The federal budget agreement going up for a House vote Thursday is expected to change little besides avoiding another government shutdown next month, which may be why Minnesotans in Congress who have deigned to comment on it so far have had little to say, good or bad.
None of the three Republicans in the Minnesota delegation uttered a public word about the deal, which has the support of House GOP leaders but has come under assault from a number of conservative and Tea Party groups.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat, described it as a small step forward: “The American people are sick and tired of the gridlock and political brinkmanship in Washington,” she said in a statement. “While this agreement is not perfect and I would have preferred a larger deal, it is one step forward in the effort to come together and focus on bipartisan budget solutions to reduce our debt and move our country forward, rather than lurching from crisis to crisis.”
Meanwhile, fellow DFLer Al Franken reserved judgment: “I’ll continue to study the details before I make a final judgment, but we cannot keep moving from budget crisis to budget crisis: it hurts our economy and prevents us from focusing on the work we were sent here to do,” he said. “While I’m glad that we could break through the gridlock and reach this deal, like any compromise, it has elements I like and don’t like. I’m glad that it undoes some of the sequester's extreme, across-the-board budget cuts—though I've been pushing to replace those cuts altogether—but I’m disappointed that it doesn't include an extension of critical emergency unemployment insurance."
In the House, Minnesota Democrat Keith Ellison was one of the first to question the proposed cuts to federal workers and pensions. “Federal employees work every day to inspect our food, deliver Social Security checks and ensure our loved ones arrive safely at airports around the country,” he said. “Our thanks to them over the past few years has been a series of pay freezes, furloughs and reckless government shutdowns.”
Despite similar misgivings, fellow DFLer Betty McCollum said she will support the deal. She issued a statement praising the hard-won bipartisanship in the deal: “This budget agreement is a bipartisan compromise which puts the needs of the country ahead of the politics of shutdown and governing by crisis. Sequestration is blunted, cuts to mandatory programs that serve children, seniors, people with disabilities, and vulnerable families were avoided, and regular order in the appropriations process will be reestablished. All of this means stability for our military, the economy, and families.”
Another Minnesota Democrat, Rep. Rick Nolan, said in an interview that while “there are plenty of reasons to vote against it,” the prospect of budget truce that avoids a government shutdown has some appeal. But he said he remains undecided.
Worries about Minnesota's new online health insurance marketplace are keeping Gov. Mark Dayton awake at night.
The state has just three more weeks to ensure the new MNsure site is ready for the Jan. 1 deadline to begin connecting thousands of uninsured and under-insured Minnesotans to health care coverage.
As many as one out of every five Minnesotans may eventually buy health insurance through MNsure, which is supposed to make shopping for health insurance cheaper and easier. But in the two and a half months since the site launched, it has been plagued by glitches, crashes and long waits for customer service.
“It’s, in my mind, past the point where these kind of snags should have been resolved," Dayton told reporters Wednesday, not long after he told a crowd at the Minnesota Association of Counties that MNsure is the one issue that keeps him awake at night.
"I’m mindful of how complicated the project is, and that we’re doing better than the federal government," Dayton said. But "we're three weeks away. I am concerned."
Dayton said he has "expressed my sense of urgency" to MNsure officials.
MNsure officials say they're doing their best to ensure the governor, and anyone else shopping for health insurance, rests easy. Although MNsure board chairman Brian Beutner says he's spent plenty of sleepless nights himself.
"It keeps me up at night as well, and I know it does the MNsure team, because I'm getting and emails and phone calls from them at midnight because they're literally working around the the clock."
About 25,000 people have enrolled in MNsure so far, including another 3,000 who signed up last week, he said. Buetner said the main focus now is on the 40,000 people who have set up profiles on MNsure, but have not yet picked out a plan or paid their first premium. The first plans go active on Jan. 1, but the open enrollment period runs through the end of March.
Jim Niland, who has worked on politics from all angles, will manage the DFL Party's coordinated campaign for the 2014 elections.
Niland has been the the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 5 political and legislative director since 2005. AFSCME Council 5 was an early supporter of Gov. Mark Dayton's 2010 campaign and has already endorsed his re-election bid.
The public employees union has also been a l
arge spender on political campaigns. According to campaign finance records, AFSCME-related groups have spent nearly $4 million on Minnesota campaigns in the last six years.
Now, Niland, a former Minneapolis City Council member who has worked in many campaigns, will take a leave from the union to work at the party.
“The coordinated campaign will help make sure DFLers vote in 2014,” Niland said in a statement. “We have to protect the gains we won in the 2012 election by keeping the majority in the State House, reelecting Gov. Dayton and Sen. Franken and making sure Democrats up and down the ticket win their races.”
University of Minnesota and law enforcement officials headed to the Minnesota Legislature Tuesday to brief lawmakers about a recent spike in campus crime.
On paper, there has been little change in the campus crime rate. But the statistics are small consolation to students after a series of brazen crimes on and near campus – including sexual assaults, muggings and armed robberies.
“We no longer feel safe walking outside,” University of Minnesota student Sara Gottlieb told lawmakers Tuesday during a hearing of the Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee.
Universities have stepped up outreach efforts – urging students to take common-sense precautions like walking in groups and keeping expensive cell phones and electronics out of sight in public.
But students say they feel targeted, no matter what precautions they take. They can hide their phones, but criminals will assume they carry one anyway. They can walk in groups, but armed robbers near campus have attacked groups as well as individuals.
The University of Minnesota has 50,000 students, but it seems that almost everyone knows someone who has been a victim, or has had a close call. Student Rachel Sadowsky told senators about a friend who was robbed on his own front porch while coming home from work.
“We feel targeted and we do not feel safe,” said Sadowsky, who urged the university to expand patrols into the neighborhoods around campus.
“Hiding our phones is not enough… Walking in groups is not enough,” said Gottlieb, who lives blocks from a street corner where a student was held up at gunpoint in the middle of the afternoon this Sunday. “Carrying pepper spray is not enough, as a good friend of ours this weekend had her pepper spray turned against her as she was walking home.
So far this semester, there have been four serious crimes within blocks of student Zack Shartiag’s home in Dinkytown. Security worries are doing more than the weather to drive down attendance at campus events, he said.
“I’ve been changing my routes, I’ve been staying inside,” he said.
Those sorts of worries prompted committee chairwoman Sen. Terri Bonoff, DFL-Minnetonka, to call a three-hour informational hearing of the to look into what campuses are doing about the crime spike, and what the Legislature might do to help.
“We are here to combat that fear, not succumb to it,” Bonoff said. “We are going to nip this....The university’s a jewel and we are not going to lose our students. We’re going to keep you safe.”
Campus police and community law enforcement testified about the efforts already going into the work of keeping students safe. The university recently hired three new officers for its 50-member campus police force and is putting in extra lighting, emergency call boxes and key-card locks on public buildings.
Since Aug. 1, there have been 28 robberies around the university’s Minneapolis campus. In the most recent incident, a 23-year-old woman was scraping ice off her car’s windshield at 4:43 p.m. Sunday when an armed man approached, displayed a gun, and demanded money. The man fled when the woman’s boyfriend approached.
|Vikings (7)||Health care (1)|
|1st District (118)||2nd District (111)|
|3rd District (92)||4th District (66)|
|5th District (137)||6th District (506)|
|Funding (640)||Health care (202)|
|Minnesota U.S. senators (460)||Minnesota campaigns (1270)|
|Minnesota congressional (673)||Minnesota governor (1565)|
|Minnesota legislature (1732)||Minnesota state senators (735)|
|National campaigns (442)||President Obama (326)|
|State budgets (762)||Celebrities (1)|
|Anoka (1)||Fridley (1)|
|2012 Presidential election (319)||7th District (66)|
|8th District (177)||NHL news (1)|
|Gov. Tim Pawlenty (444)||Political ads (81)|
|Recount (95)||Gov. Mark Dayton (1049)|
|Democrats (836)||Republicans (1000)|
|Morning Hot Dish newsletter (46)||Sept11 (1)|
|Public safety (2)||Marriage Amendment News (1)|
|Voter ID News (2)||Budget news (4)|