News Releases

George Floyd’s Death One Year Later

Minnesota and National Report

It is rather pathetic to know that 368 days after the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis Police Officer no significant police reform language has passed with the US Congress or the Minnesota Legislature. The failure to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act in Congress or HF0445 which failed because progressive DFL Caucus members felt it didn’t go far enough, and there is little faith the measure would have passed the Republican controlled Senate.

In addition to being the anti-government party the Republicans are also the law & order party that sides with law enforcement and calls for bills to curtain civil unrest. Specifically, in the Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka called for more policing on the Light Rail last legislative session, because constituents of his were scared to ride on the train to Twins Games, because of crimes committed there.

All we know is this no one should be killed by a cop over a cigarette (Eric Garner), $20 (Floyd), or a no-knock warrant (Breanna Taylor).

Chokeholds should be banned nationally, yes, they have been here in Minnesota, but far more can be done.

So the anniversary passes without anything to celebrate and so the calls for justice continue.

Omar is One of the Few Democrats to Oppose the Emergency Security Supplemental Bill

National and Minnesota Report

The only Democrats who voted against the Emergency Security Supplemental funding for US Capitol security were three members of the Squad. Here is the press release from Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-MN05) on her vote.

Reps. Bush, Omar, Pressley Statement on the Emergency Security Supplemental

Yesterday, Representatives Cori Bush, Ilhan Omar, and Ayanna Pressley released the following statement after voting no on H.R. 3237 – the Emergency Security Supplemental to Respond to January 6th Appropriations Act of 2021:

“On January 6th, some Republican Members of Congress and the former President incited an insurrection that they refuse to accept responsibility for and continue to deny to this day. A bill that pours $1.9 billion into increased police surveillance and force without addressing the underlying threats of organized and violent white supremacy, radicalization, and disinformation that led to this attack will not prevent it from happening again. Increasing law enforcement funds does not inherently protect or safeguard the Capitol Hill or surrounding D.C. community. In fact, this bill is being passed before we have any real investigation into the events of January 6th and the failures involved because Republicans have steadfastly obstructed the creation of a January 6th commission.

“The bill also does far too little to address the unspeakable trauma of the countless officers, staff, and support workers who were on site that day – dedicating fifty times more money to the creation of a ‘quick reaction force’ than it does to counseling. We cannot support this increased funding while many of our communities continue to face police brutality while marching in the streets, and while questions about the disparate response between insurrectionists and those protesting in defense of Black lives go unanswered.

“While we appreciate the efforts of our colleagues to put forth a supplemental that provides necessary pay to our essential workers, there must be a comprehensive investigation and response to the attack on our Capitol and our democracy, one that addresses the root cause of the insurrection: white supremacy. This bill prioritizes more money for a broken system that has long upheld and protected the white supremacist violence we saw on display that day.

“We look forward to working towards systemic policy solutions that meet the scale and scope of the crises our communities and our nation face.”

What the Budget Deal Entails

Minnesota Report


As we understand it the State of Minnesota is still awaiting direction from the US Treasury Department on how it can use the American Rescue Plan Act funds. The question is how the money will be applied by the Office of Management and Budget. Can it be placed directly into the state’s General Fund, will a special fund need to be created or some combination of both?

What we do understand is the following:

The American Rescue Plan Act’s flexible fund is called the State Fiscal Recovery Fund and is $2.833 billion.  The agreement allocates it as follows:

  1. $500 million for Governor’s spending.  Within the $500 million it is understood that $75 million will go for summer learning programs (that may be announced today), $12 million will go to the Minnesota Zoo for operating costs (with much lower admissions revenue) and $7 million will be for two items in the State Government bills – loss of parking revenue and a new assessment of space needs due to remote work.
  2. $550 million in FY 2022-23 and $550 million in FY 2024-25 will be for general fund revenue replacement. The exact mechanism for making this work is still being discussed.
  3. Uses of the remaining $1.233 billion will be decided by the legislature and governor during the 2022 legislative session.

$70 million for broadband may be funded from the state’s ARPA capital projects fund.  The total amount in that fund is $179 million.  US Treasury has not provided guidance for that fund yet but it seems clear from the law language that broadband would be eligible.  There is agreement to provide $70 million for broadband but the source still needs to be finalized.


Global Agreement and Working Group Framework – May 17, 2021

The following are agreed upon by the Governor, Speaker of the House, and Senate majority Leader:

  • The Governor, Speaker of the House and Majority Leader agree to global targets for budget and tax bills as outlined in the May 16 11:58 pm signed spreadsheet.
  • The COVID Flexible Fund will fund the following proposals:
    1. $75 million for Summer Learning:
    2. $7 million for state government for operating deficiency and remote work; and
    3. $12 million for continued operations of the Minnesota Zoo.
  • Housing target includes debt service $100 million for Housing Infrastructure Bonds. If Congress passes a federal infrastructure bill in 2021 that includes funding for the same purpose these bonds will not be sold.
  • $70 million for broadband funding source and bill to be determined.
  • The remaining ARPA SFRF of $1,233 billion will be jointly agreed to in the 20222 Legislative Session.
  • The Governor, Speaker of the House and the Senate Majority Leader agree to increase the budget reserve level in M>S. 16A.152, subdivision2, paragraph (a) from $1,596,522.000 to $2,377, 319,000. This change will be included in the taxes omnibus bill.
  • Any policy and finance provisions included in a final omnibus finance bills must be agreed upon by the Governor, Speaker of the House, and the Senate Majority Leader.
  • The Governor, Speaker of the House and the Senate Majority Leader agree the appropriate commissioners and committee chairs shall work cooperatively to reach agreement within the target for conference committee reports.
  • To ensure timely conclusion working group members and commissioners must complete their finance spreadsheets by 5:00 pm on Friday, May 28, 2021. Language agreed to by June 4th.
  • The global budget target agreement reached by the Governor, Speaker of the House and the Senate Majority Leader does not ensure approval of any omnibus bills.

Signed by all three leaders.


11:58 pm


$ in millions                                                                           House/ Senate / Gov Agreement__


  • February Forecast Balance* 1,664     707         2,833
  • Net Targets __21-23                24-24     FY 21-23
  • E-12 Education                                                                                 525         675
  • Higher Education                                                                              100         100                         0
  • HHS                                                                                                  100         100                         0
  • Environment                                                                                       30           10
  • Ag/Broadband                                                                                    10           10                         0
  • Housing                                                                                              10           12                         0
  • Transportation                                                                                  200           15                         0
  • Public Safety                                                                                    105         110                         0
  • Labor/Workforce**                                                                           125           17                         0
  • Energy/Commerce                                                                            16             8                         0
  • State Gov                                                                                          67           63
  • Capital                                                                                            TBD        TBD                        0
  • COVID Flexible Fund                                                                         0             0                     500

Other Bills                                                                                       9.6          6.9


  • Net Spending in Targets                                                         1,298      1,127                    500
  • SFRF Revenue Replacement                                                   550          550                  1,100
  • Net Tax Bill Target                                                            __  (754)­­­­­___ (180)
  • Balance in each Biennium                                                   162          (50)
  • Budgetary Balance                                                               112
  • Total ARPA SFRF Spend                                                    1,050          550
  • Total ARPA SFRF Spend FY 21-25                                  1,600
  • ARPA SFRF Remaining                                                   1,233


*Adjusted for $7.8 million appropriations in Ch. 13

**Assumes $44 million cancellation in this budget area

 Signed by all three leaders.

What Moved the Senate Republicans to Cut a Deal?

Minnesota Report

Republicans as the anti-government party, may have seemed to cave at the last minute for no apparent reason, but on Sunday night as we were looking at the end of the legislative session we thought if the current situation continued, they put themselves in a interesting position. Because they lack agency, and if the legislature went into Special Session this meant Governor Tim Walz (DFL-MN) was going to be able to allocate 100% of the Federal Funds anyway he saw fit, just as he did in 2020.

When Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-09, Nisswa) said, “We wanted to prove a point,” to us it rang quite hollow. What point? If there was one, we didn’t get it.

We believe the $2.833 billion had more to do with the fact there is a deal than any other factor and in spite being the anti-government party Republicans are not anti-federal money, they have their proverbial hands out just like any other interests.

Speaker Hortman is a Master Negotiator, But Not Everyone Listens to Her Strategy, Even When She’s Right

Minnesota Report

We understand an interesting thing happened when the three sides finally met prior to the final agreement on May 16th. In a meeting just before Speaker of the House Melissa Hortman (DFL-36B, Brooklyn Park) said to Governor Tim Walz (DFL-MN) and his team including MMB Commissioner Jim Schowalter she believed it was time for the DFL side to make a bolder move and effectively “Go Big or Go Home.”

This was not met with agreement in fact Schowalter specifically expressed his opposition saying it was premature. When the three sides then met and the DFL put forward as less robust position Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-09, Nisswa) rejected the proposal saying it was not much different than the last one, and that they (DFL) didn’t push hard enough.

Looks like they should have Hortman be the lead negotiator and tell the bureaucrats to leave the strategy and political posturing to the professionals, who earned their spot at the table with an election certificate not an appointment.

This reminds us, Hortman still doesn’t have a nickname as most Speakers have.

Call for a Federal Capital Budget

National and Minnesota Report

Since the Senator Tina Smith (D-MN) has experience with Capital Bonding as Lt Governor, she should propose through legislation the formation of a Federal Capital Budget. This is an idea Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-09, CA) has previously discussed. As did we. Trump Following a Good Idea From Pelosi

If we did so, the ability to pay for infrastructure would be far easier and not as onerous a proposition. Yes, tax increases on the wealthy should remain to address the fiscal hole Republicans created, but this idea would resolve the questions on how the $6.4 trillion is financed. Involvement in the Bond Market would create a strong public/private partnership.

We hope Senator Smith is listening.

It’s Plausible for Ranked Choice Voting to be Banned in Minnesota

Minnesota Report

Anyone who has read Checks & Balances for the last decade knows our Publisher Shawn Towle is a staunch opponent of Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) and he will be testifying before the State Government Finance Conference Committee on HF1952. The Senate Republican Majority has a ban on the voting system in their bill and the House Members have an opportunity to support the Senate position and include this in the final bill, but it will take courage for Reps Mike Nelson (DFL-40A, Brooklyn Park), Emma Greenman (DFL-63B, Minneapolis) Sandra Masin (DFL-51A, Eagan) and Tou Xiong (DFL-53A, Maplewood) to do so. Two factors are, Nelson, Masin and Xiong all live in cities without (RCV), and also there is a bill in the House calling for implementation of RCV to for all elections in the state. There are 35 coauthors listed on that bill which is exactly have half of the DFL Caucus.

If the ban were included, and the implementation date were July 1, 2021, then this would dramatically change how city council members are chosen, go back to the way it was and especially in Minneapolis, might fix the number of poor performing members from being returned to office.


Here is Towle’s testimony.

Chairs Kiffmeyer, Nelson and members of the Conference Committee,


My name is Shawn Towle and I am mainly known in Minnesota politics as the Publisher of Checks & Balances, MN’s first digital political magazine (1995). I have always considered our work to be an advocacy platform and have regularly called balls and strikes on different pieces of legislation and issues we find ourselves concerned with in our state.

Ranked Choice Voting is the Minnesota Big Lie.

I have personally objected to Ranked Choice Voting (RCV), Instant Run-off Voting (IRV) or any system that is a single transferable vote. Why? Because it unfairly advantages one voter with more influence over an another.  This is a violation in my understanding of the one person- one vote provision in the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution. And yes, my sentiments are in direct opposition to the position taken by the State Supreme Court in the case MINNESOTA VOTERS ALLIANCE v. FairVote Minnesota, Inc (2009).

I may not be a lawyer, but if I pick one person and one person only and that person, is one of the last two on the ballot, my vote is a constant. It is not redistributed and counted each round. Only the votes of the people whose prior choice was dropped from the ballot are applied to another person and counted again. In St Paul, where I currently reside, I am allowed to choose up to 6 candidates for a specific office, I only vote for one as a protest against the system, but my ballot is not seen this way.

So, the lesser candidates’ supporters determine the outcome. This is a system ripe for candidates to collude, cross endorse and game the system. In fact, FairVoteMN is now doing training and suggesting such practices. Allowing a vote to continue when mine is held fast, is direct example in opposition to one person – one vote. This question has never been truly tested in court. Also, the concept of voting for multiple people while other voters vote for a single person is also a violation of the same amendment in the Equal Protection Clause, which intends for the weight of one voter not to be greater or lesser that of other voters.

One lie told by FairVoteMN and its supporters is the Minnesota Supreme Court vetted these constitutional questions. They clearly did not because they asserted the point that a city has the right to move forward because of the passage of IRV by referendum. To this I will say, a referendum on an issue of elections is something specifically this committee should cast a disparaging eye toward. Election Law at all levels should rest solely in the hands of the state legislature and not a locality.

Why?  Because you are allowing the fox to guard the hen house. When city councils or county boards acts on the system that selects them, even putting the issue up before the people, they are still the ones to change the charter by fiat. In St Louis Park they didn’t even hold a referendum. The city council passed the matter unanimously and it became the order of the day for the next election. They, the same council set the parameters for the election.

Now, in Minneapolis you have three votes, as I said in St Paul six votes, in the two newest RCV communities Bloomington & Minnetonka, they are not yet sure, These inconsistencies, the ability to stack the deck and for the reasons I explain later, this system should go the way of the Dodo bird, because it is a bird-brained system. Its full concept is to fractionalize single seats and apportion them to the percentages in an election so if you get 62% in your election you only have 62% of representation and your opponent’s their percentages. Try caucusing with that.

In the aforementioned case, the City asserts(ed) that IRV serves the following interests:

(1) Because the citizens of Minneapolis adopted IRV by referendum, IRV serves the purpose of respecting the democratic process;

(2) Because IRV requires only one election, rather than separate primary and general elections, IRV reduces the inconvenience and costs to voters, candidates, and taxpayers;

(3) IRV will increase voter turnout;  and

(4) IRV encourages less divisive campaigns as candidates seek support for second- and subsequent-choice votes.

Respondent FairVote argues that IRV serves the following interests in addition to those identified by the City:

(1) IRV promotes the election of candidates with majority mandates, eliminating plurality winners in one-seat races;

(2) IRV eliminates the “spoiler” effect of third-party candidacies;  and

(3) IRV helps insure more diverse representation by promoting minority representation in multiple-seat races.

Well, Item 1) is true, 2) is not. The thought that voting is an inconvenience when it is a right and a privilege is as a veteran something to which I take serious offense. Also, it is not cheaper because the machinery to tabulate is more expensive. There is not and should be an ongoing training of the use of this system every election and in Ramsey County FairVoteMN was paid to do the training. Again, a fox on duty. Additionally, until the machinery is approved, everywhere has to hand tabulate, which is very costly in man hours. Just wait until RCV is in effect for all races, in all counties. The costs will mushroom. Oh, and waiting 2-3 weeks for a result will become the rule and not the exception. There are many aspects of this system that fail to meet its promise, 3) turnout has not increased since inception, with one exception, in St Paul in 2017 I will argue an open mayoral seat had more to do with turnout than the voting system.

4) It does not stop negative campaigning. RCV only shifts it to outside groups like PAC’s and independent expenditure groups. Just ask Mayor Melvin Carter about the gun letter.

Now to FairVoteMN’s claims which are all false.

Items 1 & 2, The number of times a majority has occurred in Ranked Choice Voting has been less than 40%. In a majority of instances and when it does happen, it’s the incumbent who receives such and this doesn’t foster third-party benefits in the system. 3) Misguided supporters have claimed RCV advances diversity especially on the Minneapolis City Council. Frankly, this is unequivocally untrue. A system does not determine qualitative aspects of an election and decide the diversity of representation, the voters do.

This issue may seem appealing because it offers a variety of choices, but if many choices are the goal, then next time you go to a restaurant, order every item on the menu, because making a choice is not necessary and something we should support parenthetically. Note the sarcasm for effect.

Being able to discern the qualities of one candidate from another and sometimes we might not get it right, but with Ranked Choice Voting, its everyone in the pool and only two eventually emerge or at least only two we know. To me this is the greatest injustice. It is the fact as many as 23% of the electorate have been disenfranchised through this system. If you are not wise enough to predict the two eventual emergents, in Minneapolis your vote is logged as Exhausted in St Paul it is Inactive. This means these votes have no value to the final outcome and effectively need not have been cast at all. Talk about inconveniencing the voter.

Viewing this system in a partisan lens, and I am a proud DFLer, this system has not seen an endorsed candidate for Mayor in either Minneapolis or St Paul since its inception. It structurally, places candidates on the general election ballot who could not find support for their candidacies except they have the means to pay the filing fee. This means high qualified candidates have to wade through the muck and mire attending debates that give equal time to people who clearly distract from the public’s interest and offer a huge number of voices from whom to decide. In the first contested election in Minneapolis there were 35 candidates for mayor and the ability for voters to discern was overly complicated.

Additionally, legislators are often admonished for challenging the motivations of their colleagues. In this case, people should seek to understand the motivations of FairVoteMN and the principal funder John Arnold, which created the John and Laura Arnold Foundation. John is a past ENRON Executive and made his money bilking utility rate payers in Texas and California. This information is offered because FairVoteMN and FairVote nationally are recipients of dark money contributions John Arnold: The Most Hated Man in Pensionland to this end he contributed over 9 million to the U of MN’s Heller-Hurwicz Economics Institute at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management

Arnold wants to privatize public pensions and destabilize local government to make this possible. Any endorsed DFLer should rescind their party endorsement if they fail to see that anything short of their support facilitates threats to public pensions.

Finally, I will close with this article from the Late Great Minnesotan, Vice-President Walter Mondale, who said in the Duluth News Tribune in 2015 the following in an Op/Ed piece.

Ranked Choice Voting Will Not Improve Democracy.

“I hope Duluth voters reject the effort to change their city’s charter. Please vote “no” on the ranked choice voting amendment.

Voting in America should be plain and simple. Ranked-choice voting is neither. It is confusing and complex.

Academic study after academic study shows that while affluent and well-educated voters do well with ranked-choice voting, it often disadvantages others, particularly older voters.

If you think our American voting system should be transparent for all, then vote “no” on ranked-choice voting.

Mayor Don Ness has said that when he first ran with 11 opponents, a ranked-choice voting format would not have allowed a real debate to take place about Duluth’s future.

He is absolutely right. In the 2013 Minneapolis city election, 20 percent of the voters who came out and voted did not get their vote counted in the final round of counting in the mayor’s race.

That’s the very definition of disenfranchisement. Supporters of ranked-choice voting say their system guarantees a majority winner. But there was no majority winner under ranked-choice voting in the Minneapolis mayor’s race, and there was no majority winner in two City Council races.

Ranked-choice voting will not bring us more democracy. It favors elites who know how to work the new and complex system.

Finally, you should know that nearly a third of the cities that have adopted ranked-choice voting have repealed it. Duluthians always have been common-sense people.

I hope you demonstrate that same common sense Tuesday and vote “no” on ranked-choice voting.


Walter F. Mondale



I thank the members of the committee for you time and attention to this significant matter,


Shawn Towle

Little Public Safety Reform Happens in a Conference Committee

Minnesota Report

As people are watching the Conference Committee on S.F. 970 – Omnibus judiciary and public safety finance and policy bill they are seeing a process of going through the motions. It doesn’t make good television and is a series of talking heads many saying important things but the two sides are merely two ship passing each other in the dark of night where neither has its lights on and hopefully they don’t crash.

We except nothing of substance to result from this conference, but there is actual reform that does take place and in spite of Sen Warren Limmer (R-34, Maple Grove) protestations it occurs on the Minnesota Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training and is best shown from the words of Executive Director Erik Misselt. On the Board website the What’s New information spells it out clearly the progress being made.

For those seeking justice for George Floyd, Duante Wright and Philando Castille. Change is coming.

Credit for Eight Congressional Districts Goes to Somalis and Hmong

Minnesota Report

The fact Minnesota retained it 8 Congressional Districts in 2010 and 2020 is do to the two immigrant populations of Somalis and Hmong who came to our state in the 1970-80’s. If it weren’t for this in migration, we would have lost our federal representation. The US Census data will likely show the dispersion across the state by the Somalis to Rochester and St Cloud, but the Hmong stay closer to the twin cities and the closer in suburbs, even though they farm the southern suburbs.

Additionally, because these population or increasing in size do to great numbers for childbirth also helps keep use ahead of other states, in spite of our growth rate in 2020 slowed to .31% down from .56% in 2019.

Minnesota Retains Eight Congressional Districts and the Future of the GOP Senate Majority Looks Bleak

Minnesota Report

The early report of the state population totals by the US Census Bureau carried pleasant news for our state yesterday. The decennial counting of heads is always a time of winners and losers and once again we snuck past New York by 89 people to retain our eight Congressional seats. Our hard count established by April 1, 2020 as 5,709,752. We are up from 5,303,925 in 2010 or an increase of 6.3%. The total population of the nation is 331,108,434. Granted, the 572,000 deaths from COVID-19 are not reflected in this figure

Seven states lost representation California (-1), Illinois (-1), Michigan (-1), New York (-1), Ohio (-1), Pennsylvania (-1) and West Virginia (-1) and six states gained, Colorado (+1), Florida (+1), Montana (+1), North Carolina (+1), Oregon (+1) and Texas (+2).

The size of our Congressional district grew to 713,719 up 50,728 from 662,991. What we also learn from our state population is the size of out state legislative districts. A Senate seat will now be 85,220 up from 79,163 and a House seat will be 42,610 up from 39,582. The ability for Republican Senators to gain 6,057 will be a sizable challenge because the bulk of their seats are in Greater Minnesota which we believe has not grown proportionally to the seven-county metropolitan area. This data will be released in September.

This means Minneapolis will have to hold municipal elections this year and again in 2022.

76 Days After Wuhan Lock Down

Minnesota Report The Chinese lock down of Wuhan started on January 23, and it is being lifted now after 76 days. Theirs was far more astringent than Governor Tim Walz’ (DFL-MN) Stay-at-Home order on March 27th, but using three months as an indicator, we could be...

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What the House Looks Like During COVID-19

Minnesota Report Watching yesterday’s proceedings of the Minnesota House of Representatives during the passage of extension of Worker’s Compensation Benefits to First-Responders and other personnel who contract COVID-19 in the course of doing their jobs, was an...

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Gas Prices Falling Slowly, with Reduced Travel

Minnesota Report The cost of gasoline has not taken as dramatic of a decline as one would think during the COVID-19 pandemic and the Stay-at-Home order. The range in St Paul via Gas Buddy is $1.89-1.57 and with the price of oil floating around $25/barrel one would...

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