News Releases

Establishing Federal Voting Protections Via Executive Order

National and Minnesota Report

President Joe Biden’s (D) Executive Order on Promoting Access to Voting is a direct response to what is happening across the nation as Republican controlled legislative bodies work to suppress future electoral opportunities for traditionally disenfranchised voting populations. If you read the rationale for the order you will see the clear intent. Early, Voting, Mailed Ballots, Longer Voting Hours, increased Voting Locations in Minority Communities, Easy Voter Registration, Motor Voting and alike are all under attack by those who feel the encroachment on the voting rights of the emerging minority voting bloc, Caucasians.

To those in states that are making these changes, it is about power not fairness and it’s their established power they are trying to protect. The purging of voter rolls, restrictions of access, closing of polling locations in minority communities are all voter suppression/restrictions and just modern Jim Crow tactics.

When the assumption is something is wrong, when it’s never proven and laws are proposed to prevent this fictious occurrence something is telling. The assumption if a person doesn’t have a Photo ID begs the question, is the person voting or is it the ID who votes. Giving people the benefit of the doubt that they are legal voters is a civic-minded thought and believing they are suspect is a devolution of our collective sense of goodness, the better judgement of people and community.

Legislators who propose such, often don’t live in the communities they seek enforcement, but rather in a rural or suburban community. They are trying to ensure those areas with high minority populations have higher levels of scrutiny and obstacles to overcome in order to obstruct or prevent those communities from exercising their franchise.

On a political note the institution of a limit on changes in voting procedures and following redirecting will likely show more favorability to Democratic efforts, because when more people vote Democrats often prevail.

No Incentive to Change

Minnesota Report

At the start of the 2021 legislative session when House Speaker Melissa Hortman (DFL-36B, Brooklyn Park) decried the end result of the 2020 saying, “We won’t let is happen again,” she was being a bit Pollyannish. The want for the same not to occur is far different than assuring it. Republicans at their very core are antigovernment and the DFL jus the opposite. These structured opposition positions are fundamental.

Because the two different legislative majorities see the world in a far different fashion there is no incentive to change. They know they cultivate base-support by spouting specific beliefs and railing again the other side. Trump rhetoric remains the feast of the day and sour grapes the fruit of the moment.

The problem for Republicans is a global pandemic proves in large part the need for government and when the Trump Administration failed to provide the support necessary for the states to administer a vaccine program, apply and enforce a common-sense system of social distancing, mask wearing, no congregation, and more isolation it ran affront of Republican principles of freedom, liberty and self-determination. But, have these same values in different degrees and they also see the public health value, or the economic value. The short-term sacrifices are necessary when the person you interact with can be the one who threatens your life. Denial is not something people want to experience here in America.

When George H W Bush (R) and later George W Bush (R) declared wars without any domestic sacrifice, except for the lives of those who went to war, a poor standard was set. In World War II, everyone felt the war oversea, they sacrificed everything from cans, copper, nylons, new appliances, cars, ect in order to make sure the American production industry produced, ships, tanks, jeeps and ammunition. The domestic sacrifice was clear and the true patriots bought war bonds and willingly supported the effort.

As Republicans see all the things they are denied and who is denying it to them, they have a target, whether it be Governor Tim Walz (DFL-MN) or now President Joe Biden (D).

Same happened with the pandemic Trump made happy-talk trying to invoke the salad days when the endpoint was clearly unknown, he received a secret hidden vaccination, but he still contracted the virus and tried to buck people up when he left Walter Read Hospital, wheezy on the White House Balcony. The sham scam of his Presidency was merely self-promotion, hype, lies and betrayal. He betrayed the nation by putting himself first and not giving the nation the unvarnished truth of our situation. He inserted his opinion over those of the health experts when it clearly wasn’t his place and in turn, we all suffered.

Now, we deal with the aftermath, and while we are trying to catchup to the lost year of 2020, we see a dramatic difference in an administration willing to take a hands-on approach as for self-sacrifice and acknowledge the answer of passing through this pandemic are hard.

Is Walz Dialed In?

Minnesota Report

Republicans breathed a sense of relief when Governor Tim Walz (DFL-MN) announce a greatly anticipated turning of the dial on Friday. Granted, they do not think it has gone far enough and continue to weigh-in on stripping the Executive Powers from him, as they will do later this week in the Senate, but there is some sense of the availed horizon.

As we work remotely and view things from afar we see an opening of the clouds, but with an acknowledgement bad behavior could snap us right back into the midst.

With March 15th change, “Beware the Ides of March” as was said to Julius Caesar by the Soothsayer, we should be cautious.

Unless otherwise noted, the adjustments are effective at noon on Monday, March 15. They include measures to:

  • Make it easier to safely gather with family:
    • Social gatherings: Up to 50 people outdoors or 15 people for indoor gatherings, both without household limits.
    • Youth sports: Pod size increasing to 50 for outdoor activities.
    • Religious services: Remove occupancy limit, but social distancing required.
    • Celebrations: Follow venue guidance.
  • Support small businesses:
    • Bars and restaurants: Increasing allowable occupancy to 75%, up from 50%, with a limit of 250 people. The limits apply separately indoors and outdoors. Bar seating increases to parties of 4.
    • Salons/barbers: Removing the occupancy limit, but social distancing required.
    • Gyms/fitness centers/pools: Increasing allowable occupancy to 50%, up from 25%. Outdoor classes can increase to 50 people.
    • Entertainment venues: Increasing allowable occupancy to 50%, up from 25%, both indoors and outdoors, with a limit of 250.
  • As summer nears, the state will adjust guidelines for large venues. All venues can open at 50% capacity up to 250 people. Venues with normal occupant capacity over 500 can add additional guests, effective April 1:
    • Seated outdoor venues can add an additional 25% of their capacity over 500, with a limit of 10,000 people.
    • Non-seated outdoor venues can add an additional 15% of their capacity over 500, with a limit of 10,000 people.
    • Seated indoor venues can add an additional 15% of their capacity over 500, with a limit of 3,000 people.
    • Non-seated indoor venues can add an additional 10% of their capacity over 500, with a limit of 1,500 people.

After the announcement this is Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka’s (R-09, Nisswa) response, “The number of infections across the country is going down, the need for ICU beds is going down, and the vaccinated population is going up. The trend lines are all good and that is good news for all of us. The Governor announced he is opening up things more, and the more things open up, the more kids in school, and more businesses and venues open, the better. It’s positive news except – it’s only his hand on the dial.

“Last January I put out guidelines that could be a benchmark to lift emergency powers, and that was simply vaccinating everybody over age 65. We’ve hit 70% of seniors and we’re shifting vaccination eligibility to other groups. We’re at that point where the people most in danger from COVID are vaccinated.

“We renew our demand the Governor remove his emergency powers so we can work together, hand in hand. We really showed that we can do that early on in the pandemic by passing a number of bills and half a billion dollars in resources to attack the virus together. My hope is that this latest benchmark of 70% of people over age 65 vaccinated is the time to end emergency powers. Let’s finish off this terrible virus together.”

Fear, Loathing, and Contempt in the US Senate

National Report

In Washington, DC politics, the concept of entitlement comes into play often, but instead of being about what is a just do from the government as a social program, which fiscal conservatives look askance at, a different well used political statement is far more apt. You may be entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own set of facts. In science when something has come to a point it is indisputable is labeled as a law, but in US politics a law is something deliberated in normally, two legislative bodies and then signed by the chief executive and becomes law unless disputed by a judicial branch.

Watching the 2nd Donald J Trump (R) impeachment trial was an indisputable presentation of the facts of incitement to riot for seditious purposes by the sitting chief executive on January 6, 2021, and information that lead to the preparation for the event, and a clearly intended outcome. The members of the US Senate did not play the role they swore an oath to on the first day of the proceedings as judges, to impartially view the information presented. Many of the Republican Senators had already prejudged the case even before it was presented and in spite of having been witnesses to the actual crime, feared more the political might of the supporters of Donald J Trump than they did on the day because not one of their own had died. One wonders if it had, would the outcome have been different.   This is where loathing and contempt come into play.

In each instance when the members of the Senate were called upon to vote, whether it was on the constitutionality of the proceedings, which passed on a 55-45 vote, the vote to allow witnesses again on a 55-45 vote of the final tally on Trump’s guilt 57-43 only two members seemed to have actually listened to the arguments made and judged accordingly.

Now, there wasn’t much unique information conveyed during the trial, most of us watched it played out on our living-room television screens in real-time, and if not saw it many times later in repeated news programs flashing the same riotous acts every day, 24-hours a day before the trial commenced. The crime was visible and the perpetrator of it obvious and after the verdict was read and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) rose to speech and excoriated Trump for his actions when only moments before he had voted “Not Guilty” on a technically of whether the Senate could sit in judgment in an impeachment proceeding on a former officeholder is nothing short of being duplicitous and disingenuous to himself, every other American and the world. Especially, when he had the sole power to call the members of the Senate back in session while Trump was still in office.

To consciously, turn a blind eye to something personally witnessed for political expediency is the new definition of political cowardice. While they show contempt for the system we show contempt for them.

We suggest to those who do not know where the h/t to Hunter S Thompson we suggest Fear and Loathing at Rolling Stone: The Essential Writing of Hunter S. Thompson, Better Than Sex: Confessions of a Political Junkie (Gonzo Papers, vol. 4) or Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72 to name a few and learn about Gonzo journalism, something deployed here at Checks & Balances.

When Will Redistricting Commence? Minneapolis Really Wants to Know.

Minnesota Report

When word came through that we will not receive the report on Census data until September of this year, it means something significant to the legislative process for redistricting which will not actually do much substantial without actual numbers. Because Minneapolis is holding its elections for city council seats the same year as its mayoral election, they are impinged by this announcement. The 90-day rule of having the seats set prior to an election remains unchanged, Minneapolis will have to hold elections again in 2022 or 2023, as is done in the wiser community, St Paul.

This is when we will know whether or not we have 8 or 7 Congressional Districts.

Once the numbers are known, if there is not a Special Session, the Congressional or Legislative Districts will need to be addressed first thing during the 2023 session, otherwise, it could impact those elections as well, because with a divided legislature it’s not likely the House DFL and the Senate Republicans will agree. This means again as has been the case since 1962, the time prior to partisan legislative elections when a redistricting plan was last approved.

Legislative Lobbying During COVID

Minnesota Report

We spoke we a number of lobbyists on how they are plying their trade during COVID and learned they are able to exercise their established connections with experienced legislators, but it the freshmen they are having troubles connecting with. Zoom calls, Facetime, phone calls, and emails are the rule of the day.

This only proves lobbying is a face-to-face operation, and speaking in lower tones with members called off of the floor, out of committee or discussions behind closed doors with members and staff is no longer the coin of the realm. We’ll just need to see what the final form of sausage looks like in comparison to past years.

Trump’s Party is Best Called the Neo-Know Nothing Party

National Report

When we learned the average education level of a Trump voter was below a high school diploma we were not surprised. The simplistic message that brought about his election was repetitive and sounded like an infomercial for a product you really didn’t want to buy. As we have been trying to understand the rationale for Donald J Trump (R) we just need to travel back in time when Minnesota was in the Northwest Territory and relate to the formation of the Republican Party.

In August 4th 1855, in a letter Joshua Speed, Abraham Lincoln wrote, “I am not a Know-Nothing. That is certain. How could I be? How can any one who abhors the oppression of negroes, be in favor of degrading classes of white people? Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we begin by declaring that “all men are created equal.” We now practically read it “all men are created equal, except negroes.” When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read “all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners, and catholics.” When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretence of loving liberty-to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocracy.”

In this passage, he is highlighting the aspects of the Know-Nothings or the Native American Party and not those of indigenous descent, who were an isolationist, anti-immigration, anti-Semite, anti-Catholic, anti-Irish, conspiracy-driven movement. The downfall of the Whig Party after the passage of the Nebraska Kansas Act of 1854 created an opening for another opposition party to the dominance of the Democratic Party.

In his rise to the Presidency, Lincoln saw the Know-Nothings as a scourge, a blight on the land, and sought to purge their influence from the newly formed Republican Party after the 1960 election.

The lack of common knowledge, understanding of government and the aspects Trump spouted throughout his term are emblematic of these ideals of the Know-Nothings, and the lack of education proved how ripe our nation is for a cult-of-personality take over. It started with Ronald Reagan (R) a former movie actor and deteriorated to a cheap two-bit Carnival Barker an exploitationist from a reality TV show.

Our Constitution was crafted to prevent dictatorship and mob rule and in Trump we got both simultaneously. His constant lies sold the snake oil, and those who benefit were willing to turn a blind eye, and appeal to those unwilling to look into the information behind his words traveled as sheep to the slaughter.

We must gird ourselves from ever falling into such a scam ever again.

If the followers of Trump are not purged from the Republican Party, then maybe it needs to go the way of the Whigs, but in a vacuum, something will fill. The desire to advent Conservative principles is the call, and people of principle must step to the fore.

Today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-09, CA) said it best when referring to the trial phase of the 2nd impeachment of Trump, “We’ll see if it’s going to be a Senate of courage or cowardice.”

Fischbach Defends Taylor Greene on PBS

Minnesota and National Report

Last night, newly elected Congresswoman and former Lt Governor and state Senator Michelle Fischbach (R-MN07) seemed to defend Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA14) under the sneaky issue of “precedent.” Fischbach may use this as an opportunity to challenge the idea of stripping away a member’s committee assignments as a means to hold a member in check, but when the person’s own conference fails to do the job what the body left with?

We are in unique times, the advance of QAnon conspiracies, by Taylor Greene, the espousing of clearly debunked lies of Donald J Trump (R) and harassment of survivors of the Parkland, FL massacre at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School are disgusting and threaten the integrity of the institution. The placement of her on the Education and Labor Committee is a serious affront created by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA23). because he placed her there.

The tumultuous situation in the US House is a split decision and buttressed by the failure to self-police Taylor Greene, and secret ballot vote of 145-61 for retaining Rep Liz Cheney (R-WY01) as House Republican Conference Chair the 3rd highest position by the conference. We wonder what the vote would have been having been a public vote.

Again, we will state the Neo-Know Nothing Party is in Rare form, or maybe it’s just the Sedition Caucus bending others to their will.

To view the segment click here.

Dueling Press Conferences Over Minneapolis Police Funding Post Derek Chauvin Trial

Minnesota Report

Yesterday, Governor Tim Walz (DFL-MN) held a press conference and his office put out the following release, calling for $35 million to be budgeted for extraordinary circumstances of public need. During which he was joined by Department of Public Safety (DPS) Commissioner John Harrington; President and CEO of the Minneapolis Downtown Council Steve Cramer; Centerville Mayor D. Love.

https://www.facebook.com/watch/live/?v=120932609914141&ref=watch_permalink

The State Aid For Emergencies (SAFE) Account would provide state assistance to local governments during extraordinary events

Governor Tim Walz today highlighted a budget proposal to improve public safety across Minnesota through the State Aid for Emergencies (SAFE) Account. The SAFE Account would provide public safety cost-share assistance through a reimbursement mechanism to local governments during an unplanned or extraordinary public safety event that exhausts available local resources, including mutual aid.

“Over the past year, Minnesota has experienced some of the most significant public safety challenges in a generation,” said Governor Walz. “While we cannot predict every challenge that may arise, we can and must be prepared to protect the safety of all Minnesotans. The SAFE Account does just that. By helping local governments with expenses that arise from extraordinary events, we can ensure that the safety of Minnesotans remains the utmost priority.”

“Ensuring safe communities throughout Minnesota is a priority of our administration, as we continue to work toward a future where all Minnesotans are protected and respected by law enforcement,” said Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan. “As our small businesses continue to rebuild following the civil unrest last summer, and as state capitols across the country see increased security risks following the attack on the U.S. Capitol this past January, the SAFE Account helps ensure that our communities are protected as we move forward together.”

Local governments across the state will be able to apply for reimbursement funding through the SAFE Account following an extraordinary public safety event. In the immediate term, the budget proposal will help secure the necessary public safety resources in advance of the spring trials of the former officers charged in the death of George Floyd.

“As we prepare to keep the peace in anticipation of the trials of the former officers involved in the death of George Floyd, we are working with our state and local law enforcement partners to prevent crime so that people’s voices can be heard,” said Commissioner of Public Safety John Harrington. “We’re asking legislators to take swift action to make this funding available so we can be fully prepared to keep Minnesota’s homes, places of worship, and workplaces safe.” 

Currently, there is a gap in state assistance for local governments when a public safety event occurs in their community that is significant enough to exhaust local resources. The $35 million SAFE Account would help keep Minnesotans across the state safe by reimbursing local governments for public safety needs. Eligibility occurs when an emergency is declared, when all mutual aid has been exhausted, and when the event is not covered by other federal and state disaster assistance programs. Eligible expenses are overtime costs, travel expenses, food, lodging, and incidental supplies for law enforcement officers.

Today, Senator Paul Gazelka (R-09, Nisswa) held his own press conference also in attendance Senate Property Tax Subcommittee Chair Bill Weber (R-22, Luverne), and a press release in response to discuss a bill being crafted in the senate. He again inappropriately equated the violence in Minneapolis in response to the death of George Floyd last summer, with the insurrection at our Nation’s Capitol when he said, “All violence should be considered unacceptable. Any violence in Minneapolis, any violence in Washington, DC.”

In his press conference, Gazelka sought to emphasize three points.

  1. Everyone deserves safe streets.
  2. Minneapolis should be expected to have adequate police.
  3. Minneapolis needs to pay for needed help of mutual aid when they need it.

The general crux of the conversation from Republicans is they believe Minneapolis’ Local Government Aid, should be redirected to the communities who responded to the riots and mayhem should be reimbursed from Minneapolis. The failure to reimburse communities who came to the call from mutual aid agreements means they are hesitant to sign such agreements and also to respond.

Senate Republican Press Conference on Public Safety

Senate Republicans hold cities accountable to pay public safety bills, provide LGA reimbursement process for mutual aid 

Today, Senate Republicans previewed a bill that would hold cities accountable to pay their mutual aid agreements and provide a process for public safety reimbursement without diverting funds away from education and healthcare.

“There are consequences to taking actions to defund the police. It doesn’t matter if you are a small town, a growing city, or a developed urban center: public safety is a priority you cannot ignore,” Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-East Gull Lake) said. “While the governor wants to set up a separate fund to bailout Minneapolis’s City Council from their poor budget decisions, we are holding the line and encouraging them to reconsider their priorities.”

“However,” Gazelka continued, “We still want to encourage mutual aid to keep Minnesotans safe. This bill will restore confidence to neighboring cities by ensuring that they are reimbursed when they step up to protect their neighbors with no additional cost to the taxpayers.”

The bill will be authored by Senator Bill Weber (R-Luverne), Chair of the Subcommittee on Property Taxes. It allows cities that provided mutual aid but haven’t been reimbursed for it yet to apply to have their Local Government Aid (LGA) adjusted to match the amount owed. The funds would be provided by lowering the LGA from the city that owes the mutual aid payment.

“Local Government Aid is a tool we already have funds for. Part of the $4.5 billion increase in spending in Governor’s Walz’s proposed budget is this special fund to protect Minneapolis,” Weber explained. “Respectfully, we have to balance our state budget, and Minneapolis has the money for public safety. If they aren’t paying their bills or need more mutual aid than they can afford after defunding their own police by $8 million, we’re not going to ask taxpayers to foot that bill.”

Weber continued, “This process is fair, it encourages law enforcement to be fully funded by cities, and it doesn’t take money away from the education or healthcare needs in the budget.”

A major concern with the governor’s funding is that while crime is rising to record levels in Minneapolis, the city council is actively looking for more ways to reduce police funding. Additionally, the disparaging attitude about police from the council has led to more than 100 officers leaving the force. The perception is Minneapolis will get to rely on statewide funds to provide for their public safety needs while other areas rely on tax revenues for public safety. It is essentially a bailout for defunding their police budget.

“Yesterday, the governor said to put whatever safeguards on his fund that we want,” Gazelka commented. “Well, we want to be sure that no city council who knowingly votes to defund their police department is bailed out by the rest of the state. Using LGA to reimburse unpaid mutual aid agreements are the guardrails we want in place.”

Republicans Show Signs of Affiliation with the Neo-Know Nothing Party

Minnesota Report

While Republicans Challenge the Premise of One Minnesota, that we’re all in on boat concept of the 2018 Tim Walz for Governor Campaign, we see signs of a seething hostility that exists between Greater Minnesota and the Twin Cities. This has been evident for decades, but there is a distinct difference from then to now, and that is the temperature is rising in the out-state area.

This was Trumpland, where red MAGA hats covered people’s brows, Trump flags flew on the backs of pick-up trucks, next to American flags and conspiracy theories took root.

A look at the electoral map of 2016 and 2020 discussed in the following article shows the changes well. The xenophobic, isolationism of the nation is not just a component of life nationally, but regionally here as well. The embrace of Donald J Trump (R) is just the most evident sign of it.

In the 1980s when President Ronald Reagan (R) called for Morning in America, he actually was calling for the devastation and decimation of rural communities. During the time of the movie Wallstreet when “Greed is Good” helped foster rural decay, the Farm Crisis, and the start of the depopulation of the “Greater” sized part of our state.

The idea of you can’t keep them on the farm became the rule, not the exception, but the idea of the return of the prodigal son remained a glimmering thought. Today, the kids leave may be to go to college, or for work and don’t come back. It used to be when people moved from somewhere else in Minnesota to the “Cities” they lived in a suburb on the same side as whence they came, because they didn’t want to “drive through the cities to go home.” Now, they are spread throughout the Twin Cities seven-county metro area and are as likely to live on the opposite side of the urban cluster or worse yet out-of-state.

This means there is a constant brain drain, youth vacuum, and what remains is people who realize nothing but loss, and their anger builds. As schools are more consolidated and communities have to develop a regional identity rather than that of their city, town, or township they experience the lack of a sense of place.

These are the constituent’s Republican officeholders listen to and it is reflected in their legislative perspectives, they see it as us versus them, not a one Minnesota, and they clutch their guns, stockpile their ammunition, and gird for the conflict they see coming.

The hate factor is higher and the anger index is greater the further one travels outside of the seven-county metro area and it played right into Trump’s hands and his message resonated with those seeking to gain back what they think they have lost.

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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