2019 Legislative Session Opening

Minnesota Report

The first steps in the legislative process each session is the installation of leadership and staff followed by temporary rules. Normally, this is a pro forma process, because the decisions on these questions were largely made in the results of the election.

In the Senate, everything moved forward as expected. Because Republicans hold a 34-32 vote majority (pending a Special Election in Senate District 11) they hold total control, yes, there were questions by the Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk (DFL-03, Cook) about the composition of the Senate Committees and the large number of majority members compared to the minority members when the margin between the two sides is not so vast. Well, the lesson here is one well known, To the Victor Goes the Spoils and in this case, the spoils are the ability to write the rules.

In the House, the bulk of the activity was mostly expected. In the Speaker’s election Rep Melissa Hortman (DFL-36B, Brooklyn Park) received the bulk of her caucuses support. Rep Robert Bierman (DFL-57B, Apple Valley) was absent due to illness and Rep Alice Hausman (DFL-66A, St Paul) also said she was feeling ill, and missed the vote. Many thought, because Hortman had reassigned Hausman from Chair of the Capital Investment Committee to Housing, due to her decision to negotiate with the Republican Majority on the Bonding Bill against the wishes of Hortman, last session.

Additionally, the Four Horseman, Reps Steve Drazkowski (R-21B, Mazeppa), Tim Miller (R-17A, Prinsburg), Calvin Bahr (R-31B, East Bethel) and Jeremy Munson (R-23B, Lake Crystal) were joined by Rep Eric Lucero (R-30B, Dayton) in passing on the vote for Rep Kurt Daudt (R31A, Crown).

Later during the debate on the Temporary Rules Daudt threw a wrench into the works by challenging the proposed Rules as creating a black hole for a public view of legislation when a change in the process allows bills to be moved between committees not by actions on the house floor, but rather in the Ways and Means Committee. One clear message Daudt is getting, loud and clear is you may have a microphone on the floor, but not the votes to carry your voice far beyond the chamber.

We have a scheduled interview with Ways and Means Chairman Lyndon Carlson (DFL-45A, Crystal) on Friday and we will be able to flesh out the details of the new process during that time.

Stay tuned for the Carlson Interview.

Senate District 11 Special Election Update 01/09/2019

Minnesota Report

Last night, the Republican Senate District 11 Central Committee met and endorsed Rep Jason Rarick (R-11B, Pine City) for the Senate 11 seat with 64%. This also cleared the field of opposition candidates, because his challengers are withdrawing their names from the ballot, meaning there will not be a Primary on the GOP side.

Additionally, Rarick provides a few challenges for the House of Labor because as an Electrician and an IBEW 110 member, Rarick has captured a block of support traditionally, in the DFL hands. We are interested in where other parts of organized labor weigh in. We hear there is a bit of posturing by Intl Union of Operating Engineers Local 49, who we understand, are open to supporting Rarick, which is a surprise since they support a gas tax increase, which Rarick has voted against. We also understand the Engineers have been told by Sen Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-13, Nisswa he has another funding mechanism for road bridge construction.

It is clear the House of Labor is divided because Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk (DFL-03, Cook), as a former Business Agent for the Carpenter’s Union sees the need for retention of a one-vote minority as paramount to having as much leverage as possible in negotiations with Gazelka. The difference one vote makes is significant. It also is a major issue in the negotiations between the Republican-controlled Senate and Governor Tim Walz (DFL-MN) who is also proposing a gas tax increase.

We are awaiting other portions of this question, and where the different labor groups line up. We expect the Federation of Teachers will back the DFL candidate that emerges from the Primary. Basing endorsements on long-standing relationships we would expect the North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters will align similarly, but the question over whether the other members of the Building Trades follow suit, where will the Laborers, the Painters, and the Steelworkers weigh in. Not to mention, MAPE, SEIU, and AFSCME. Because this is a Special Election their contacts in the labor community will be invaluable. We also will not be surprised to see the different unions wait until after the January 22nd Primary and see which DFL candidate emerges on their own. We always believe if you beat someone in an internal contest you, as a candidate, become stronger for the effort.

One major point of all elections following vacancies is what we like to call the Domino effect. This situation is a prime example. Because Sen Tony Lourey (DFL-11, Kerrick) was appointed he set the dominos in motion, resulting in an opening for a House member to seek the seat and if Rarick were to obtain it then another Special Election would ensue. If that election resulted in a local mayor, city councilor or school board member obtaining the seat then another seat would require filling.

All that said, the appointment by Walz comes at a cost, which is near $100,000 for a Senate Special Election and then if the House seat were to open another approximately $75,000 election. This means a victory by Rarick would come at an additional cost.

Seems like the question over fiscal responsibility is in play and if people like Rarick he could stay put and they would get the same situation as they would if he lost. The advantage clearly lies with Rarick he gets to vie for the seat at no significant cost to himself because it is picked up by the local taxpayers.

Our Gas Tax Alternative, Minnesota Mileage Fee

Checks & Balances is also associated with accounting practices as well as a system of divided government. In that vein, we believe we have a long-term solution for a stable funding source for transportation. Our concept is not to violate a person’s privacy in their vehicle but rather allow them to document their mileage on an annual basis when they purchase their license tabs. We call it the Minnesota Mileage fee. If the requirement is to require the number of miles on the vehicle then have a payment system that accesses the fees to be paid based on mileage the forthcoming year it will help to reduce use, ensure payment for actual use and enable the installation of a system that derives revenue no matter what type of fuel system is used. This system can also be enforced if the mileage is documented during every traffic stop, even if the driver is given a warning.

Now, we know government officials might want to install a mileage tracking mechanism, which they will likely provide for free, but that is also a tool for law enforcement to cite you for speeding, going through a red light or rolling through a stop sign. Once a GPS tracker is in your car the sky is the limit, oh wait it already is in your cell phone.

Of course, we expect there will be an argument about what if I drive out-of-state, I shouldn’t be charged for that mileage by Minnesota, and we agree. This means a record of out-of-state travel should be logged and provided to offset the annual mileage amount. We would not be surprised if people who travel north to Duluth from the Twin Cities cross over to Wisconsin at Hudson or Grantsburg if they want to save some money and drive north up WI 35 as opposed to MN 35, but at least this is a system the better reflects the changes in the technology and allows for a capturing of the costs born through the wear and tear of each vehicle.

Installation of New Governor and All Constitutional Officers

Minnesota Report

Governor-elect Tim Walz (DFL-MN), Lt Governor Peggy Flanagan (DFL-MN), Attorney-election Keith Ellison (DFL-MN), Secretary of State Steve Simon (DFL-MN), and State Auditor-elect Julie Blaha (DFL-MN) all will be sworn in at the ceremony at the Fitzgerald Theater, in St Paul at 11:00 am. This will be followed by a reception in the State Capitol Rotunda at 3-5 pm where the public can greet the new members of the Executive Branch.

Later the DFL House and Senate Caucuses are holding fundraisers at the St Paul Hotel from 4-6 pm and State Rep John Lesch (DFL-66B, St Paul) is hosting his own down the street 6-8 pm at Lesch & Duren LLP law offices, located at 6 West 5th Street in downtown Saint Paul.

Since legislators are barred from taking contributions from lobbyists during the legislative session this is the last opportunity for filling the coffers from the political professionals who have made their trade as informational brokers.

Best Way to View the Special Election in Senate District 11

Minnesota Report

It is true every election is unique, but, historically, we have found past performance is a strong indicator of future activity regarding elections as collective community action. As we review the Primary and General electoral results from 2018, we have some interesting indicators.

As of now, the field is set with two candidates on each side of the ledger. On the DFL side Stuart (Stu) Lourey (DFL-11, Kerrick), son of current state Senator Tony Lourey (DFL-MN-11, Kerrick) and grandson of former Sen Becky Lourey (DFL-MN) and former KBJR News anchor Michelle Lee (DFL-11). On the Republican side, current third term state Rep. Jason Rarick (R-11B, Pine City) is joined by party activist Justin Krych (R-11, Esko). We are not surprised by Rarick’s bid, which is almost natural, because he already holds the House seat, and will be entering into the minority if he wins a seat in the Senate he would enter into the majority.

This may not be the final field because filing doesn’t close until 4:30 pm tomorrow.

As we look at the numbers the opportunities are wide open for any candidate to stir the populace, but in the 8th Congressional District Primary, Lee who finished 1st in the field of five, receive 46% but only 2165 votes on the 11A side of the district and 559 votes for 23.21% in the 11B, where she finished 2nd. During the General Election, the 11A side of the district has better DFL participation and higher turnout. 18,064 voters cast ballots in 11A with Rep Mike Sundin (DFL-11A, Esko) carrying 10,532 for 58.30%. In turn, Rarick’s district only put up 15,327 of which he carried 9147 for 59.68%. The farther south one heads in this district the more Trump-style Republican it leans.

Because of the significance of retaining a single vote differential in the state Senate, we expect DFL will pull out all the stops and we expect since Governor-elect Tim Walz (DFL-MN) brought about this election we will be making numerous visits to the area between now and the February 5th Election Day.     

More Cabinet Selections for Walz

Minnesota Report

Yesterday, Governor-elect Tim Walz (DFL) and Lt Governor-elect Peggy Flanagan (DFL) announce the seven most recent selections for cabinet members to fill Agriculture, Natural Resources, Pollution Control, Health, Human Services, Mediation Services, and Human Rights. The selection included one sitting state Senator Tony Lourey (DFL-11, Kerrick) as Commissioner of Human Services, which is a keen interest for Lourey. When in the DFL last held Majority, he was the  Chair of the Finance Subcommittee: Health and Human Services Budget Division. His selection will result in the need for a Special Election to be called by Walz after his installation. This confirms what we wrote back in December.

Walz made a solid selection is choosing Thom Peterson to lead the Department of Agriculture. As a lobbyist for the Minnesota Farmers Union, Peterson knows the issues facing the farming community and industry. He also is a bit of a showman himself, because for the last 25 years he has been at the Minnesota State Fair riding in a small cart drawn by a miniature horse.

Tactically, it is also a wise selection because Peterson’s wife Alana is the Chief of Staff for US Senator Tina Smith (DFL-MN).

There was a strong sentiment around the Capitol of a need for housecleaning at the DNR and the choice of Sarah Strommen, a woman to head this agency for the first time in its history is a clear decision to do so. Granted, she has been an assistant commissioner since 2015, with oversight of the divisions of fish and wildlife and parks and trails. Her experience may foster a new emphasis for the DNR.

Laura Bishop will head the Pollution Control Agency. She is a former lobbyist for Best Buy, who most recently led sustainability and corporate responsibility efforts and has experience in both state and federal government and bring this experience into the PCA as it discerns its role the state.

Walz retains Jan Malcolm as Health Commissioner and continues her tenure starts with Governor Jesse Ventura (IP-MN) and the reconstituted with Governor Mark Dayton (DFL-MN)

The Governor-elect selected Janet L Johnson to lead the Bureau of Mediation Services has worked at the Bureau for over 40 years. She started her work as a court reporter. She too will be the first woman to lead her Department.

Rebecca Lucero, comes into the public sector to head the Human Rights Department. She currently is the public policy director at the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits. She also has toiled for Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity and is a board member of Gender Justice.

A Special Election is Forthcoming

Minnesota Report

With the selection of state Senator Tony Lourey (DFL-11, Kerrick) as Commissioner of Human Services there will be the need for a Special Election and until such time the Senate Republicans will hold a two-vote majority rather than the one vote they currently have.

Now, there will be another Lourey in pursuit of the seat. Stuart (Stu) Lourey, a graduate of Carleton College, and a former staff member for US Senator Al Franken (DFL-MN and now Tina Smith (DFL-MN) we seek the seat. His work in both offices in Constituent Services specifically those in Greater Minnesota. As a third generational leader Stu can embody the work ethic of a farmer, show his willingness to go away to school and come back home and reintroduce vibrancy to the community.

This means the timing of the Special Election will be very important, in order for the Republicans not to be able to pass the entirety of their agenda early in the session and fix the negotiating points.

Here is the release.

Stu Lourey Announces Bid for State Senate District 11 Seat in Special Election

Says He’ll Focus on Healthcare, Education, and Building Strong Communities if Elected to Represent Carlton, Pine, and Parts of St. Louis and Kanabec Counties

[MINNESOTA]—Today, Stu Lourey—a fourth-generation Kerrick resident—announced his bid for the 11th district seat currently held by Tony Lourey, who today was appointed Commissioner of the Department of Human Services by Minnesota’s Governor-elect Tim Walz.“I’m running for State Senate, because I believe in this community, the values we share, and what we can accomplish together,” says Stu Lourey. “Ourcommunity shows up for each other.  Friends, teachers, and neighbors have shown up for me all my life— – and have given me every opportunity.  So I grew up with this basic value:if you see the opportunity to do right by your community—your neighbors, your friends, the people you love—you show up, you put in the hard work work, and you try to make life better for folks.And that’s what I want to in the Minnesota Senate.”

Lourey has dedicated his professional career to public service. Lourey has worked in the district for Minnesota Senators Al Franken and Tina Smith, where he worked to push legislation to help people living in rural areas access health care, provide students with school-based mental health support, and improve prevention, treatment and recovery for the opioid epidemic. As Senator Franken’s field representative in northern Minnesota, Lourey worked in Carlton, Pine, Kanabec, and Saint Louis counties on issues important to the region including health care, education, infrastructure, and jobs.

Lourey has partnered with, and learned from, health care stakeholders, tribal leaders, schools, and labor unions to find solutions that help build strong communities.

Communities need affordable health care, quality education, and good housing and jobs to thrive, Lourey says.

“I’ll focus on the issues that are weighing most heavily on families here in the district. Working on policy in this area—and having conversations with doctors, tribal leaders, teachers, and others—I most often heard about the need to make healthcare more affordable, the importance of strong schools, and ways we can build a strong economy.”

On healthcare,

“No one should have to think twice about seeing a doctor when they’re sick or getting prescription drugs they need, because they’re worried they can’t afford it. I want to work on real solutions that can help families get care they need—like the MinnesotaCare Buy-in. And I’ll listen there to listen at rural clinics, nursing homes, and kitchen tables to make sure the work we’re doing actually benefits families, not drug companies and special interests.”

On education,

“Education, from early childhood to career and technical training, is one of the most important investments we can make.  I’ll work to make sure rural schools get fair funding. And that every kid feels safe, supported, and has the opportunity to reach their full potential.”

On strong communities,

“We need invest in connecting our communities with high-speed internet, and that we’re investing in quality, affordable housing that will help families build a good life here.”

Lourey is the son of State Senator Tony Lourey and Marlana Benzie-Lourey, an english teacher at East Central High School. Stu Lourey is also the grandson of former State Senator Becky Lourey.  On his family’s history of public service, Lourey says.

“I’m proud of my family’s commitment to this community and public service. Those are the values I grew up with,” says Stu Lourey. “And I know I have to work hard—knock on thousands of doors, have countless conversations—to earn the support of voters here.”

Growing up on a family farm, Lourey learned the value of hard work. That’s why he’s looking forward to the conversations he’ll have across the district ahead of the election.

Stu lives on his family farm near the border of Pine and Carlton Counties where they raise a small beef herd. He is a graduate of East Central High School and has a bachelor’s degree from Carleton College in Northfield Minnesota. Stu enjoys experiencing the outdoors through bicycling, distance running, and hunting.

The Power of the Suburbanites in the House

Minnesota Report

There is great diversity in the state House and it is evident in the largest regional delegation of Suburbanites. Depending on how one counts a suburban district, the DFL House Majority of 75 is made up of a majority of seats in suburbia.

With both the Speaker of the House Melissa Hortman (DFL-36B, Brooklyn Park) and Majority Leader Ryan Winkler (DFL-46A, St Louis Park) being suburbanites the suburban agenda should be well heard, but defining what that Is, is a challenge, because there are great differences in the needs of Anoka County and Washington County.

But as a buffer zone between the rural and urban communities, the suburbs play an essential role. Many times, when someone moves into the Twin Cities area from Greater Minnesota they tend to reside in a suburb on the same side of the cities they came from. The main reason being they don’t want to have to drive through the cities to go home.

Now and these younger communities have matured they have taken on their own character and in spite of the plethora of big box stores and strip malls they are have some regional elements to provide. Sure, Shakopee has Canterbury Downs, Mystic Lake, the Renaissance Festival and Valley Fair, while Stillwater has a winery a brew pub and a historic main street. There are many jewels to be found across the buffer zone.

What is clear though if they express a collective will they can have a significant influence on the direction of the DFL House Caucus, and we see their best alliance to be with the Representatives from the regional centers, because those communities operate in a similar fashion.

Checks & Balances Publisher Shawn Towle once described Hermantown as a suburb of Duluth, his hometown in an Op/Ed in the Duluth News Tribune.

Will Stauber Ask Trump to Weigh in on Mille Lacs Walleye Fishing Issues?

Minnesota Report

As the new freshman class gets to work in Washington DC, we wonder if Congressman Pete Stauber’s (R-MN08) with Donald J Trump (R) will become a foil in the Mille Lacs walleye fishing debate. Since Stauber touts his discussions with Trump for keeping parts of the Superior National Forest open to mining exploration, why wouldn’t he ask for similar consideration on Mille Lacs Lake?

The fishing industry has been devastated because of the walleye limits and businesses for boat and cabin rentals have taken a serious hit. The walleye population is being adversely affected by climate change because the average lake temperature is on the rise and walleye’s flourish is colder water.

As we know the lake is also a prime location for smallmouth bass fishing, but that isn’t the same quality of fish as the as the esteems state fish.

Hunting and fishing rights are a serious issue of contention and if one side is considered taking something more than they are due it can facilitate a serious adverse condition.

The treaty rights have been upheld in court and the commercial rights of the non-natives are in the tenuous position. The Native Americans have not exercised their full rights and taken control of Lake Mille Lacs, but in other parts of the nation, other things are happening.

People interested in Native Rights should follow the activities in Oklahoma.

Carpenter v. Murphy

Cannabis Parties Have Limited Capacity, But Also Opportunities

Minnesota Report

We attended an event on Sunday entitled Model Legislation Forum. We listen closely to the group which was represented as a coalition of Minnesota Campaign for Full Legalization, Marcus Harcus, Sensible Minnesota 501 (c) (3), Marren Schroeder, Sensible Change Minnesota 501 (c) (4), Branden Borgos, Minnesota NORML, Legal Marijuana Now, Michael Ford, Marijuana Policy Project, Jason Tarasek, and Minnesota Marijuana. A lot of the evening was facilitated by Jessica Hansen. 

We watched listen and found interest in their goals as comprehensive, aspirational and not yet fully formed. The group though passionate about their issue falls to grasp the conceptual reality of politics in St Paul. They all agree if the Federal Government would remove cannabis from the list of Schedule 1 narcotics the issue would melt away, but because the Feds have refused different states have moved on their own.

In those states, ones who have Initiative and Referendums the plebiscite has spoken, but in order for an issue to come before the voters here in Minnesota, both bodies of the legislature would need to pass legislation.

Right now, with the DFL controlling the House and the Republicans controlling the Senate, it is not likely to happen. This means a strategy to appeal to both DFLers and Republicans by a number of outside groups two which have now become major political parties who stand in opposition to the current political structure means it will be a stretch for a DFLer to work on behalf of the interests of Legal Marijuana Now or the Grassroots Legalize Party unless they want to remove the reason for their existence.

In spite of the fact Governor-elect Tim Walz (DFL-MN) has expressed his support for legalization, the political will may not exist quite yet. We find the brash statements made like, the population is with us and the times are changing and they (current politicians) will change or we will run candidates against them. They openly discuss fielding candidates against House Speaker-elect designee Melissa Hortman (DFL-36B, Brooklyn Park) which in our mind is counterproductive to their true goal which is legalization. Hortman has said she doubts something will come out of her caucus this session.

It may be that these people lack any true political experience outside of organizing with like-minded people. They show their political ignorance because they lack the requisite experience to express anything different.

We waited and sought to learn who their bill authors were set to be for the model legislation because without an author it’s merely an idea. They seemed to only have connections with DFL legislators and not Republicans and this is also a failed strategy because without a Senate bill this issue dies without a Senate position.

Things may change over the course of time, but based on the current legislative configuration with think this issue is a longer-term fight.

In spite of having achieved major party status both the Legal Marijuana Now, and the Grassroots Legalize Cannabis parties have poor performance raising money for their efforts. It is clear they have serious resource problems because in spite of having thte Political Contribution Program (PCR) where you will get $50.00 back from the state when you contribute to a political candidate or political party. They need to get listed of likeminded people to become financial supporters.

In the pre-General Election reports, we learned the following.

Legal Marijuana Now

Started with






Ending Cash Balance



Grassroots Legalize Cannabis Party

Started with






Ending Cash Balance


The candidates who achieved the major party status for these parties even raised less.

Attorney General candidate Noah Johnson only had $125.00 in his account without any contributors listed and spent $57.95 leaving a $67.05 cash balance. State Auditor candidate Michael Ford’s record is as follows.

Started with






Ending Cash Balance




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