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.
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|
|Health & Human Services*||-357.849||-557.210|
|Bonding Debt Service||27.320||49.093|
|*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|
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.
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.
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.
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:
Schedule 2 – narcotic drugs that have medical uses but carry a high 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
People were told Sunday negotiations would continue, last night, Governor Walz (DFL-MN), House Speaker Melissa Hortman (DFL-36B, Brooklyn Park) and Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-09, Nisswa) met to discuss the stalled budget negotiations. This occurred after each had spent the day together fishing in Albert Lea on Saturday for the Governor’s Fishing Opener. The results of the meeting show no signs of changing from the current direction. The house is continuing to turn up the pressure and provide a less congenial picture of the proceeding.
The House DFL side put out the following information in their release at 9:45 pm.
The House, Senate, and Governor’s office concluded negotiations tonight without an agreement on budget targets. The Republican-controlled Senate has yet to make a substantial offer in negotiations.
House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler released the following statement:
“Republican tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy are robbing Minnesotans of economic success and opportunity. House DFLers are waiting for Senate Republicans to move from their destructive budget’s starting position, actually make an offer, and get serious about compromise. Tonight it looks like an extreme Republican tax position is holding up budget talks. We have put forward an honest budget that makes needed investments to improve the lives of Minnesotans. We’re continuing to wait for Senate Republicans to make a real effort at compromise.”
Included were three documents.
The results of the University of Minnesota Regents selection was announced by voice vote, but no documentation was available from the floor yesterday. As we now know, Mike Kenyanya was selected as the Student Regent, Jaynie Mayeron 5th Congressional District, Mary Davenport, and Kao Ly Ilean Her At-Large. It is important to note the At-Large seat were voted on based on regionalization Davenport is from Greater Minnesota and Her the Metropolitan area.
We understand there will be a report in the House Journal, but we thought the actual tabulation was worth seeing by the legislative body and by the respective party. These are the final results after the legislators were allowed to change their original votes.
Minnesota External Opinion
In the past, we have agreed with the Minnesota Voters Alliance in their opposition to Ranked Choice Voting and appreciated their willingness to take the issue all the way to the Minnesota Supreme Court which allowed the flawed system to be used. In this case, we strongly disagree and do believe the state of Minnesota can segregate the Presidential Primary electorate based on party preference. Minnesota is not a party registration state, but the identification of which party ballot a person casts is a worthy piece of information when trying to discern what the local, regional and statewide party preference is. Because the participation in a Primary Election is never as large as a General Election, this should be viewed like a poll, a snapshot in time. Also, because the allocation of delegates, which are representatives of our state at a national level, to at least the Democratic National Convention could be affected by these numbers in lieu of a Presendtial Straw Poll on Precinct Caucus night, we support this idea. In fact, we have advanced this concept for over two decades.
For the record, we have avoided editing this submission, because it is not our offering.
Secretary of State Simon Wants to Continue Tracking Your Party Preference in Minnesota’s Presidential Primary
Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon has identified an error of his own making and is now proposing a solution that is built on further institutionalizing the fundamental problem itself.
With the full support and encouragement of Secretary Simon, the Minnesota Legislature changed the law in 2016 to allow political parties to conduct their presidential primary selections (during March of presidential election years) using the state election system. Previously, the Democrats and Republicans conducted caucuses and managed their own internal affairs.
Mr. Simon, however, insisted on entwining party politics with public elections and drove the legislature to adopt the current mishmash of laws and rules that puts the Statewide Voter Registration System (SVRS) database right in the middle. This ill-advised injection of political operations into the election system corrupts its sole, proper purpose which is to keep track of who is eligible to vote (not whom they vote for), when they vote, along with their methods of voting such as in-person, mail-in, or absentee.
Specifically, election judges are currently tasked with handing you a Republican or Democrat ballot, whichever is requested in the polling place, and the election system keeps track of which party you selected.Thus, there is a permanent, public record of your party preference stored along with other public voter information. That is the “privacy” Mr. Simon has been all in favor of since the beginning.
Now comes along Mr. Simon (Rochester Post Bulletin op-ed, May 1, 2019) wearing a new mantle of “doing everything possible to protect the privacy of your vote.”Contrary to what he promoted in 2016, Simon now says your party choice should be removed from the “public list,” the compilation of voter information widely distributed to anyone who pays $46 for a computer disk provided by his office. Big deal. That is doing almost nothing to protect your privacy, let alone doing “everything possible.”
During court proceedings in the ongoing Minnesota Voters Alliance lawsuit against Mr. Simon, he has claimed the authority to reveal, or conceal, as he chooses, information that is not on the public list. So, removing your party preference from the public list will leave him in complete control of disseminating that information to his political friends, your employer, your neighbors, or others of his choosing. When the Secretary says he wants to “protect” the privacy of our votes, we need to understand he means he wants to “control” the privacy of our party preferences.
Here is Mr. Simon’s “fix” for the damaged presidential primary system he helped create: keep using the election system for political party purposes, retain the permanent tracking of your party choice, put the information under his control for handing out to his friends and political associates, and mandate giving it to the political parties.
Mr. Simon’s fakery on this matter is just a continuation of the partisan onslaught of corrupt election bills he and his allies have flooded the Minnesota House with during this session: felon voting, driver’s licenses for illegals, 16-year-old registration, forcing landlords to promote registration to their tenants, and dozens more. All of these proposals have the singular purpose of increasing voting in Democrat precincts and constituencies while expanding the ease with which ineligible persons may vote without repercussion.
The Secretary’s longstanding history of refusing to comply with public disclosure laws, ignoring evidence of ineligible voting from official sources, spurning legislative inquiries, and making misleading claims about the integrity of the election system establish his personal untrustworthiness.
So his perverted concern about the burdensome administration costs (“$110,000 in Rochester alone”) caused by the presidential primary scheme he spawned comes as no surprise. If he wanted to get taxpayers out from under those expenditures, he would propose a return to the previous system in which the political parties spent their own money on selecting a presidential candidate. That would be the ideal solution for protecting voters’ privacy.
Short of that, a simple change to the law would be sufficient: do not track which party’s ballot a voter selects in the presidential primary. No tracking equals full privacy.
In any case, the Secretary of State, and especially Steve Simon, should never have the authority to disclose your party preference to anyone, including the political parties. With anything less, the privacy of your vote is not protected. It is violated.
Andrew E. Cilek
Minnesota Voters Alliance
– an election integrity watchdog group
Today, on the House floor House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler (DFL-46A, Golden Valley) announced there will be a joint convention between the House and Senate for the selection of University of Minnesota Regents. The selection will include the student regent, the 5th Congressional District Regent, and the two At-Large Regents. During the announcement, Winkler did not set a date but stated he would extend the invitation to the Senate.
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