Gov. Mark Dayton said he was confident that the DFL-controlled Legislature would pass a minimum wage hike this year but it may take a while.
"Minimum wage is likely going to be one of those issues, the resolution of which is going to be held off until the last minute of the session," Dayton said on Thursday. "We’ll get a minimum wage increase."
For two weeks, the House and Senate have been stymied over how to raise the wage floor, which at $6.15 an hour is one of the lowest in the nation.
The House, Senate and Dayton all support raising the wage to $9.50 an hour over time. But the House and Dayton both want future increases to automatically rise with the cost of inflation but Senate leaders say an automatic index lacks the DFL votes to pass in the Senate.
"We will have to wait and see how it plays out over time," Dayton said on a conference call with reporters. The DFL governor had hip surgery last month and has been convalescing away from the Capitol since then.
Dayton said he expects a minimum wage bill to pass but it may have to wait until the final days of session.
"We'll come back to that one. We'll get a minimum wage increase...we will have to work out the detail at the right time," Dayton said.
For more than a week, Democrats in the Minnesota Legislature have been at a stalemate over how to raise the state’s minimum wage.
“It would be a dirty shame if we left the session without it,” House Majority Leader Erin Murphy, DFL-St. Paul, said Wednesday.
Both the House and Senate this year are backing a hike to $9.50 by 2016 but they are stymied on whether future increases should automatically rise with inflation.
The House, so far, has insisted that the new law should include some kind of automatic bump; the Senate has said such a measure would not pass the Senate.
“We are more than 10 votes short and I don’t see any circumstances under which the Senate could pass indexing,” Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook.
But, he said, he is not one of the votes against indexing.
Sen. Jeff Hayden, DFL-Minneapolis, said the Senate this week counted votes again on the issue. And again there were between 10 and 11 DFL members who would not vote a minimum wage hike with an automatic inflator.
He is not among them.
"I still support $9.50 and indexing," said Hayden. He said he has heard from his constituents, who include many activists and minimum wage workers, repeatedly over the issue.
"I've got really passionate advocates," he said. "They really want this."
But his desire, and theirs, has not yet been enough to move the Senate position. Last year, the Senate only backed a modest increase. Hayden said he thought when they found enough votes to approve a $9.50 increase, "we'd be at a bill signing ceremony by now."
"We were a little shocked that the House wasn't willing to meet us half way," Hayden said. "I still think that there's time."
In an effort to shed more light on who is influencing lawmakers, a Senate panel on Wednesday approved a measure that would require disclosure of officials' spouses' financial interests.
"I really see it as an oversight," said Sen. Kent Eken, DFL-Twin Valley, who sponsored the measure.
Various studies have found that Minnesota has weaker financial disclosure requirements than many states. Many other states already require some financial disclosure from spouses, and some even require information about lawmakers and other officials' children.
But the idea has its detractors.
"I just really don’t see how we can force a spouse to comply with this statute," said Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson. He said he could not support the measure.
Sen. Ann Rest, DFL-New Hope, said she shared that "sense of umbrage."
"I'm going to vote for it but I, too, have some misgivings," she told Eken.
The measure would also ask lawmakers and other officials to disclosure the areas in which they have contracts to do consulting or independent contracting.
A similar measure is moving forward in the Minnesota House as well.
Booze and baseball; football and taxes. Sports are on the agenda for lawmakers.
A House committee today to debate allowing later bar closing times during the Major League Baseball All-Star Game. This afternoon, the governor and the leaders of the House and Senate talked about possible tax breaks during the Super Bowl in 2018, which Minnesota is wooing.
"I don't know the details," House Speaker Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, said before the meeting. He said he has some reservations about giving the tax breaks and wants to make sure they get close examination.
Dayton spokesman Matt Swenson said after the meeting that the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority Chairwoman Michele Kelm-Helgen "provided a very preliminary first look at the potential economic benefits of bringing the Super Bowl to Minnesota."
"No decisions or commitments were made during the meeting. The Governor and legislative leaders will continue their discussion on this issue in the coming weeks," Swenson said.
If Minnesota wins the Super Bowl four years from now, the Legislature may see a bill much like the one the House Commerce and Consumer Protection Finance and Policy will debate later today.
The measure up for votes today would permit Hennepin County to license bars to stay open late "only during the period from 12:00 p.m. on July 15, 1.132014, through 4:00 a.m. on July 16, 2014," the period of the 2014 Baseball All-Star Game.
The bill will be considered at a 4 p.m. hearing Wednesday.
It remains to be seen how many Minneapolis bars are interested in paying $2,500 to stay open a few extra hours on a warm July night.
Craig Wait, general manager of Kieran’s Irish Pub, paid for the license to stay open during the 2008 Republican National Convention, but found that most convention-goers gravitated to private events instead of local pubs.
“It ended up being not so beneficial,” Wait said. “Bars paid a lot of money for not a lot in return.”
Photo: Minneapolis' Lowbrow bar, which is plastered with baseball cards//source: Star Tribune file photo
Staff writer Jennifer Brooks contributed to this report
With just 140 characters at their disposal on Twitter, Minnesota lawmaker and their staff have found plenty of ways to get in trouble.
On Sunday night, Republican Rep. Pat Garofalo sent out a tweet linking NBA players to street crime. The tweet produced a firestorm of criticism and was called racist nationwide. On Monday morning, Garofalo said he sincerely apologized for the message.
The five-term state lawmaker had bipartisan company in his Twitter turmoil.
Last year, Democratic Rep. Ryan Winkler tweeted of U.S. Supreme Court's voting rights act decision, that the “VRA majority is four accomplices to race discrimination and one Uncle Thomas.” The reference to Clarence Thomas, the only African American member of the Supreme Court, with the racial epithet was shared around the country. Winkler, who had been contemplating a run for Secretary of State at the time, deleted the tweet and said he didn't understand the reference would be offensive.
The year before, then-Republican Senate staffer Bob Koss tangled with then-Republican state Rep. John Kriesel over same-sex marriage, shortly before a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage was on the ballot. Koss lost his Senate job in the wake of the late night tweeting.
In 2011, then-state Sen. Gretchen Hoffman, R-Vergas, tweeted that Democratic Sen. Barb Goodwin called people with mental illness "idiots and imbeciles" during a Senate floor debate. Goodwin was, in fact, disparaging the historic terms used for people with mental illness. That incident resulted in an ethics complaint. The ethics panel met for five hours and decided the complaint would be dropped if Hoffman apologized, which she did.
And in 2009, as Twitter was dawning as a way for lawmakers to share their thoughts, Democratic Rep. Paul Gardner used the messaging service during a floor session to suggest that Republican Rep. Tom Emmer was nastier to women during debate than he was to men and that Republican Rep. Mark Buesgens had a black eye. Gardner, too, was brought up on ethics charges and issued a public apology.
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