By Baird Helgeson
The Minnesota Senate is about to spend another $77,500 in legal fees to conclude the wrongful termination lawsuit brought by former staffer Michael Brodkorb.
The Senate received a nine-page bill from their lawyers for September through December, ending after Brodkorb agreed to drop the suit for $30,000.
Both sides agreed to pay their own legal fees, as part of the settlement. The Senate Rules Committee is scheduled to approve the bill Monday.
Taxpayers have already spent about $320,000 defending the Senate against the lawsuit.
Brodkorb was fired in December 2011 after it was revealed he had an affair with then Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, a Republican from Buffalo. Koch resigned her leadership position and did not seek re-election.
Brodkorb had served as the Senate GOP’s communications chief and, with Koch, was instrumental in helping Republicans win control of the state Senate in 2010. Democrats won back control in the next election.
Next week, Republican David Gerson will kick off his 2014 campaign against Republican U.S. Rep. John Kline.
"We know the number one people are leaving our party is the lessor of two evils argument," Gerson said. "We want to give people a choice."
He said Kline, first elected in 2002, espouses the Republican values of "limited government, individual liberty and free markets" but has not voted those values.
Gerson ran against Kline in a primary in the south suburban and rural Second Congressional District last year and got 15 percent of the vote.
"Last year, we really were just trying to send a message to John Kline," Gerson said. "We didn’t run a serious campaign last time."
This year Gerson is starting earlier and has already spoken at local Republican groups, made thousands of calls to activists and primary voters, he said. He also has Marianne Stebbins, who coordinated presidential candidate Ron Paul's well organized Minnesota campaign last year, as his campaign co-chair.
"We are very confident that we are going to be taking the endorsement," he said. "We are the Republican Party."
Gerson says on his campaign website that he will abide by the endorsement, which means he will not run in an August primary if local Republicans do not give him the nod in the Spring.
Asked about Gerson's plans, Troy Young, Kline's spokesman said: "Congressman Kline will continue fighting for all Minnesotans as their premiums skyrocket or they are losing their health insurance altogether due to the ObamaCare train wreck that is wreaking havoc on our economy."
On Monday morning, Gerson will hold a media event at the Minnesota Capitol's state office building to announce his plans to seek the Republican endorsement.
Ground is broken, the budget stars have aligned and disassembly and demolition will soon commence at the Metrodome to make room for the new Vikings stadium. Now for the 64,000-seat question: What to do with those folding plastic bleacher chairs that, along with the rears planted in them, presided over more than three decades of Minnesota sports history?
About 70 schools, colleges, and nonprofits like community centers have asked about the seats in chunks of 200 to 300 at a time for their facilities. While some will take the auction block, taking them apart and handing them out to deserving organizations isn’t simple or cheap, Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority Chair Michele Kelm-Helgen told lawmakers Thursday.
“It’s going to be a fairly major challenge,” Kelm-Helgen said at a hearing for the Legislative Commission on Minnesota Sports Facilities. “Obviously we want to be a resource for those schools and community groups, but here’s the issue we’re confronted with: We need to be very clear what it is they’re getting.”
Dome demolition is expected to begin right after the Vikings’ final home game Dec. 29 to make way for construction of its $975 million replacement, which should open in time for the 2016 NFL season. In the meantime, they’re planning to empty it of its contents, including the seats once the football season is complete. Some are expected to be auctioned, but how many remains uncertain in light of figuring out how to remove and separate them cheaply.
"It's become a stumbling block for us for us to figure out what the cost is going to be and what people can reasonably pay." Kelm-Helgen said.
Most people and organizations who contacted the MSFA has asked for seats or dirt, including the River Falls (Wis.) Baseball Council , which requested “exactly 293 seats” for a townball-style ballpark now under construction. The MSFA wants to oblige, but the seats, Kelm Helgen said, are bolted into concrete slabs with no base. They’re also attached in large rows, making it expensive to remove and separate, she said. Estimates by Mortenson Construction to remove the seats are estimated at $48 per chair, she said. Multiply that by the 20,000 chairs requested by the nonprofits, and the total cost is $960,000.
“Our authority can’t absorb a million dollar cost to remove chairs,” Kelm-Helgen said.
New stadium-style chairs are $150, but even the $48 for used seats will likely be too much for the groups, she said.
Commission co-chair Sen. Bobby Joe Champion, DFL-Minneapolis, asked whether interested groups could come remove the chairs themselves. Kelm-Helgen said the possibility is unlikely because of insurance, labor union and liability issues, and the difficulty in separating them which is “not just unbolting a few things. It’s a very significant process.”
Champion said he hopes a cost-effective solution can me made for the seats’ removal. “We wouldn’t want to foresee all those wonderful chairs that have great memories just go to waste and end up in some landfill.” he said.
U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison is among a group of Senate and House Democrats teaming with the White House on a campaign to tout benefits of the Affordable Care Act.
The White House and Democratic allies will highlight a potential benefit of President Obama's health care law each day, aiming to remind voters of elements that Democrats say would disappear if Republican repeal efforts are successful.
The Obama administration is hoping the strategy will help shift public opinion after the law's rocky rollout.
Though a majority of Democratic and independent voters don’t support Republican efforts to repeal or defund the law, national polls show the electorate isn’t happy with the Affordable Care Act’s problems.
Millions of Americans, including an estimated 140,000 Minnesotans, have received cancellation notices from their health insurance companies, violating a key promise from the president that if “you like your plan you can keep it.”
Democrats acknowledge the Affordable Care Act isn’t perfect. During an appearance on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday, Ellison predicted that people will turn their attention to the law's benefits as the healthcare.gov website's troubles diminish.
“I’m working to make sure Minnesotans and working families around the country have the facts about health care reform,” Ellison said in a statement. “Now individuals and families will have free preventive care, no more lifetime cost limits, and an end to the days when insurance companies could take away your health care when you got sick.”
The messaging will continue until December 23, the deadline for people to enroll for January coverage.
Thus far, Republicans have mocked the effort, saying they’re ready to train the spotlight on the law’s shortcomings. The National Republican Congressional Committee, the campaign arm of U.S. House Republicans, said the “strike team” that Ellison belongs to is “Congress’ liberal all-star team.”
“We look forward to talking about the law even more than Democrats do,” said Matt Gorman, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee.
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