News Releases

Budget Bills Stalled in MN House

Minnesota Report

Yesterday, the MN House of Representatives was set to consider four Budget Bills, HF0013 Legacy Fund Budget Omnibus author Rep Leon Lillie (DFL-43B, North St Paul), HF0008 Agriculture Budget Omnibus Author Mike Sundin (DFL-11A, Esko), HF0007 Higher Education Budget Omnibus author Rep Connie Bernardy) and HF0006 Commerce/Energy authors Reps Zack Stephenson (DFL-36A, Coon Rapids and  Jamie Long (DFL-61B, Minneapolis). They commenced with HF0006 and after an extended tirade from House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt (R-31A, Crown) proceeded to debate a motion to re-refer the bill back to committee.

This discussion hinge mainly on the issue that the decision on this bill and the other subsequent 12 pending bills was made among a small group of people, had no public hearings and disallowed any participation from voices of the Minority. All of which are true and beg the question of these bills being decided on as we have called it a Star Chamber.

The result of the debate last night into the early morning hours was to lay all of the bills on the table.

Now, we have argued, and continue to argue these bills have not had a real hearing, although in some cases, have had informational hearings, without any action on them being allowed or voted on, because they are the result of the agreement of the Triumvirate, i.e. Governor Tim Walz (DFL-MN), House Speaker Melissa Hortman (DFL-36B, Brooklyn Park) and Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-09, Nisswa).

In an attempt to address these bills in regular order, there has been no legislative parliamentary tricks such as a call of a State Emergency and as a result the suspension of the State Constitution and House Rules. We think, it would behoove the House Leadership to reconstitute the various Conference Committees from the regular session, and pass these bills which are not able to be amended and voted on up or down in each legislative chamber.

With the end of the Fiscal Year coming June 30th and a Government Shutdown looming, the DFL House Majority should not believe the Republican House Majority will tire of the course they are currently on. This way there can be a public hearing, amendments can be offered and the will of the conferees considered if there is any need for appeasement this will at least provide some political cover with the general public.

State of MN Response to US Supreme Court Decision on ACA

Minnesota Report

Yesterday, the US Supreme Court on a 7-2 decision dismissed the case CALIFORNIA ET Al. v TEXAS ET Al. brought by a number of Republican State Attorney’s Generals in in opposition to the Affordable Care Act, (ACA) aka Obama Care, saying the plaintiffs lacked standing. While the Dissenting Opinion of the Justice Samuel Alito and joined by Neil Gorsuch argued the Court once again found a way wherethe Court has pulled off an improbable rescue” (of the ACA).

This ruling is a direct benefit to those enrolled in MNSure and MinnesotaCare in response, state leaders put out the following press release.

Statement from Minnesota State Officials on Supreme Court Ruling on Affordable Care Act

ST PAUL, Minn.— Nate Clark, Chief Executive Officer of MNsure; Grace Arnold, Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Commerce; Jodi Harpstead, Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human Services; and Jan Malcolm, Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Health issue the following statement:

“Today, the United States Supreme Court rejected a challenge to the Affordable Care Act.  This is a huge relief for the hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans who get health care coverage through the law – whether from Medicaid or MinnesotaCare, or if they purchase health insurance through MNsure.  

 “This year, because of actions by President Biden and Congress, more Minnesotans than ever will qualify for financial help that makes their health coverage more affordable when they seek a plan through MNsure. 

 “The ACA was created because no American should go bankrupt because of medical bills or be denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions.  Every Minnesotan benefits from the consumer protections built into the law. The ACA has helped lower the cost of health insurance, expanded access to quality health coverage in the state, and helped Minnesotans get the care they and their loved ones need for prevention and care.  

 “The COVID-19 pandemic has been a ruthless reminder that access to affordable, comprehensive health care is critical. Today’s Supreme Court decision means Minnesotans will continue to have access to life-saving care when they need it most.”

On Tap at The Legislature

Minnesota Report

The House and Senate both met at 12:00 pm yesterday. The House took up the issue of the Governor’s Executive Powers and again the DFL House Majority supported Governor Tim Walz (DFL-MN). We understand the Senate is planning to do so at the end of the Special Session. After the House session ended the Ways and Means Committee heard HF0013 (Lillie) Legacy Fund Budget Omnibus, HF0008 (Sundin) Agriculture Budget Omnibus, HF0007 (Bernardy) Higher Education Budget Omnibus and HF0006 Commerce/Energy (Stephenson/Long).

The major complaint rendered by the Republicans was about the Star Chamber decision-making process of these bills being decided on by the respective chairs and the Department Commissioners. The lack of inclusion of any public testimony or discussion by the minority in the process was of paramount concern.

In order for these bills to be acted on in regular order they need three days to have passed unless there is a suspension of the Rules and the Constitution. This means Thursday is the first day for potential action. We understand the Republican House members intend to offer a significant number of questions and slow the process down to a crawl. As one member said, “We’re not going to help them pass their bills.”

We understand each of the 13 bills are mostly agreed to, but these agreements are only between the three members of the Triumvirate, or as they are referred to disparagingly, the Tribunal, and the committee chairs. One sticking point is the off Ramp for evictions.

It looks like this will be a long Special Session.

Open Ramsey County Board Seat in 2022 Election

Minnesota Report

Ramsey County Commissioner Jim McDonough (DFL) announced on Facebook last week his decision not to seek reelection. Prior, to this announcement Mai Chong Xiong, Legislative Aide to St Paul City Council Member Dai Thao had announce her intention to run, but we are hearing a number of others names and many question Xiong’s capacity for the position.

Additional names include, Terri Thao (DFL), Candidate for Ward 6 City Council last election and was endorsed by McDonough, Chris Crutchfield (DFL) an attorney, currently the Deputy Director of Community Relations for Ramsey County Community Corrections, who if he were to be elected would need to leave his position and take a sizable pay reduction, and State Senator Foung Hawj (DFL-67, St Paul) who is in his third term of office.

We expect more names to follow.

 

The Meatpacking Cyberattack is Russian Coordination for Trump

National and Minnesota Report

If you haven’t heard the lasted Donald J Trump (R) pipe dream, he will be reinstalled as President by August. The latest cyberattack on JBS, a multinational Brazilian owned company, hits America right where it hurts just as grilling season is getting underway. This industry is not one people usually think of when their nice cuts of meat are in white pristine packages wrapped in clear plastic, but it is also the hotbed for COVID spread. In April, as many as 334,000 cases of COVID have occurred in this industry alone.

Now, not only being areas of susceptibility to an airborne virus they are subjected to a computer borne one. The Russian-based attack is intended to accomplish multiple missions at the same time. One, to foment fears in different parts of our economy from the petroleum and gas industry to now our food supply. Two, undermine the current administration’s credibility with the American people and three, foster a disbelief that things would be better under Vladimir Putin’s puppet, Donald J Trump.

These issues hit our state directly because of the meatpacking plants in Worthington and Cold Spring, Minnesota. Cyber-terrorism is alive and well and there are numerous other industries in which our state could experience more problems from oil refining to the utility grid, just to mention a couple.

This latest attack is not one past an administration has turned a blind eye toward.  In 2015, President Barak Obama took on the issue directly, Obama Calls for New Laws to Bolster Cybersecurity to which he was effectively rebuffed by the US Chamber of Commerce which dragged its feet hoping for a new administration and in January crafted the following letter to the National Institute of Standards and Technology, https://www.nist.gov/system/files/documents/2016/09/15/coc_rfi_response.pdf which shows their unwillingness to take the matter on directly or take any responsibility in advance.

Now, we are experiencing the aftermath of the lack of planning, development of an approach to making this a common business practice and witnesses to the wreckage created by a pure bottom-line approach to business.

State of Play on a Universal Budget Agreement.

Minnesota Report

Our conversations with different sides on negotiations for completing their work on the State Budget for 2021-2022 is that Higher Education, Commerce, Agriculture and the Legacy are close to being completed and all other committees are far apart.

The deadline of June 4th looms ahead but the path to reaching it seem clouded by muck and mire. The fact, of state employees receiving notices of pending lay-offs on June 1st, only heighten the showdown and set the stage for some type of monkey wrench to foster a stalemate.

The fence may be down at the State Capitol, but that doesn’t mean the fences have come down between the two sides in negotiations.

We often stress this fact, the Republican Party is the anti-government party and when they are in charge, they support Omnibus bills, which reduce government cost and when they are out of power the same group largely opposes government spending. Their support is solely based on where they sit.

We have criticized the process currently underway and believe rank and file legislators should do the same. Since, it is solely in the hands of Governor Tim Walz (DFL-MN) to call a Special Session, which he will be required to do by the State Constitution, because of his Executive Powers Authority, we believe he should make the call earlier. This way everything will be official and the Conference Committees can be reformed and working Groups done away with and the Open Meeting Law reapplied to the decision-making process. This will force public meeting and actual approval of the Conference Committee report, floor action and not just the will of the Triumvirate of Walz, House Speaker Melissa Hortman (DFL-36B, Brooklyn Park) and Senate majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-09, Nisswa).

Calling the Special Session for June 7th gives the legislature a week to do their work in the full light of day, or adjourning the session a week after it is called on the 14th does the same.

It’s Official St Paul, Will be Primarily Mask Free.

Minnesota Report

Today, St Paul Mayor Melvin Carter III made the Capitol City a freer place to live, work and breath. In the following statement he called for an end to the city’s mask mandate.

Here is the complete release.

Today, Saint Paul Mayor Melvin Carter signed Executive Order 2021-25 lifting the City of Saint Paul’s mask requirement. The lifting of the mask requirement comes following promising COVID-related public health metric trends amid ongoing vaccination efforts with Saint Paul-Ramsey County Public Health (SP-RCPH).

“Thanks to the heroic efforts of our health care providers, Saint Paul is poised to meet the benchmarks set by local public health experts in a matter of days,” said Mayor Melvin Carter. “But our work is not done; we urge all residents to continue taking precautions and to get vaccinated as soon as possible.”

ABOUT EXECUTIVE ORDER 2021-25

On May 14, following the statewide mask mandate lifting and amid ongoing efforts to increase vaccination rates across the city, the Mayor signed Executive Order 2021-21 requiring facemasks to be worn indoors in all city-controlled facilities and at all businesses licensed by the City of Saint Paul at all times when social distancing of at least 6 feet is not maintained, except for temporary removal of face covering when eating or drinking. This order also strongly encouraged all businesses to continue to require that all individuals wear a face covering indoors at all times when social distancing of at least 6 feet is not maintained. At the time of the order, just over 292,000 Ramsey County residents had received at least one dose of the vaccine.

As of June 1, according to data from SP-RCPH, 70.6% of Ramsey County residents ages 12 and older have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and case rates, positivity rates, and hospitalizations continue to decline deeply. While we have not yet reached the SP-RCPH vaccination goal of 55% of residents ages 16 and older receiving at least one dose of a vaccine in every zip code, vaccination rates continue to increase and local public health officials anticipate that with our ongoing vaccination efforts the one remaining zip code in which we have not yet reached this target (55130 with 52% vaccination rate as of May 28) will meet this goal in the coming week.

Following these promising trends, today’s Executive Order 2021-25 rescinds the previous order and lifts the mask requirement for city-controlled facilities and licensed businesses in the City of Saint Paul. All remaining and applicable executive orders and associated guidance issued by Ramsey County, the State of Minnesota and/or CDC relative to the wearing of face coverings continue to have full force and effect within the City of Saint Paul, including masking inside schools under the State’s Safe Learning Plan.

While they will no longer be required, masks are still encouraged in city-controlled facilities for unvaccinated visitors and employees. Private entities may still require masks if they so choose and City of Saint Paul employees will follow those requirements.

Outreach and vaccination work will continue in collaboration with SP-RCPH toward the goal of exceeding 55% vaccination rates to reach 70% vaccination rates in all zip codes with a focus on communities of color including people who have been disproportionately affected by COVID illness, hospitalization and death. Information on free vaccine availability can be found on the Saint Paul-Ramsey County Public Health website at ramseycounty.us/CovidVaccine and companion translated web pages.

Learn more about Executive Order 2021-25.

Wreath Laying Ceremony at Fort Snelling on Memorial Day

Minnesota Report

We attended the 6:30 am wreath laying ceremony at Fort Snelling on Monday. In attendance were Governor Tim Walz (DFL-MN) and US Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Tina Smith (D-MN). The solemn ceremony was highlighted by a beautiful rendition of two trumpets rendering taps.

 

Prospects of an Easy Budget Agreement Looking Less Likely, and Rank & File Legislators Should Be Angry

Minnesota Report

On the last day of session, Governor Tim Walz (DFL-MN), House Speaker Melissa Hortman (DFL-36B, Brooklyn Park) and Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-09, Nisswa) were all smiles at the press conference when they announced their Budget Agreement. Now as the first deadline occurs, it looks like not all of the committees will meet their obligation to have the fiscal part of their bills complete and may need to make a trip to the principal’s office or better yet the woodshed in order to get their work done. We understand the State Government Finance Bill and the Public Safety Bill are in this particular position.

We believe there are many reasons for the average legislator to be mad, and that is because they will not be called upon in the Working Groups to vote on the final Conference Committee reports. Right now, in addition tot decisions being made between leadership the Governor’s office and the Committee Chairs, the lack of public hearings and violation of the Open Meeting Law, which legislative committees have to adhere to but Working Groups, being informal, do not.

Now some pundits poorly speculate the overall leverage is in the hands of the state Senate, but truthfully it is not. Yes, there are far many more policy positions that the House has than does the Senate, but ultimately if the two sides go to loggerheads, then the Senate loses out on any opportunity to play a role in directing any of the Federal dollars, but it is a question if Governor Tim Walz (DFL-MN) can universally direct spending without empowering legislative language. To this we say its always better to ask for forgiveness rather than permission, spend away Governor.

Now, the policy positions are not limited to just the Republican opposition regarding police reform and public safety, clean car regulations, the rental assistance roll-out and expanded unemployment benefits. Rather, the list should include electronic pull tabs, the education savings plan, which Hortman refers to as a backdoor voucher system, forfeiture reform, chronic wasting disease, and fur trapping to name additional items and we recognize even more exist.

There also is a cathartic component that will need to occur with members who are wedded to some specific pieces of legislation. They will need to become reconciled with and this is the grieving process will ensue when they fail to prevail. So, the advocates will need to experience all of the stages of Grief including: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. The time it will take for this to occur will be a determining factor in how long before the Special Session ends.

Because there is a universality of the Triumvirate (Governor, Speaker and Majority Leader) and their acceptance of all policy positions effectively giving anyone person veto authority, and in spite of two parts having common cause, Governor and the House Speaker, they can do little to roll the Majority Leader.

It is clear, one part of the Republican strategy is to push things into 2022, through legislative agreement and then be addressed in the election year. This includes the federal funds, which could be significantly less, if the Governor is afforded unilateral spending authority.

So as we watch everything play out in phone calls and zoom meetings, we are not invited to, we will have our own challenges for gaining knowledge, but this by no means will me we lack understanding of what’s going on. Stay tuned.

One Wrinkle in the Ointment

Minnesota Report

The DFL House Majority and its respective committee chair are suffering from a dosage of fear factor and it stems from the failure of the majority to pass State Aid For Emergencies (SAFE) HF0445 back in February. The fact six member of the DFL Caucus refused tot vote for the bill of which five were either freshmen or sophomores show a distrust for senior members or that the disjointed block flexed the veritable muscles because of the small 70-vote majority margin.

The disrespect show to Rep Carlos Mariani (DFL-65B, St Paul) by Reps Esther Agbaje (DFL-59B, Minneapolis), Aisha Gomez (DFL-62B, Minneapolis), Hodan Hassan (DFL-62A, Minneapolis), Athena Hollins (DFL-66B, St Paul), Jay Xiong (DFL-67B, St Paul) and 5th term member Mike Sundin (DFL-11A, Esko) is palpable. It gives pause to chairs who need comfort in the fact, at minimum, they can get 68 votes.

This is one of the schisms that House Speaker Melissa Hortman (DFL-36B, Brooklyn Park) has to keep in consideration during negotiations.

Trump Polling Numbers in Key States Falter

National and Minnesota Report Yesterday, articles in the New York Times and the Washington Post spelled good news for the former Vice-President Joe Biden’s campaign (D). https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/25/upshot/poll-2020-biden-battlegrounds.html...

Senate Bonding Then and Now (2018 v 2020)

Minnesota Report Two years ago, the Republican controlled State Senate brought forward it’s Capitol Investment Bill, which failed to pass on a party line vote of 34-33, seven votes short of the 2/3rds majority of 41 votes. What is interesting I what the Republicans...

Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 Page

Minnesota Report On Friday, Governor Tim Walz (DFL-MN) along with Commissioner Jan Malcolm released the State of Minnesota’s comprehensive COVID-19 page on the Department of Health’s Website. Additionally, the MN House also has a page which provides more and...

Trump’s Continued Call for Hydroxychloroquine

National Report In spite of not having scientific support for his position Donald J Trump (R) continues to put forward his contention that the use of Hydroxychloroquine a drug for Malaria and Lupus and Erythromycin a drug for bacterial infections as a panacea to the...

Walz Executive Orders During Pandemic

Minnesota Report As we are in the midst of the second week of the Stay at Home Executive Order 20-20 more orders are coming from Governor Tim Walz (DFL-MN) to stipulate what options are available to our state’s citizens. Today, Executive Order 20-25 Authorizing Peace...

The Coming of the Four Horsemen

If you want to be memorable in Minnesota State Capitol politics it is good if you are referred to as something other than your name. It is often helpful when a term or a phrase can be applied to your, group, issue or initiative. If you want to be known as something...

NPR Censors Opposition Comments on RCV

The NPR show 1A ran a program on Ranked Choice Voting today, and Checks & Balances Publisher Shawn Towle sought a spot on the panel. When called back by producer Andi McDaniel he was informed the panel was full but could submit a comment through the voicemail...

Legislative Return/Special Session 2020

Minnesota Report We are hearing the legislature will likely be recalled for Special Session June 12th, which is just before Governor Tim Walz’ (DFL-MN) last peacetime emergency declaration is set to expire. In order to declare another one, he will need to receive...

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Alcohol From Restaurant to You

Minnesota Report  The House and the Senate have agreed to allow alcohol sales to be purchased from restaurants, during the COVID-19 crisis, but only beer and wine. The problem with this is with liquor stores still open the cost will be higher without an added benefit,...

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Caution is the Best Medicine

Minnesota Report As Donald J Trump (R) continues to discuss his preparation and planning, combined with his pressure to open up the United States for business again on May 1st, he does so in a potential conflict with the state’s governors. Here in Minnesota, he will...

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What to Expect from the Legislature Today?

Minnesota Report The agenda for the legislature is limited and focused on issues surrounding the COVID-19 Virus and there are a number of ways it is adversely affecting our state. A view of the times for consideration by the House Rules and Legislative Administration...

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