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Minnesota Legislature

The final scrum in St. Paul

by JeffStrate on May 16, 2017 · 0 comments

DFL strategist/consultant Darin Broton and DFL statesman Tim O’Brien take measure of the coming proceedings at the Minnesota Capitol.  The legislators need to finish their work come Monday May 22.  But it’s never over until its over when the special session remains an option.  This Broton/O’Brien discussion is an exclusive, on-line, Democratic Visions Channel presentation.

 

Democratic Visions is hand made by unpaid lefty volunteers from Edina, Eden Prairie, Minnetonka, Hopkins and Bloomington. Our program is not financially supported or endorsed by any political party, political action committee or special interest group.

 

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mn_capitolThis is about some pickup opportunities in SE Minnesota. Rich Wright is running in SD26.
 

I am running for the State Senate to invest in education, promote economic growth and opportunities for all, and to ensure all of us have access to affordable high quality healthcare.
 
These are ambitious goals with complex solutions that require effort and cooperation from all of our leaders.

The current occupant, Sen. Carla Nelson (R-Rochester) has a mixed record, and is even a member of something called the “Purple Caucus.” I gotta say that though the idea of that is not without merit, any practical impact wasn’t very prominent during these past two sessions. At R+1 this district is begging to be flipped.
 
Bev Cashman is running in HD 24A.
 
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Minnesota legislative elections news 3/17/16

by Dan Burns on March 17, 2016 · 4 comments

mncapitol2These updates do not purport to include everything. Not even close.
 
Kent Lestrud is running in House 15A. This happens to be my home district, and I know for a fact that it is winnable for the DFL, as Gail Kulick did indeed win here in 2008, and Joe Walsh came very close in 2012. The incumbent, Rep. Sondra Erickson (R-Princeton), is a politically ossified Reagan-era conservative who has long since ceased to be a good fit for this, or any, district.
 

Sean White is running in 47A. The incumbent, Rep. Jim Nash (R-Waconia), is a first-termer and therefore hasn’t much of a legislative record yet (though what there is is very conservative), but it’s perhaps noting that he was part of Carly Fiorina’s presidential campaign team in Minnesota.
 

LeAnn Weikle is running in 58A. The incumbent is Jon Koznick (R-Lakeville). Like Nash he’s a right-wing first-termer, but unlike him he dug Marco Rubio for President. It’s mildly interesting to scroll down on that linked page and see who else did. If you somehow missed it, Rubio suspended his campaign Tuesday night after several awful, humiliating weeks as the GOP establishment’s, and therefore corporate media’s, last-ditch pick to Stop Trump.
 
Comment below fold.
 
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The Hidden Cost of Low-balling Our Legislators

by Invenium Viam on October 27, 2015 · 2 comments

running for houseA couple of months ago I was talking to a fellow activist about some possible future open seats in the state legislature. “Maybe you should run,” he said. I told him I’m not cut out for public office — I don’t suffer fools gladly. “Besides, I’d have to take a pay cut. You should run,” I suggested.

 

“Hey, maybe I will. I can survive on thirty-one thousand a year! I’ve been doing it forever!”

 

While that comment got an immediate laugh from those present, including me, it kind of bothered me. Any good joke has a nugget of truth in it. And while my activist friend would make a superb legislator, not every good potential candidate can survive on a legislator’s salary. It’s understood that nobody gets rich working as an activist for a cause like clean water, or voting rights, or women’s health — but those jobs are entirely voluntary. They are held by people who care passionately enough about their cause to sacrifice their economic well-being to some degree, at least for a period of time. But I’d imagine that bright youngsters with massive school loans might think twice, or even three times, before running for the state house.

 

I wonder: are we so stingy about compensating our elected leaders that we are sacrificing the best and brightest among us for careers in public service? What creative energies are we missing out on, what bold new ideas for solving problems are never brought to light? We are constantly being told by the opposition that government should behave more like business. Business does everything it can to find, and then compensates to retain, the very best people it can get — the A-players — as the single most important tool for on-going success. Government has to compete in the same marketplace for the best people it can get, but that principle only seems to count for direct hires, not for elected leaders. Aren’t the state’s elected leaders more important?

 

Economic self-sacrifice is not a criteria that we openly demand of our legislators, but it is something that we impose on them. Not only do we ask our legislators to sacrifice a portion of their regular annual income when the legislature is in session, but then we underpay them for the work they do while they are working for the benefit of the people who elected them. At the same time, we put them through a grueling application process, with dozens of often hostile or challenging interviews in candidate forums and town halls over the course of several months, to ferret out the best and the brightest. The fact that so many people are willing to make that economic sacrifice is a credit to their character and a testament to how much our society values the institution.

 

While some argue that $31,000 for four months of work is adequate, even generous, that statement like so many others is entirely self-referencing. It doesn’t take into account the opportunity cost of an individual being able to dedicate his or her efforts entirely to a single career path. I’m sure it must be the case that business opportunities, promotions, high-visibility/high-reward projects, etc. have been lost because a given legislator couldn’t be counted on by their employer due to the four-month work hiatus imposed every year by legislative work. So it doesn’t take into account how much a legislator might have to sacrifice simply in order to serve.

 

At the same time, that argument doesn’t take into account the fact that constituents have need of representative services year-round. Accordingly, the quality of public service work by legislators across the state is inconsistent. Some legislators attempt to live on a $31,000 annual salary so they can perform constituent services, such as mediation and advocacy. One legislator I spoke with said she considers her advocacy and constituent work to be equally as important as her session work. But since she can’t do constituency work while the legislature is in session, she has to do it during the rest of the year. Work, by the way, for which she receives not one dime of compensation according to those who think the 31K salary is entirely for four months of session work.

 

It’s important to note that not every legislator even does constituency work. When the legislative session is over, some return to their jobs as a country lawyer, or real estate broker, or insurance salesman, and allow any constituents who might need help to fend for themselves. Of course, they have a right to do the job that way, since a $31,000 annual salary would be comparable to a entry-level office staff position at 3M or General Mills, and since session work might already impose a pay cut on them, not to mention any opportunity costs incurred. But doesn’t it then follow that some Minnesotans enjoy much better representation than others do — including a fuller access to available government services and resources? And isn’t that better representation and fuller access based entirely on how a particular legislator happens to view the duties of their office; in short, how dedicated they are to the people they serve? Isn’t it inherently unfair, if not irrational, that some Minnesotans enjoy better representation than others do based on how willing, or how able, their elected leader is to endure economic sacrifice? Accordingly, is that a question voters should be asking of our legislators during campaigns, whether they intend to perform constituent services off-session, as a measure of how dedicated they are? Is it fair to ask a candidate as a criteria of election whether they intend to dedicate themselves entirely to the people they serve during the period they hold office, or only for that portion of the year that the legislature is in session? Should a candidate’s answer influence how a voter votes?

 

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nemn(Update: Rob Ecklund won.)
 
It’s for the seat left vacant in 3A by the recent passing of Rep. David Dill. I wrote about the DFL candidates here. The general election will be on Dec. 8.
 

MN Progressive Project does not, as an organization, endorse DFL candidates against one another. Individual contributors can do so on the blog, as long as we’re explicit that we’re typing only for ourselves. On that basis, I hereby note that Bill Hansen is a strong progressive, and the only DFL primary candidate who opposes sulfide mining, and if I lived in HD 3A I would crawl to the polling place on my hands and knees, if necessary, to vote for him today.
 

When the vote tally page shows up on the MN Secretary of State website, probably later this morning, I’ll link it here. Here’s the results page. Of course there won’t be numbers on it until after the polls close at 8PM. I would guess/hope that we’ll know who won by 10:30 or so, if not sooner. In the past results from up north have been known to really come slowly, but I think that’s been less of an issue the past couple of years. No guarantees, though.
 

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Minnesota Legislature starts to invest

by Dan Burns on April 4, 2014 · 0 comments

capitolsculptureI would have preferred that a much bigger chunk of the current surplus be used for this, and that that would go for future funding as well. Among other things, that strategy is infinitely preferable to the conservative let’s-blow-it-on-welfare-for-the-wealthy approach. The evidence for the failure of the latter is beyond conclusive; it’s absolute.
 

State lawmakers are taking another big chunk out the state’s $1.2 billion budget surplus. The Minnesota House passed a $323 million funding measure Thursday night on a vote of 70 to 59, following nearly nine hours of debate.
 
The bill provides money for schools, home health care workers, road repair, rural broadband and other initiatives.
(MPR)

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capitolsculptureBelieve it or not, Minnesota is one of the states with “no law on the books.”
 

But Ohio has no law on the books preventing alleged or convicted rapists from seizing parental rights of the children they may have conceived through rape. That could soon change. (In mid-January), the Ohio House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill, inspired by (Ariel) Castro, that would prevent this scenario in the future. And Ohio isn’t the only state to take action on this. If Ohio enacts the bill, it will join a number of other states that have done so in the last year: Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, and Illinois. There is also a bipartisan bill pending in the House that would give financial incentives to states that pass these laws.
(Mother Jones)

Getting something passed into law, this session, should be very straightforward. It hasn’t happened already because lawmakers haven’t thought of it. It’s not obvious, that even rapists would have that kind of gall. But some do, mostly hoping to hinder their own prosecutions: the vile idea is that they’ll drop parental rights claims if the victims drop charges.
 
One of my colleagues here blogged about this, at Penigma, way back in May. I’m bringing it up now because the new Minnesota legislative session starts in 22 days. (There are already committees meeting, laying groundwork, but I don’t know whether this falls under any of their purviews. In fact, hundreds of bills have already been introduced in the House, and for all I know right now, one of them deals with this. I‘ve seen nothing to that effect, though. I‘ll look, later. I suspect that a great many of them are clownish Republican grandstanding.)
 

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Get going on structural tax reform in Minnesota

by Dan Burns on January 24, 2014 · 1 comment

capitolsculptureThe whole article is worth clicking and perusing.
 

The year just ended was a momentous one. A decade of declining public revenue was reversed , with renewed investment in education, infrastructure, worker training, and healthcare. Furthermore, the dollars needed to fund these public assets were generated in a way that will reduce the regressivity of Minnesota’s tax system. However, despite the far-reaching changes made on the tax and spending front in 2013, some heavy lifting remains before us in 2014…
 
Beyond dealing with the projected budget surplus, policymakers should begin deliberations on structural tax reform. Minnesota’s tax system is riddled with exclusions, exemptions, credits, and various other special provisions that add complexity and reduce efficiency and transparency. Elimination of these special provisions will increase the size of state and local tax bases, which will in turn allow for a reduction in tax rates without reducing public revenue. More importantly, thoughtful pruning of unproductive tax preferences will make the tax system more efficient and conducive to economic growth.
(MN2020)

The article goes on to note how useful “consensus between progressives and conservatives” could be. Presumably the reference is to conservative DFLers and the less extreme Republicans. There’s no point in wasting any time with the crazies. Heck, when Rep. Mary Franson (R-Alexandria) is probably facing a challenge from the right…(!!)
 

We don’t need any Republicans on board, in order to get going on some structural tax reform. Unfortunately, we do need a handful to get a serious bonding bill passed, and their price will presumably be ridiculous, and could extend to the entire legislative agenda.
 

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Dayton line item vetoes in Legacy bill

by Dan Burns on May 24, 2013 · 0 comments

imagesqtbnANd9GcRORdjmczW59x3XD3e1dhkl3qzVbdnJxhWhMjpubNJkTxQ0f-P3I wrote before about the to some degree opposing views regarding the outdoors portion of Legacy funding. Some legislators wanted some of it spent in the metro, and on an invasive species mitigation project. Another faction insisted upon adhering entirely to the recommendations of the Lessard-Sams Council, which lean strongly to the acquisition and management of lands outstate. Governor Mark Dayton was kind of caught in the middle, and seems to have gone for political expediency.
 

Two outdoor projects in the Legacy bill passed by the Legislature have been line-item vetoed by Gov. Mark Dayton: one which provides funding for habitat in the metro area and the other which targets aquatic invasive species. The governor says he responded to citizen pressure to drop funding for the two items…
 
Dayton’s veto message acknowledges he made a deal with legislative leaders near the end of the session to approve the two items. But he immediately received mail and phone calls from outdoor and conservation groups saying he was betraying a long-standing promise to respect the Council’s decisions.
 
(MPR)

I’m not sure how politically adroit stiffing the metro actually is. I kind of suspect that Dayton intends to make up for that, one way or another, next time around.
 

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SOLAR_ENERGY_IN_ITS_FINEST_FORMUpdate: It passed the Senate today, but apparently was amended. So it’s headed to conference committee, now.
 
One issue that hasn’t had a lot of ink, this session, is Minnesota’s long-term energy policy. There are companion bills; HF956 passed the House and SF901 was awaiting a full Senate vote. But it looks as if the House plan is what is now going forward in the Senate; that’s good news as the Senate bill was weaker. HF956 is a big long thing; I’m noting lines 22.32-23.7. “Eligible Energy Technologies” are renewables. Nuclear is not included.
 

Eligible energy technology standard. (a) Except as provided in paragraph (b), each electric utility shall generate or procure sufficient electricity generated by an eligible energy technology to provide its retail customers in Minnesota, or the retail customers of a distribution utility to which the electric utility provides wholesale electric service, so that at least the following standard percentages of the electric utility’s total retail electric sales to retail customers in Minnesota are generated by eligible energy technologies by the end of the year indicated:
 
(1) 2012 12 percent
(2) 2016 17 percent
(3) 2020 20 percent
(4) 2025 25 percent

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