First District Congressman Tim Walz brought home the bacon - make that turkey - Wednesday winning his second consecutive Minnesota Hotdish competition with fellow Minnesota House members and Senators.
Headed into the fray, Walz announced that he had lost 85 pounds eating his "Turkey Trot Tator Tot" concoction. This didn't seem like an endorsement until Walz added that he was "about to run a marathon."
The annual food fest is a bipartisan feast dreamed up four years ago by Democratic Sen. Al Franken to give members of the Congressional delegation an ever-so-brief respite from gridlock and sniping between Democrats and Republicans.
All 10 members of the delegation participated in the fourth annual event. Republican Rep. John Kline has occasionally been a begrudging participant, but his "Morning Hot Chow" tied with Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar's "It's So Cold My Hotdish Froze Dessert" for runner-up status.
Asked if he made the dish himself, Kline, a burly ex-Marine, replied cryptically, "We did."
Republican Rep. Erik Paulsen claims to be one of the few members of the delegation to all of his own cooking. Paulsen said his roommates had made a video of him preparing his dish Tuesday night as proof.
Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann, participating in her final Minnesota Hotdish because she will not seek reelection, offered up her “Polar Vortex-Mex Hot Dish,” featuring a spicy mix of beef, pork and chorizo.
Bachmann then piled her bowl high with ingredients from her compeititors.
Like the offerings of Walz, Franken, Kline, Klobuchar, Paulsen and Bachmann, the entries of Democratic Reps. Rick Nolan, Collin Peterson, Betty McCollum and Keith Ellison seemed focused on the major food groups of any good Minnesota hotdish - fat and sugar.
You can read Star Tribune food critic Rick Nelson's take on the Hotdish competition's recipes here.
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.
A proposal to avoid partisan, big-money fights for judicial seats by changing the way judges achieve and keep their offices moved ahead on a mixed voice vote at the Legislature Wednesday.
The Senate Subcommittee on Elections approved the measure and sent it to the full Rules Committee.
Sponsored by Sen. Ann Rest, DFL-New Hope, the bill proposes an amendment to the state constitution that would go to voters in November. It would replace the current system, in which judges run for re-election with the word "incumbent" by their names, with one that depends on an appointed merit commission and yes-or-no "retention" elections with no opponent on the ballot.
Rest and supporters of the bill, including former Supreme Court Justice Eric Magnuson, presented the amendment as a way of avoiding partisan judicial elections that require judges to commit on issues that may later come before them. In Wisconsin and Michigan, they said, those races have attracted significant campaign contributions.
"You folks run on platforms," Magnuson told the legislators. "A judge can't run on a platform. That's antithetical to what a judge does. A judge decides cases based on the law and fact in front of him or her."
Sarah Walker, president of the Coalition for Impartial Justice, also argued in support of the bill. "All you have to do is look around the country .... to see that high-cost partisan elections are sweeping the country, and it's not far off in Minnesota."
Currently, most judges do come into office by gubernatorial appointment, but there are rare elections for open seats without an appointee. Once in office, judges stand for re-election and can be challenged by opponents. Most run unopposed.
Opponents of the measure including Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, the powerful anti-abortion organization, and others who argued that the measure denied voters the right to freely choose their own judges.
"We oppose the premise that citizens aren't qualified to vote for judges," said Andrea Rau of the MCCL. We believe citizens have the right to vote for a particular judicial candidate, not just against them."
Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, a member of the subcommittee, said voters "will have their vote taken away." He said empowering a commission to evaluate judges and recommend replacements means the people's right to select judges would be given to "political appointees."
"I don't see the public pounding our doors for this," Limmer said.
Rest's proposed amendment is now queued up in the Senate Rules Committee along with a proposed amendment that would make it harder for the Legislature to submit future constitutional amendments to voters. The House, which is up for re-election in November, has shown less interest in putting amendments on the ballot this year.
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
Rep. Keith Ellison, the Minnesota Democrat who co-chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus, released the liberal vision for the nation's finances Wednesday. He says it creates jobs and lowers the deficit by increasing taxes on corporations and wealthy individuals and raising the cost of carbon to pay for new roads, bridges, transit, energy and water projects, as well as job training programs.
The budget contemplates raising $1.2 trillion in revenue over the next decade by raising the tax rate on households with over $250,000 in income and raising another $1.2 trillion by raising the cost of carbon. Another trillion would come from taxing financial transactions.
View the details here http://1.usa.gov/1fuh2zn.
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