The group that successfully pushed to legalize same-sex marriage in Minnesota raised more than $2 million for its Capitol lobbying effort.
The money went to organize people to contact their legislators and about $500,000 went for advertising, Minnesotans United said.
Campaign manager Richard Carlbom said the group's fund-raising success came from the fact that “everyday Minnesotans wanted to secure the freedom to marry.”
The group’s effort was among the most intense of the legislative session, which concluded Monday. It is also likely to be one of the most well-funded lobbying efforts at the Capitol this year.
In January, some DFL legislative leaders wanted to wait until next year to push for same-sex marriage. But the relentless effort by Minnesotans United culminated in two dramatic floor votes to pass the proposal. DFL Gov. Mark Dayton signed the measure last week in a historic outdoor bill signing.
The group that tried to block same-sex marriage, Minnesota for Marriage, declined to release its fund-raising numbers.
Minnesota for Marriage pushed for a constitutional amendment blocking same-sex marriage, which voters rejected in November. The effort by Minnesotans United to legalize same-sex marriage spawned out of the group's victory defeating the amendment.
The National Organization for Marriage, a main backer of the Minnesota effort to block same-sex marriage, simply did not have the money to spend in Minnesota this year, an official said. NOM had been fighting similar marriage–related battles in several other states.
“There wasn’t the money. There weren’t the resources,” said Frank Schubert, national political director for NOM. “The cupboards were bare, or more than bare.”
Same-sex marriage becomes legal in Minnesota Aug. 1.
Minnesotans United has now created a political-action group to raise money to support candidates who voted to legalize same-sex marriage.
How do you thank Minnesota taxpayers for a half-billion dollar gift?
Mayo Clinic does it with balloon bouquets, hand-lettered thank-you signs, and a choreographed cheering section.
"DMC! DMC!" happy Mayo staffers chanted Wednesday, after state lawmakers signed off on a plan to support Mayo's new Destination Medical Center project with some $585 million in state and local tax support over the next three decades. The cheers got louder as Gov. Mark Dayton and state lawmakers took the stage in Rochester to accept the thanks.
Dayton said passage of the "enormous, almost unprecedented" development project a "glorious day" for the state and the community. Other massive spending projects, like the Vikings stadium, took years, but the half-billion dollar Mayo bill passed in the space of a single session
"What a great day," said House Speaker Paul Thissen. The fact that the Legislature was able to sign off on such a massive project so quickly, he said, proves that "people working together and a community working together with the state government can actually accomplish something. I think that was a hallmark of what this last legislative session was about."
The Rochester celebration also drew Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk -- "What a difference an election makes," he told the crowd -- House Majority Leader Erin Murphy and members of the local delegation, including Rep. Tina Liebling, DFL-Rochester, and Sen. Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, who was the only Republican to vote for the Destination Medical Center plan after it was wrapped into a $2 billion tax bill.
The Mayo funds, wrapped into a $2 billion tax bill, will steer $585 million to Rochester to support infrastructure improvements around the new downtown development. The state will chip in $372 million over the next 27 years, but only after Mayo, the city of Rochester and Olmstead County make substantial investments of their own. Mayo has pledged billions to the project — $3.5 billion of its own money and another $2 billion in private investments.
"We're the land of 10,000 lakes and 14,000 physicians," joked Rep. Kim Norton, DFL-Rochester, who guided the Mayo bill through a rocky session. "I am so excited to see what happens next."
What happens next will be decided over the next few months. The Destination Medical Center's new governing board will come together and begin deciding which projects will be built first. No state tax dollars will flow until at least $200 million in private investment have been poured into the project.
The to-do list includes everything from expanding the Mayo campus to upgrading the downtown with new hotels, restaurants and cultural attractions.
The Mayo bill took a beating from skeptical lawmakers, particularly after Mayo CEO John Noseworthy warned that if Minnesota didn't come up with the money, there were 49 other states that would be happy to open their doors to Mayo. Dayton rose to Noseworthy's defense Wednesday.
"You got criticized unfairly for this. I get criticized unfairly by the Legislature every day" Dayton said. "But there are 49 other states that would really love to have this opportunity." As the crowd in the Mayo lobby applauded and laughed, he added, "It's the truth. We are incredibly fortunate to have Mayo here."
Noseworthy thanked lawmakers for doing what many thought could not be done -- passing the expensive, complex Destination Medical Center financing bill in a single session. And since the Legislature came through for Mayo, he said, Mayo plans to stay right here in Rochester.
"It's a great day to be a Minnesotan, a great day to call Rochester our home," Noseworthy said. "Based on this legislation, Mayo Clinic is prepared to invest in Minnesota, where we've been for 149 years, and now we'll be even stronger, for generations to come."
The Minnesota Supreme Court says that lawmakers' votes to legalize same sex marriage do not provide cause for recall elections.
Crow Wing County Republican Doug Kern, of rural Brainerd, filed petitions to recall DFL Reps. Joe Radinovich and John Ward based on their support for legalization of same-sex marriage.
"Constituent disagreement with how their elected representative exercised discretion, through public statements made or votes taken, does not equate to malfeasance by the representative," the court said in an order dismissing the recall petition against Radinovich earlier this week. The court issued a similar order dismissing the petition against Ward.
State law sets the recall bar very high for public officials, only allowing recall elections to go forward based on "serious malfeasance or nonfeasance" in performance of public duties.
The dismissal of the recall effort does not end the possible consequences for lawmakers' votes on the marriage issue.
Both the Baxter area Ward represents and the Crosby area Radinovich represents favored the constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage last year. If they run for re-election in 2014, voters may express their disappointment at the polls.
Gov. Mark Dayton signed an education-funding bill that provides money for all-day kindergarten beginning in the Fall of 2014, which DFL leaders called the "capstone" of the Legislative session.
"This is why we raised taxes progressively," Dayton said as he signed the bill, which increases funding for pre-school scholarships, all-day kindergarten and classroom education by a combined $485 million.
DFL sponsors of the bill, Rep. Paul Marquart, DFL-Dilworth, and Sen. Chuck Wiger, DFL-Maplewood, offered glowing testimonials.
"This is a great day for our kids and the state of Minnesota," said Marquart, himself a teacher and wrestling coach. He said the bill will "hit the reset switch" on education in Minnesota.
"This is the best education bill to be signed in Minnesota history," said Wiger. "It's not only a home run -- it's a grand slam."
The bill uses the biggest chunk of the tax increase for several education efforts:
-- $134 million to allow districts to provide all-day Kindergarten beginning in Fall 2014, with no charge to parents. It would be optional for districts, but most are expected to participate. Currently, free-all-day kindergarten is available to slightly more than half of Minnesota students.
-- $234 million in basic classroom funding through the school funding formula, beginning in the coming school year.
-- $40 million in scholarships for parents, based on need, to send their children to high-quality pre-schools. Scholarships are worth up to $5,000, affecting an estimated 8,000 students. The funds will be available immediately.
-- $40 million in special education.
The bill raises the compulsory attendance age from 16 to 17, meaning students must be a year older to legally drop out. And it does away with high-stakes high school testing known as the GRAD tests, replacing them with tests that are designed to more quickly identify problems and better prepare students for college.
Business groups and GOP legislators attacked the end of the GRAD tests as a "dumbing down" of Minnesota education. Dayton said tests had become counterproductive and needed to change.
"We're in transition from the old form of testing, which was onerous, which was absurd," Dayton said. "I'm for testing -- I 'm for accountability, but not past the point and into absurdity, and that's where we've gone.... We're going to develop testing ... that is modeled after, if not exactly like, the ACT, which is used nationwide, which is accepted by colleges nationwide."
The K-12 education bills were generally opposed by Republican legislators, passing with largely DFL votes in the Senate (41-26) and House (78-56.)
Rep. Kelby Woodard, R-Belle Plaine, Assistant Minority leader and GOP leader on education finance, sharply criticized the bill, which he voted against. He said the notion that the Legislature can set 2027 as the year when the system will have no achievement gap is unrealistic.
"It's full of pixie dust," he said. "We're just funding the same programs that have given us ... the nation's worst achievement gap." He said of the bill, "It's full of money and empty of reform."
He added that the early-childhood funding includes a rating system that gives an advantage to Head Start, which may be the only highly-rated option for parents outside the metro area. And assuming that all-day kindergarten will solve problems is an "empty promise," he said.
A DFL legislator, Rep. Ryan Winkler of Golden Valley, praised the bill in general but said it does not spend enough to promote early-childhood education. He criticized the caps on scholarship amounts and the fact that there is not enough funding to serve all those who need it.
He said $5,000 "will enable a child to attend high-quality child care from about January to May," but then families will "scramble to find the money to continue."
Gov. Dayton signs education bill with sponsors Rep. Marquart (left of governor) and Sen. Wiger (right) watching.
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