Politics in Minnesota
Updated: 16 min 58 sec ago
MADISON, Wis. — Republicans on the Legislature’s budget committee approved a plan Wednesday that would dramatically scale back the state Department of Natural Resources’ land stewardship program, arguing the program’s debt has ballooned and the state has enough land.
The Virginia governor’s race, one of this year’s marquee U.S. political contests, features Democrats painting Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli as an anti-abortion rights extremist bent on banning the procedure even in cases of rape and incest. Cuccinelli allies portray his opponent, Terry McAuliffe, as an insensitive husband who left his crying wife and newborn in a car to attend a political fundraiser.
Gov. Mark Dayton’s administration on Thursday for the first time floated an idea to House and Senate transportation negotiators for funding highway construction. Minnesota Department of Transportation Commissioner Charlie Zelle told the House and Senate transportation conferees that $300 million in trunk highway bonding would be a way to pick up the pace on improving the state’s transportation infrastructure.
The health and human services budget currently being hash out in conference committee relies on a change in the way it books revenue from existing surcharges on hospitals and health plans. That allows for a one-time infusion of $76 million for the next biennium.
Pay increases for legislators are a top end-of-session priority for Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk – by many accounts, right up there with key Senate positions such as property tax relief coupled with aid equalization for rural school districts, or sales tax hikes that would pay for exempting city and county governments from paying the sales tax themselves.
State lawmakers in recent months of have decried the lackluster performance of the electronic pull tabs that are supposed to pay the state's share of the new Minnesota Vikings stadium project. On Thursday Gov. Mark Dayton's administration offered a back-up funding plan to shore up the project.
An agreement has been reached on legislation designed to protect homeowners and reduce foreclosures. Representatives from the banking industry, social justice groups, and other interested parties were working out the final details on Thursday.
In an afternoon hearing of the taxes conference committee on Thursday, just one day before a self-imposed deadline to compete work on a final taxes bill that raises about $2 billion in revenue, DFL Senate Taxes Chairman Rod Skoe suggested that tax conferees meet with legislative leadership throughout the day to make sure they understands the budget agreement struck with Gov. Mark Dayton earlier this week.
Winkler said the bill would pass when the Senate has a majority of votes lined-up to vote for a $9.00 minimum wage.
The House passed its jobs and energy budget bill on Wednesday night 73-59. The bill has increased funding for a passel of economic development projects and also requires investor-owned utilities to produce 1.5 percent of their power from solar sources by 2020.
The House and Senate are at odds with each other in conference committee over raising the allowable truck weights for freight loads on Minnesota roads. In a proposal that pits the aggregate industry against the railroad industry, the Senate has proposed to increase weight limits for freight hauling trucks on state and local roads from the current 80,000 pound limit.
Sen. Katie Sieben, DFL-Newport, removed all controversial provisions from the omnibus elections bill when it came up for a vote on the floor Wednesday evening. The stripped down legislation passed unanimously.
With a quick swipe of his pen, Gov. Mark Dayton made Minnesota the 12th state in the nation to allow same-sex marriages as a crowd of more than a thousand watched on the front steps of the Capitol Tuesday.
While the public’s eyes were glued this week to the passage and signing of the gay marriage bill, most lobbyists were camped out in the Capitol well into the night tracking — or awaiting — the deliberations of numerous conference committees.
The budget deal that Gov. Mark Dayton and DFL legislative leaders announced on Sunday includes well over $2 billion in tax increases to boost spending on education, repay hundreds of millions in deferred aid to the state’s schools, and eliminate the state’s $627 million deficit. But the parameters of the deal leave much to be resolved by House and Senate budget conferees, most notably with respect to the taxes bill.
At the commencement ceremony last week for some 1,200 proud young scientists and engineers graduating from the University of Minnesota, several speakers reminded us that from these ranks in previous years came the job-producing creativity that helped nurture Medtronic, Cray Research, 3M, and Cargill, as well as life-enhancing innovations in agriculture, medicine and technology.
Legalization of same-sex marriage in Minnesota and across the country no more means that discrimination against gays and lesbians has ended than did legalization of mixed-race marriages for African-Americans in the 1960s. The same could be said for discrimination against women with the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act or against those with handicaps with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
What is the probable course of America’s national politics between now and the 2014 elections? Doug Sosnik, who served as political director in Bill Clinton’s White House, recently penned a memo with several astute observations about national political trends.
It didn’t get a lot of attention. It happened the same day as hearings on the Benghazi attacks and the announcement of a verdict in the Jodi Arias trial. But House Majority Leader Eric Cantor took a modest step forward last week in his plan to broaden the Republican agenda beyond budget cuts.
Chris Radatz left his family’s Winona County farm many years ago, but his heart remains close to farming. The chief lobbyist for the Minnesota Farm Bureau represents 30,000 farm families and other interested parties from 78 county and regional farm bureaus at the Capitol.