Legislators are picking sides in the Republican governor's race.
On Wednesday both Republicans Marty Seifert, a former House minority leader from Marshall, and Jeff Johnson, a Hennepin County Commissioner released lists of lawmakers who have their backs.
Former House Speaker Kurt Zellers, who currently represents Maple Grove in the House, announced a list of current and former lawmakers in his corner two weeks ago. The three will face off against each other and businessman Scott Honour, the only one of the quartet who has not served in the Legislature, in an August primary.
Johnson's list of lawmaker-supporters is the longest, which stands to reason because he is the Republican Party's endorsed candidate for governor. Partisans are encouraged to back the candidate the party backs.
Supporters released by the Johnson campaign on Wednesday:
Former Republican legislators endorsing Johnson include:
Supporters released by the Seifert campaign on Wednesday:
Seifert's campaign said more lawmaker support is coming.
"Marty Seifert’s campaign for governor has locally announced several legislative endorsements from current and former legislators over the last week and will continue to do so for the next 10 days," it said in a news release.
Honour, who has not released a list of his legislative supporters, took a whack at his rivals through his campaign's Twitter account.
Photo: Minnesota Capitol/Source: Rachel E. Stassen-Berger
Updates: The word "pressured" regarding the expectation that partisan support party-backed candidate has been changed to "encouraged."
The HonourHousley tweet has also been added.
On Tuesday, a day after DFL Gov. Mark Dayton said he was unsure whether the MNsure health insurance rates should be released before the election, the governor asked his commerce commissioner to attempt an earlier release.
"Making the rate information public before open enrollment begins would provide families and businesses additional time and information to help them make informed decision," Dayton said in a letter to MNsure's legislative committee.
The timing of the rate release has long been a political football.
Republicans have hammered the administration to release the 2015 health insurance rates before the November election, saying they believe consumer costs will like rise. Waiting until Nov. 15, when open enrollment begins and several weeks after voters will decide whether to re-elect Dayton and legislative DFLers, amounts to a political "cover up," they've said.
On Monday, Dayton appeared to resist calls for an earlier release.
"I think they are going to be so badly distorted for political purposes that I don't think they will shed any light for consumers," the governor said in answering reporter questions about the release schedule.
But by Tuesday, the date the MNsure's bipartisan legislative oversight panel is scheduled to discuss an earlier release, Dayton had decided an earlier release would be beneficial.
In his letter to the committee, the governor said he would like Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman to request the state's health plans to agree to release rates around Oct. 1. That would give consumers about 45 days before open enrollment begins and put the 2014 release on roughly the same schedule as the 2013 release.
Here's Dayton's letter:
Photo: Star Tribune file photo
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.
A new nationwide poll from the Pew Center on People and the Press finds that consistent conservatives and liberal make the decisions in primaries at the same time Democrats and Republicans' contrasts grow.
The poll, which surveyed 10,000 adults, found that those who are consistently conservative are more likely to turn out to vote. The same was true for consistent liberals, although to a slightly lessor extend.
The results are instructive for campaigns facing heated primaries, as Minnesota will experience this August, and for voters who may be unhappy with the election outcomes.
Adults on the more conservative and liberal ends of the spectrum are also more likely to vote in all elections and more likely to give money to political causes.
Notably for Democrats hoping to boost this year's midterm election turnout, conservative adults are significantly more likely to say they always vote than liberal adults.
The findings come as people are less likely to hold much in common with people of the opposite party.
Perhaps because of those differences, Republicans and Democrats over the past two decades have a growing dislike of each other.
While President Barack Obama moves to reduce the federal student loan debt burden for up to 5 million Americans, a Minnesota state senator is pointing to other steps this year by the Legislature to make college more affordable.
Specifically, the Legislature directed the state Office of Higher Education to come up with its own plan for refinancing student loans. By 2015, the goal is to give students carrying loan debt with interest rates up to 12 percent the chance to get that as low as 3 percent.
That tracks with Obama's executive order, issued Monday, that will cap federal student loan payments at 10 percent of the borrower's monthly income. It's estimated up to a half-million Minnesotans could be helped.
State Sen. Terri Bonoff, DFL-Minnetonka, called Obama's move "one way to help." But she said the Minnesota refinancing plan, along with several other legislative initiatives this year, would also bring relief to people with heavy college debt burdens.
Minnesota has the nation's fourth-highest level of average student debt, with an average debt load in 2010 at $29,800. Democrats in Washington and nationwide have recently stressed their efforts at reducing college costs, as this year's election heats up.
Bonoff, who chairs the Senate's Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee, also noted a pilot project approved by lawmakers this year that will seek companies with specific workforce needs that will help fund the education of specific students aiming for careers in those fields. Another bill lawmakers passed this year compels the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system to be more flexible with its credit transfer policy so that fewer students who shift among institutions will be forced to pay for redundant courses.
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