Politics with Jennifer Brooks

How fantasy sports bill died

Good morning.

This is my 4th session here and I don't remember a single time when majority House Republicans brought a bill to the House floor, only to see it go down, which is what happened to Rep. Tony Albright's fantasy sports bill Tuesday. Fantasy sports has become big industry and has had a team of lobbyists on hand at the MN Capitol since 2016. A similar measure passed the House by an overwhelming margin in '16 but died in a Senate committee. The bill would formalize that fantasy sports is legal and set up some consumer protections like age restrictions and a required audit and background check of the businesses.

A lobbyist with knowledge of the issue told me there had been an effective opposition campaign from two directions that came at the House floor vote like a pincer. Libertarian objections to govt regulation came from Center of the American Experiment, Tea Party Patriots and the Liberty Caucus. Rep. Steve Drazkowski, a leader of this wing of the caucus, gave a humdinger of a speech about how the bill was "swamp water." On the other side of that pincer formation, there was (mostly Christian) advocacy arguing the opposite case from the libertarians -- that daily fantasy sports is gambling and that this constituted an expansion of gambling -- with the result the same: A nay vote. These groups included the Joint Religious Legislative Coalition, Catholic Conference, Minnesota Family Council and the Citizens Against Gambling Expansion. One of the liberty groups was scoring the vote, and leadership wasn't whipping hard because it was assumed it was in hand, and it wasn't considered a particularly important issue. The yay side did not have an effective vote counting or lobbying effort. I also wonder if news about proposed sports gambling expansion (see here ) also muddied the waters.

Albright seemed baffled when I talked to him this morning: "We have the largest per capita number of folks in the nation participating in fantasy sports games. Provisions in my bill have been enacted in 16 or 17 other states for the reasons I cited on the floor, and as Rep. (Tim) Sanders did 2 years ago, to put some guardrails up and create consumer protections and make sure bad folks aren't allowed to participate in the industry and do harm to our citizens."

There's also said to be some friction between Albright and Rep. Jim Knoblach, the powerful chair of Ways and Means over a higher ed issue -- as always, over who gets what. Albright: "I wouldn't say it's a conflict. Chair Knoblach is the committee chair, so he's the final stop. We both wanna to get to the same place, it's just how we get there."

The difference between influence at the Capitol and perceptions of influence is nearly indistinguishable. But House GOP source tells me this was not a high profile issue internally, and that the proof will be in the pudding when the omnibus budget and tax bills come up.

Which segues nicely: House Taxes Committee passed the Rep. Greg Davids tax bill Tuesday and sent it on to Ways and Means. Davids said it could hit the floor early next week. Davids' plan is much in line with orthodox economic theory, clearing away a lot of deductions and lowering rates. The result is that more than 2M get reductions while 179K will see a tax increase because they're losing deductions. Given the complexity of the problem, and the $$ available, it was evidently the best he could do. Gov. Mark Dayton, on the other hand, raises taxes on biz, leaves the deductions in place and give most taxpayers a tax credit. Davids wins on the simplicity front, but Dayton winds up not increasing anyone's individual income tax. But they both agree they want to stop using federal taxable income to determine Minnesota taxes, which would put an end to the annual "conformity" problem. With the caveat that he wants more progressivity, DFL Rep. Paul Marquart was optimistic about the Davids bill and the opportunity to get a deal done. As was Davids during a news conference, with his usual publicly good-natured solicitousness toward the DFL governor. My story here.

On the downside, the Senate still doesn't have a bill. Senate Taxes is meeting this morning, but there's no bill. The 34-33 problem -- they don't wanna pass anything with a mere 34 votes because of the lawsuit hanging over them about whether Lt. Gov. Michelle Fischbach is also a senator -- is shadowing Senate GOP everywhere.

Rep. Erin Maye Quade is quite accomplished at ... getting publicity. She's in the middle of a 24 hour "sit-in" demanding gun bills be brought to the House floor. She spent the night tweeting the names and some of the stories of gun violence victims. Erin Golden reports. 439 comments on our website. Wonder what her suburban district thinks. U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, the DFL candidate for governor who has already lost a lot of cred with gun rights advocates, cheered her on via Twitter.

Record number of sexually transmitted diseases reported in Minnesota -- again, Jeremy Olson reports. Chlamydia was worst in greater Minnesota and suburbs. C'mon people.

Mick Mulvaney told the American Bankers Association (lucky for Tim Pawlenty that it wasn't the Financial Services Roundtable) that he would only meet with lobbyists who had contributed to his campaign. “If you’re a lobbyist who never gave us money, I didn’t talk to you. If you’re a lobbyist who gave us money, I might talk to you.” Is that even legal? Aren't you supposed to pretend the $$ isn't in exchange for access? He said this to a meeting of 1,300 people.

Another Trump nominee, Dr. Ronny Jackson, may be in trouble, as a bipartisan group of senators has questions about giving out meds, being drunk on official trips and a toxic work environment: Times. Obama folks had positive things to say about his work when he was White House doc, however. Running the VA is nothing at all like being a doctor, which is the most important issue here.

Even in the Beltway, which has been years behind the rest of the country on the issue, legal pot is having its moment. A Dem House could lead to so-called de-scheduling, which means legal in states that decide to go that way. Politico.

Our Washington D.C. colleague Maya Rao's book of immersive journalism and narrative nonfiction about the North Dakota oil boom is now on sale. Buy it here. Can't wait to read it.


Have a great day all!

-- J. Patrick Coolican

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