Subcommittee on Employee Relations rejected the tentative deals by a 6-4 party-line vote. Republicans opposed the contracts covering more than 30,000 state workers. Democrats supported the pacts…
 
Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, argued that the raises were too big and exceeded economic growth measures.
 
“I’m concerned that what we have here is increasing the payrolls of people who happen to work for government at the expense of people who don’t work for government,” Drazkowski said.
 
Other Republicans on the House-Senate panel, including its chair Rep. Marion O’Neill, R-Maple Lake, raised concerns about the impact of the pay raises on state agency budgets.
 
“We need to be fiscally responsible,” O’Neill said.
(MPR)

Assuming no improvement or further deterioration relative to February forecast projections and factoring in the eventual need to include funding for the state legislature, the $1.651 billion general fund surplus anticipated early in the year could become a $104 million deficit. The budgetary balance situation will become clearer when updated revenue collection information from MMB is released later this month…
 
A major contributor to the massive deterioration of the state general fund surplus is the large tax cuts enacted during the 2017 special legislative session. While relatively modest to begin with, the most rapidly increasing of these tax breaks and—over time—likely the largest is the freeze of the state business property tax. The biennial loss of revenue from the state business property tax freeze is projected to grow to over $400 million by FY 2026-27. Over the course of next decade, state revenues are projected to decline by approximately $1 billion as a result of the freeze.
(North Star Policy Institute)

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MN lege: The court battle over defunding

by Dan Burns on June 5, 2017 · 0 comments

mncapitol2Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton has defunded the Minnesota legislature, using a line-item veto, in response to “poison-pill” tactics used by legislative Republican majorities. The GOP is taking the matter to the state Supreme Court.
 

Mary Jane Morrison, professor emeritus at Mitchell Hamline School of Law, said a lawsuit against Dayton could be followed by another suit challenging the Legislature and whether its budget bills violated the clause of the state constitution that says bills must be limited to a single subject.
 
“When the court has to deal with one of them, they’ll take up both of them,” Morrison said. “The solution won’t necessarily be one that the Legislature will ever be happy about, because the single-subject clause is really clear.”
(MPR)

While Dayton’s line-item veto is the immediate cause of the constitutional crisis, flagrant violation of the single subject rule by the legislature is the real culprit…
 
The stripping away of the State Auditor’s powers was attached to a larger unrelated bill under the cloak of darkness. The same can be said about the legislature’s poison pill in the tax bill. But even if they were not hidden as the Republican legislative leaders contend, they still violated the letter if not the spirit of the single-subject rule. They also point to how leadership has failed to enforce germaneness rules that would keep policy and appropriation bills separate. Viewed in this context, the governor’s line-item veto was constitutionally under-minded. Yes, Dayton could have vetoed entire omnibus budget bills, but that would have triggered another political and constitutional crisis in terms of another governmental shutdown. No matter the choice Dayton faced, there was a constitutional problem.
 
Viewed in isolation Dayton’s line-item vetoing of the legislature’s funding is constitutionally wrong. He cannot use that veto to negate or undermine the authority of another constitutionally-explicit branch of the government—this is a major separation of powers issue. Yet if the only lawsuit filed is one by the legislature then that may be the decision the Minnesota Supreme Court is forced to bring. However, there needs also to be a lawsuit brought by legislators—and Senator John Marty is contemplating one—raising the single-subject rule to many of the omnibus bills passed this term. They should also join the State Auditor in her appeal to the Supreme Court. Why? If the Court is given the opportunity to rule on both the line-item veto and the single-subject rule then it would perhaps be able either to join the cases or resolve them in a way that defines the proper limits on what the legislature can do, thereby also drawing lines regarding what the governor can do. Defining the limits of the single-subject rule and the line-item veto would then also clarify the separation of powers issue.
(Schultz’s Take)

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minnesota_state_capitolI didn’t foresee this. If you ask me it’s brilliant.
 

Dayton added that, by signing the (tax cut) bill, he was protecting funding for the Minnesota Department of Revenue. Earlier he chastised Republican lawmakers for adding what he called a “poison pill” provision to a bill that would have eliminated all Minnesota Department of Revenue funding if it were killed, a move the governor described as a “reprehensible sneak attack.”
 
In response, Dayton used his power to eliminate spending for the House and Senate.
 
The gravity of that move wasn’t immediately clear but it’s certain to trigger a confrontation with GOP legislative leaders.
 
When asked about slashing legislative funding, Dayton told reporters, “Well, they can come back and get it restored …. we’ll find out how much money they have stashed away” in reserve accounts.
 
The governor said he would be willing to call a special session but only if lawmakers agreed to cut out provisions he still finds distasteful, including tax relief on tobacco products.
(MPR)

Actually, the worst thing in the bill in my estimation is the long term tax cut welfare for the rich inherent in the property tax changes for businesses.
 

The state revenue loss resulting from changes to the state business property tax in the tax conference committee report are likely to increase rapidly over time—for reasons described in a recent North Star article—and ultimately surpass the revenue loss associated with other tax cuts in the report. As the magnitude of that tax break swells in future years, the relief will shift from low-value to high-value businesses, and from Greater Minnesota to the seven-county metropolitan area.
(North Star Policy Institute)

Though the estate tax changes are loathsome giveaways to those least deserving, as well. And cutting taxes on tobacco products, despite those taxes’ demonstrated effect in reducing teen, and adult, smoking, is unconscionable.
 
I suspect that MN Party of Trump legislative leadership is on the phone, or videoconferencing or whatever, with ALEC as I’m typing this (7AM Wednesday), getting their instructions on what to do. There are a lot of wild cards here, and I’m not going to speculate on the outcome.
 

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MN lege: To the session’s end, Part 5

by Dan Burns on May 26, 2017 · 0 comments

Minnesota-State-CapitolThe article is a good round-up that goes into some detail. Your guess is as good as mine, as to whether Gov. Dayton will “say no to elements of it.”
 

Minnesota lawmakers left for home Friday after a four day of special session to approve the final parts of a new $46 billion state budget, which would increase spending in some areas and provide targeted tax cuts.
 
That package is headed to Gov. Mark Dayton, who is facing considerable pressure to say no to elements of it.
(MPR)

From Session Daily, more on the State Government Finance bill, and bonding bill, with links to spreadsheets and all.
 

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MN lege: To the session’s end, Part 4

by Dan Burns on May 25, 2017 · 0 comments

mncapitol2For some reason, people are huffy that the legislature has been missing its artificial “deadlines,” and legislators have a chance to actually carefully read and consider what they’re voting on, and people whose lives will be affected have opportunities to make their opinions known. I don’t see the big old calamitous problem with that.
 

After hanging around the Capitol all night Tuesday and not getting much done, legislators made some progress Wednesday afternoon and then took the night off.
 
Both the House and Senate voted on a tax cut bill and an education funding measure, but they still have to resolve some differences before sending them to the governor.
 
Other bills, including funding measures for health and human services and state departments, still need to be passed, and lawmakers still hope to pass a public works construction bill.
 
And as the House and Senate struggled to pass bills Wednesday, some DFL-leaning groups tried to put pressure on Gov. Mark Dayton to start over to try to get a better deal.
(MPR)

More on the education bill, which isn’t great to say the least, here, from Session Daily. Ditto on the transportation bill, here.
 
And more on some of those who are not pleased, from Twin Cities Daily Planet, here.
 

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