With an insider’s eye, Hot Dish tracks the tastiest bits of Minnesota’s political scene and keep you up-to-date on those elected to serve you.

Contributors in Minnesota: Patrick Condon, Baird Helgeson, Patricia Lopez, Jim Ragsdale, Abby Simons, Rachel E. Stassen-Berger and Glen Stubbe. Contributors in D.C.: Allison Sherry, Corey Mitchell and Jim Spencer.

Posts about Minnesota legislature

Freedom Club on the air

Posted by: Rachel E. Stassen-Berger Updated: July 10, 2014 - 12:33 PM

The conservative, Minnesota-based Freedom Club has started running a broadcast ad going after DFL Gov. Mark Dayton “and the Democrats.”

The ad, which targets government spending, repeatedly mentions a “luxury office building” in reference to the new Senate office building going up this year.

“Minnesota, we deserve better,” is the ad’s tagline.

According to public documents, the group has spent significant cash to run the ad. It spent nearly $160,000 to run it on KARE11 through August. That would indicate more than $500,000 in spending if it equalized its ad time across all four statewide stations.

With millions of dollars in campaign spending in recent years, the Freedom Club, supported by wealthy Minnesota conservatives, is one of the largest political action committees in the state.

Both Dayton's campaign and the pro-Democrat Alliance for a Better Minnesota sent reporters fact checks, claiming the ad takes the record out of context and gets basic things wrong.

Freedom Club officials did not return a message inquiring about the ad.

MN FREEDOM CLUB-901229 (14049403874870) by Rachel E. Stassen-Berger

Zellers picks up legislative endorsements

Posted by: Baird Helgeson Updated: July 10, 2014 - 11:32 AM

Minnesota gubernatorial candidate Kurt Zellers unveiled a slate of new legislative endorsements Thursday, gaining the support of 16 current and former Republican legislators.

“He is the only candidate for governor who has succeeded in advancing Republican principles on high-stakes issues,” said state Rep. Tara Mack, R-Apple Valley. “As Speaker of the House, Kurt made Governor Dayton and the liberal special interest groups surrender on the state budget, and he is the best candidate to defeat Mark Dayton this fall.”

Zellers is among four GOP candidates vying to take on DFL Gov. Mark Dayton, who is seeking a second term. Zellers’ gubernatorial rivals include Orono businessman Scott Honour, former state Rep. Marty Seifert and Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson, who is the GOP endorsed candidate.

All four will face off in the Aug. 12 GOP primary, where voters will decide which one will challenge Dayton.

Here is the list of Zellers’ new endorsements:

Rep. Tony Albright, R-Prior Lake

Rep. Mark Anderson, R-Lake Shore

Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston

Rep. Mary Liz Holberg, R-Lakeville

Rep. Joe Hoppe, R-Chaska

Rep. Jeff Howe, R-Rockville

Rep. Tim Kelly, R-Red Wing

Rep. Tara Mack, R-Apple Valley

Rep. John Petersburg, R-Owatonna

Rep. Tim Sanders, R-Blaine

Rep. Nick Zerwas, R-Elk River

Former Rep. Roger Crawford, R-Mora

Former Rep. Paul Kohls, R-Victoria

Former Rep. Doug Lindgren, R-Bagley

Former Rep. Mark Murdock, R-Ottertail

Former Rep. Jim Rhodes, R-St. Louis Park

Capitol restoration to get more visible, much of building to close to public

Posted by: Patrick Condon Updated: July 3, 2014 - 11:48 AM

Major portions of the State Capitol building, including its rotunda, will close to the public next week as the years-long restoration project enters its next phase. 

The Department of Administration announced Thursday that work would become much more visible after the July 4 weekend passes. Among the projects getting underway are the replacement of the roof, and prepping much of the building's interior for new mechanical and electrical system installation. 

That means closing off the rotunda, every floor of the building's east wing, and the ground and first floors of the West Wing. Administration officials said those spots need to be closed off both to protect the public and architectural features. 

"The interior and exterior of the Minnesota State Capitol is a live construction site," said Department of Administration Commissioner Spencer Cronk. "We have a once in a lifetime opportunity to preserve this beautiful building for the next century, but with that opportunity comes shome short-term inconveniences. There will be a lot of noise and detours." 

Many of the building's most prominent tenants have already been moved off site. Gov. Mark Dayton and his staff moved to the Veterans Services Building at the south end of the Capitol campus. Attorney General Lori Swanson and her office relocated to office space in downtown St. Paul. 

The only tenants remaining for now are state senators with offices in the building. They'll be moved out after the 2015 session. 

Most of the building's art has been removed and is being stored by the Historical Society. Flagpoles from the top of the building have been taken off to make room for the roof replacement, and the golden chariot sculpture at the base of the dome will be enclosed to protect it during construction. 

The $273 million renovation and repair of the Capitol is scheduled to finish up in 2017. It was initiated with a focus on repairing deteriorating exterior stone, addressing safety concerns in the aging building, replaced outdated systems and creating more public space. 

Local government lobbying costs increased to $8 million in 2013

Posted by: Rachel E. Stassen-Berger Updated: June 23, 2014 - 11:35 AM

Local government lobbying costs increased to $8 million in 2013, a jump of a little less than $260,000 compared to 2012, according to a new report from the Office of the State Auditor.

The slight increase comes after a dip in local government lobbying. Back in 2012, the State Auditor found that lobbying costs decreased by 6 percent, or nearly $500,000, compared to 2011.

The report tallies up lobbying spending by "cities, counties, school districts, and special districts, directly employed staff and/or contracted with professional lobbyists to represent their interests before the Legislature," according to the office.

The year over year increase follows a pattern of higher spending during budget years, like 2013, compared to years when the Legislature largely focuses on capital borrowing issues, like 2012.

Still, the state mandated report also reflects the longer term trend of increasing lobbying costs. Back in 2003, local governments spent just over $6 million on lobbying, about $2 million less than they spent in 2013.

The 2013 annual report, like previous ones, found that larger local governments spent more on lobbying than smaller ones.

It also found that large lobbying firms made considerable sums lobbying for local governments.

Read the entire report here and all previous years' reports here.

Zellers urges probe into alleged MSOP cover-up; auditor says it's unlikely

Posted by: Abby Simons Updated: June 18, 2014 - 5:52 PM

Minnesota gubernatorial candidate Kurt Zellers urged the state’s legislative auditor to investigate the destruction of a serial rapist's violent fantasy logs as he vies for his release from the controversial Minnesota Sex Offender Program

On the heels of a Star Tribune report that the state’s attorney general alleges a coverup surrounding the potential release of Thomas Duvall, Zellers, a former Republican state House speaker, wrote a letter to Legislative Auditor Jim Nobles urging him to investigate the destruction of Duvall's journals, written as part of his treatment plan.

"What we have seen is a series of either distortions, cover-ups, misinterpretations, or just downright failure," Zellers said Wednesday. "Last February there was a news report that this was some sort of act by Mr. Duvall. Now here we are a few months later, it wasn't Mr. Duvall but someone with DHS destroying these documents."

Nobles ackowledged that he received Zellers' letter but doesn't intend to act.

"This issue is before a state Supreme Court appeals panel and I think that's where it belongs," Nobles said. "The issue was raised by the attorney general, and I think the proper place for this issue to be addressed and resoved is the appeals panel. I don't see a role for my office."

Zellers' comments came after the most recent revelations about the destruction of the logs surrounding the closely-watched and heated debate over whether Duvall can be released from custody. A federal judge urged the state Legislature to take action, but reform efforts went nowhere last session, with both lawmakers and Gov. Dayton urging one another to take action.

Zellers said a "top to bottom" audit is necessary to determine what happened to Duvall's journals, and to address whether he should be released. He blamed Dayton for a lack of leadership on the issue, brushing off criticism that the Legislature failed to act, noting that nothing passed with a House, Senate and governorship under DFL control.

"As governor it starts from the top down," he said. "You can legislate all you want but if your commissioners aren't going to abide by the law or at least the laws that were passed, as a governor it should start and end at the top. If you're not going to do your job then step aside."

Dayton's Deputy Chief of Staff Bob Hume fired back at Zeller's in a statement, blasting Zellers for "political posturing."

"The fact remains that Mr. Duvall is not a prisoner, he is civilly-committed," Hume said. "The decision to destroy his own personal property is between him and his lawyer. Under state statute, which Rep. Zellers helped write and has not mustered the will to change, that is the law."

Nobles' office has previously been involved in audits of MSOP. A 2011 report by the office that showed Minnesota has four times the number of civilly committed sex offenders per capita than 19 other states with similar programs and urged the Legislature to develop a plan for alternate placement for some offenders housed at MSOP along with other reforms.

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