Minnesota Report

This election Donald J Trump (R) is the end all and be all focus of the 2020 Presidential Election, just as he was in 2018. Yesterday, he sparred with former Vice-President Joe Biden (D-PA) during their mutual visits to the Hawkeye State. Biden started the engagement by releasing his speech in the morning to media sources https://www.cnn.com/2019/06/11/politics/joe-biden-iowa-remarks/index.html. In the speech, the most touted line is, “I believe Trump is an existential threat to America.”

In response, Trump questioned Biden’s capacity for office saying, “I think he’s the weakest mentally and I like running against people that are weak mentally … The other ones have much more energy.

We contend, our point we made before, this is No Country for Old Men. The squabble sounds like two neighbors arguing in their backyards about mowing the grass around the trees that separate them. We hope the election for the highest office in the land, doesn’t come down to being thought of a battle between two mental midgets. Granted, Trump did carry the vote of the less educated.

This is not to say the situation of the 2020 campaign will change much, it will remain all about Trump and America’s love/hate relationship with him or people love to hate feelings toward him.

To this end, we are adopting the hashtag #Trumpbait, which will likely be the measure of the impact a specific policy position or political point makes and whether it results in a tweet from Trump. Its only natural.

So, the 2019-20 political standard of whether or not something in the Presidential election has weighed is it Trump tweets about it.

Ramsey County Commissioner Special Election

Minnesota Report

The filing period to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Blake Huffman (R) after improprieties surfaced with his non-profit development company started on June 4, 2019, and will continue until the end of business June 18th.

Currently, the field consists of Nicole Joy Frethem, Jodi L Hultgren, former State Rep Randy Jessup (R), Christopher X. Nguyen, Edwina Patterson, Rebecca Scholl, Steve Scott, Nick Tamble and Mark Voss.  Other names we have heard are Shoreview City Council Member Cory Springhorn and (DFL) former State Rep Marc Asch (DFL).

The DFL has set an endorsing convention for the day after filings close June 19th at the St Paul Painter’s Union in Little Canada. This will allow candidates to withdrawal prior to the Primary date.

It is worth noting, the filing dates for this race differ from those for St Paul City Council because those races do not have a Primary, due to Ranked Choice Voting. The filing dates for St Paul City Council Elections are June 30-August 13.

A September Special Session or One Earlier

Minnesota Report

As different problems arise from the 2019 Legislative Session, failure to pass an emergency insulin program, lack of a Bonding Bill and now the troubles for Minnesota’s Legislative Water Commission, which was formed in 2014, funded in this budget, but is set to expire July 1, 2019.

The main driver of the need for another Special Session is the insulin issue and the main point being no one should die over the lack of this long-standing medical treatment, but as in many other areas of health care, the price is going up sharply.

We don’t have any particular insight into the date of a Special Session, but the ability to call one rests solely in the hands of Governor Tim Walz (DFL-MN). Today, he is holding a panel discussion on the issue.

Lillehaug to Retire

Minnesota Report

State Supreme Court Justice David Lillehaug announces his decision to retire from the bench rather than seeking reelection in 2020. His announcement comes after a diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease. The announcement from Governor Tim Walz (DFL-MN) included the following:

“Justice Lillehaug is a brilliant legal mind and true public servant,” said Governor Walz. “For decades, he’s brought his deep constitutional knowledge and strong moral compass to nearly every constitutional issue facing Minnesota. I was sorry to learn of Justice Lillehaug’s anticipated retirement, and I thank him for his dedicated service to the people of Minnesota.”


Progress Toward a Special Session

Minnesota Report

Throughout the day we have been receiving notice of hearings for each respective side on a specific bill, but not for the full Conference Committee to have a public hearing. Yesterday and today, leadership has stepped in, mainly on the House side to assist in advancing the respective bills, because the policy provisions were far more significant on that side of the negotiations. Though logic would dictate a slower speed would warrant more precision.

The triumvirate of Governor Tim Walz (DFL-MN), Speaker Melissa Hortman (36B, Brooklyn Park) and Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-09, Nisswa) is now being referred to as the Tribunal. Good thing we are past the Ides of March.

In some cases, leadership had even made decisions on the particulars without the involvement of the respective chair even present during the process. This might be due to how strong the chair was in advancing their side or it could be a result of the chair’s relationship with their own leadership.

As we had mentioned before there were agreed to provisions which were green-lighted, areas of slight disagreement, which advanced with a bit of caution and full stop, no go provisions that were clearly red lighted.

As each side hold its hearing on the final form of the bills, many of the policy provisions are hitting the cutting room floor and will need to be resurrected next legislative session. Though like Senate Republicans attempted to reintroduce items vetoed last legislative session, when Republicans held full control, that dog won’t hunt.

Right now, the bills that are taking the longest are the Omnibus Health & Human Services and the Bonding Bill.

It will be interesting to see what order the bills are presented in since the Bonding Bill requires a super majority of 60%, 90 votes in the House and 41 in the Senate, one would think to start there would be a way to gauge the rest of the proceedings, and it is a lynchpin of the overall agreement.

We are hearing they are on bogging down on their path for the Special Session not likely be called for tomorrow Friday looks more probable, but if House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt (R-30A, Crown) doesn’t put up the 12 votes to suspend the Rules, then it will take three full days to get things done

The basic idea is the sooner they start the faster they’ll finish.

2019 Budget Agreement

Last night, Governor Tim Walz (DFL-MN), House Speaker Melissa Hortman (DF_36B, Brooklyn Park) and Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-09, Nisswa) announce a budget agreement for the 2020-21 legislative session. What we found most interesting was Gazelka’s characterization of negotiations, “It was a draw. That’s what we have here.”

The total package comes in at $48.3 billion in spending obligations, does Federal Tax conformity, but changes other collection to reflect a zero-tax increase, reduces the 2nd tier of income tax from 7.02% to 6.8 by 2022, provides 2% increases in education funding each year of the biennium, does not include a gas tax or license tab fees and reduced the Health Care Provider tax from 2% to 1.8% eliminating the sunset provision. To get to the finish line the budget reserve is tapped leaving $491 million. One significant salient point made by Gazelka, because of the vetos the last legislative session of the “Omnibus Prime Bill” there was more money in the Budget Reserve. Also, because of the lack of Federal Conformity, the state took in more money.

Minnesota government is set to grow about a half percent greater than the rate of inflation and provides funding for a multitude of state programs. The final agreement accounts for an increase in spending 5.8% over the 2019-20 budget. All sides agreed to a $500 million bonding bill with a large amount being spent for housing. Additionally, the leadership group agreed to the formation of a Blue-Ribbon committee charged with finding $100 million in health and human services cost saving by 2023.

As we learned in the press conference and had declared last week, we knew that only agreed to policy provisions will be allowed to advance. Hortman said the only bills that will pass are, “Only bills that are okay Sen Gazelka and okay with me.”

Now, the focus will be on the Conference Committees, We found it interesting when watching the committee proceeding, specifically in Health and Human Services, where Sen Michelle Benson (R-31, Ham Lake) flipped through her version of the bill and it was clearly recognizable where the highlights of green, yellow and red could be seen. We expect green was agreed to, yellow possible agreement, either once targets became known, or some tweaking of the policy language and red full stop.

As we are tracking this and the other Conference Committees the agreed to language is continuing to move forward and we expect they will make the floor in short order.

It is clear not all of the work will be done on-time though Walz a former football coach called that “overtime,”, and when asked when a Special Session would be Hortman said, she believed by Thursday this week.


($ in millions)
FY 2020-21 FY 2022-23
Ag, Housing & Broadband 59.511 13.900
E-12 Education 540.000 719.000
Economic Development 10.000 -5.900
Environment 13.780 7.900
Health & Human Services* -357.849 -557.210
Higher Education 150.000 150.000
Public Safety 125.000 150.000
State Government 63.374 61.418
Transportation 93.454 1.352
Taxes 0.000 0.000
Bonding Debt Service 27.320 49.093
Vulnerable Adults 30.849 24.210
Others Bills 4.471 4.300
*This reflects increased spending, offset by health care access fund resources of 4270 million in FY 20-21 and $514 in FY 22-23 an$142 million from the Premium Security Account in FY 20-21

The Differences Between a Regular and Special Session

Minnesota Report

In a regular session, the legislature proposes and the governor disposes. It is the same in a special session, but the initiation is where it differs because the governor decides when the legislature is called back and that is a leverage point. In 1998, Governor Arne Carlson (R-MN) waited three weeks before he called the legislature back. In 2010, Governor Tim Pawlenty (R-MN) the legislature was called back the next day to pass the budget and bills that were finally agreed upon. In 2011, Governor Mark Dayton (DFL-MN) held off until 3 weeks after the start of the new fiscal year to call the legislature back into session while state parks and non-essential state services were closed.

So, timing becomes important and looking reflectively at other special sessions we can see how different approaches occurred.

The different perspectives we have in divided government create a contextual conflict because since each side has its own election certificates, they feel emboldened by their philosophies that got them where they are. Republicans as the anti-government party like to prove the government is inefficient and not as productive as the private sector. DFLers who carry the support of many of the state’s labor unions, particularly, AFSCME, MAPE and Education Minnesota which have interests in ensuring employees are duly compensated for their work and the workplace a is a safe and constructive environment.

The philosophical differences between the parties is where the tension exists. Republicans seek to stem growth in the public sector and create structural impediments to allowing the government to flourish. While DFLers seek a means to respect the work from the public sector and create more effective models for the delivery of public services. These perspective differences set the stage for the fundamental disagreement.

Right now, the likelihood of a special session is higher than the legislature finishing on time, but there still are three more days for the work to be done.

Defining Success Legislative Style

Because Minnesota has divided government there are two distinctively different manners of defining success. Republican success will be defined if they hold down governmental spending and establish limits on future growth areas, while DFLers will trumpet improvements in the delivery of services and then a number of people helped by government moving forward.

Structuring a Deal in Budget Negotiations

Minnesota Report

When we listened to House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt (R-31A, Crown) discuss the ongoing budget negotiations, of which he is not a participant in the discussions, we found it interesting that he declared his assessment of where the state can go based on a sophomoric calculation, he said, the budget could be passed with a 7.3% increase with any need for new revenue from taxation.

We have thought similarly, but to do so would mean significant raiding of the state’s cash reserve accounts. This is a common Republican approach of spending one-time money, and bringing down the reserves as a resource option, which puts the state in a vulnerable position in the long-term should an inevitable economic downturn occur.

If you listen to Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-09, Nisswa) and their fixed position it is a 5% Budgetary increase from 2018-19. But to be more honest it should be a based on the way that things used to be advanced and it should be based on a doubling of the 2nd year of the biennium and then the various percentages should be determined. When we look at the idea of 5% it would be largely consumed just by the Education portion of the budget which seeks to provide an increase of 2% each year of the budget.

If with all tax positions retained Governor Tim Walz’ (DFL-MN) comes in at an 8.1% over 2018-19 then a worthy negotiated point would be the split the two sides down the middle, but again the starting point should be from the doubling 2019 figures and the result would be a 6.55% increase. Which is short of Daudt’s declaration and leaves untouched the Budget Reserve and the Cash Accounts.

This is a more open and honest approach to budgeting and allows for corrections to be made in 2020 when legislators return to St Paul and two other quarter revenue reports are known.

Additionally, on the policy side, we would then expect all agreed to positions to pass as already have been happening in the Conference Committees and the language in dispute will not be dealt with. One humorous note is when we watch the Conference Committee proceedings and hear Republicans Chairs attempt to advance positions past from last legislative session and then vetoed by Governor Mark Dayton (DFL-MN) they must think people are downright stupid when they say, well it passed last year so the issue should logically be advanced. No, what is being discussed is legislation passed under Republican control and is not acceptable to DFL House members.

Busuri Reneges on Pledge Not to Run

Minnesota Report

We were in conversation with appointed St Paul Ward 6 City Council Member Kassim Busuri yesterday morning when we learned he would be filing to seek the seat rather than adhering to the pledge he original made, not to run when he was originally appointed February 1st. His reasons for seeking the seat reflect his experience in the office, it demands, the areas he would like to improve in his Ward and the caliber of the candidates seeking the position.

His entrance, as a Somali candidate will expand the diversity of the field which includes three Hmong candidates Tony Her, Terri Thao and Nelsie Yang, Alexander Bourne an African American, all of whom sought the DFL endorsement, and Danielle Swift, who has the endorsement of the Green Party.

With the lack of a Caucasian in the field, especially after the seat was held by Dan Bostrom for 20 years, it will be interesting to see where the past Bostrom supporters line up. Busuri is claiming to have secured support from this constituency.

With his decision, we will wait to see if the City Council can take action and rescind the appointment.

Rep Hamilton’s Enrollment in Medical Marijuana Causes Lost of Gun Rights

Minnesota Report

Earlier in the legislative session, we discussed with Rep Rod Hamilton (R-22B, Mountain Lake) his enrollment in the Medical Marijuana program and he relayed how he was going to sign up but hadn’t as of yet, because he had moved to a new address and didn’t have a bill to reflect the change. Today, he informed us he had sign up and now he was informed he had lost his ability to retain his Conceal & Carry permit. He said, “I lost my 2nd Amendment Rights.”

His enrollment occurred last Thursday and he was informed of the change in his status sometime later.

Because Marijuana is a Schedule One narcotic it is an illegal substance, because:

Established under the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970, the Controlled Substances Act sets the guidelines for determining the legal medical uses for different classes of drugs. From these guidelines came five distinct drug classifications or schedules that make up the narcotics lists:
Schedule 1 – narcotic drugs with no known acceptable medical use that carry a high abuse potential
Schedule 2 – narcotic drugs that have medical uses but carry a high abuse potential
Schedule 3 – narcotic and non-narcotic drug combinations, such as codeine and aspirin which have a moderate abuse potential
Schedule 4 – narcotic and non-narcotic drug combinations, which have a low abuse potential
Schedule 5 – narcotic and non-narcotic drug combinations, which have a limited abuse potential
Yesterday, Hamilton brought this issue before the Health & Human Services Conference Committee, of which he is a member and we understand the matter is being taken very seriously.
He is quite disturbed by the fact that he can seek medical treatment for his Multiple Sclerosis condition with Medical Marijuana, and in turn because of Minnesota’s acceptance of the Federal Schedule he losses his gun rights.
We have discussed his forthcoming response and he said Minnesota needs to no longer recognize the Federal Schedule and the restoration of his gun rights will also need to be a part of legislative action.
Because Governor Tim Walz (DFL-MN) has said he will sign Martijuana legislation if it reaches his desk, this issue is a perfect storm to address a portion of the legalization question, iwth the Federal Schedule and 2nd Amendment Rights, of which is something Walz is a staunch defender.


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