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, J. Patrick Coolican, Patricia Lopez, Ricardo Lopez, Abby Simons, and Glen Stubbe. Contributors in D.C.: Allison Sherry and Jim Spencer.

Morning Hot Dish: 'The Power Broker,' the budget and the never-ending campaign

Posted by: J. Patrick Coolican Updated: January 28, 2015 - 8:57 AM

'The Power Broker,' the budget and the never-ending campaign

Somehow I got this far in life, a decent portion of it covering politics, without having read “The Power Broker.” Until last night, and the tale of Robert Moses is thus far riveting. This isn’t midcentury New York City, so clearly there’s no Minnesota equivalent, but I’m looking.

Ricardo Lopez and Pat Condon report on the governor’s $42 billion budget, which mostly goes to schools, pre-K and programs for families but drew immediate criticism from Republicans as throwing more money at the same problems.

The budget, which sets Dayton’s main priorities for the next two years, would, if approved by the Legislature, amount to a nearly 20 percent increase in total state spending since he took office.

When coupled with Monday’s proposed gas tax increase and new transportation funding, it’s an ambitious program, making Dayton one of the most unabashedly progressive Democratic governors in the country.

Among the losers: The Minneapolis Parks Board took a beating for what Dayton explicitly called its obstruction of the Southwest light-rail line to Eden Prairie. And the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities was down on the budget for lack of local government aid.

Read the whole thing for details and budget docs.

Abby Simons reports there’s money for the sex offender program.

Dayton and Lt. Gov. Tina Smith will meet with GOP legislative leaders this morning. Closed press. (Really?) Dayton then meets with Xcel Energy CEO Ben Fowke. Later, meetings of the GOP House and Senate caucuses, and DFL House and Senate caucuses. In the evening, Dayton will attend a retirement party honoring Pioneer Press reporter Bill Salisbury. (Congrats, Bill.)

Smith has a similar day except also at 3:45, she will swear in Adam Duininck as chair of Met Council (390 Robert Street North, Saint Paul).

Legislative committees start to take up the governor's budget, and House Commerce will address some interesting gambling bills. Full schedule

School choice debate: Tim Keller, Institute for Justice, and Steve Kelley, Humphrey School of Public Affairs, Wednesday, January 28, 12:15 - 1:15 p.m.; FREE LUNCH. (Alternate debate: Resolved, there is such thing as a free lunch.) University of Minnesota Law School; 229 19th Ave. S., Rm. 50; Minneapolis.

Tea Party coronary alert: Found: drinks coaster at Amsterdam bar, downtown St. Paul, advertising MNsure. Stick figure and his drink are on fire, with ad copy: “It’s good to have health insurance.” You could argue it’s fiscally prudent because they’re trying to reach younger consumers, who would improve the risk pool and drive down costs. On the other hand, it’s a bar coaster. While we’re talking MNsure, more money for MNsure, Chris Snowbeck reports.

Sen. Tomassoni in the clear? My blog post on the draft opinion of the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board, which says a job isn’t a conflict of interest.

Star Trib blogger Michael Brodkorb has been blogging about this subject. Check it out. Same with Aaron Brown. (Note to readers: As with events, I’ll sometimes share relevant opinion pieces, but they should be viewed like retweets; they are not endorsements.)

The Permanent Campaign

(Occasional reporting on how legislative politics and electoral politics bleed together this year.)

By most accounts, the Republicans have a livelier ongoing campaign operation than in the past, via the Minnesota Jobs Coalition, the business backed, Republican-aligned group from which Ben Golnik was plucked to head the new House Republican majority caucus. It’s the same group that spent hundreds of thousands last year to flip the House.

The emails come a few times per week from MJC’s Executive Director John Rouleau, this time Monday about the Dayton transpo plan: “Back To The Drawing Board: Dayton Plan DOA.”

Here is part of the unsolicited response of DFLer Zach Rodvold, “Who is calling the shots at the (House Republican Campaign Committee?) Asked rhetorically, because I think it's obvious.” The implication is that the Jobs Coalition is calling the shots.

This back-and-forth will only get more intense now that the governor’s budget has dropped.

Crystal ball

Been meaning to post this: Rep. Joe Atkins, DFL-Inver Grove Heights, a savvy veteran legislator, made some predictions about this session in his newsletter to constituents. Edited for length. Let’s remember to check back in the Spring to see how he did.

Bipartisanship.  I'm not kidding. College tuition freeze. Transportation funding.  Some, not all. Met Council takes a pounding.  Child care tax credit for middle-income families. E-12 funding increase. Nursing home and caregiver funding increase.  These folks are severely underpaid. Property tax caps. Income tax cut.  Sex offender relocation. Relocating some low-level offenders, but not enough to fully satisfy the federal judge.

Back to me: What’s missing here? Nothing on Sunday liquor sales.

Proposal would prohibit permanent deer stands on state lands

The North

Our new name, “The North” instead of “Midwest,” made the Wall Street Journal (h/t Ricardo Lopez.)

Then Chicago and its Tribune turned around and laughed at us about it. Can’t find it, but years ago the New Yorker had a long story about South Dakota’s perennial attempt to become merely, “Dakota.” I like “The North” because it sounds like a David Lynch movie, but generally speaking, there’s something a little weird about someone changing his name, a sign of either corporate machinations (Altria?) or identity crisis (“Flynn” in “Breaking Bad.”)

Washington and beyond

Rep. John Kline on the radio, talking K12 education reform.

Sen. Al Franken pushing Uber again on privacy, Allison Sherry reports.

Rep. Collin Peterson is running for re-election, Sherry reports.

AP: Swift backlash and the White House backs off plan to end college savings plans.

Wis. Gov. Scott Walker is headed to Israel for a trade mission next month, reports the Milwaukee Business Journal. A trade mission.

Why did Michele Bachmann spend so much in December raising money?

Interesting Brendan Nyhan analysis matching up 2016 candidates with those who came before. 

In Politico, an anonymous writer with a letter to the new Saudi King.

you know where to find me

Tips, complaints, insider stock trading advice to patrick.coolican@startribune.com; follow me on twitter: @jpcoolican

Unhappy with first response, Sen. Al Franken pushes Uber again on privacy

Posted by: Allison Sherry under Morning Hot Dish newsletter Updated: January 27, 2015 - 7:29 PM

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Al Franken on Tuesday fired off another letter to Uber headquarters in San Francisco, asking the ride-sharing company to further clarify its privacy policies.

This is the second time Minnesota's junior senator has pushed the company to be more transparent about how it stores and uses millions of consumers rider information. 

Late last year, amid news reports Uber threatened to publicize private data about journalists' writing negative stories about the company, Franken wrote the company a letter asking for clarification about its privacy practices. The company responded, though not to Franken's satisfaction, he said Tuesday.

"I appreciate that Uber responded and has expressed its commitment to improving its data privacy and protection policies and practices," he said, in a statement. "However, while I'm pleased that I received a reply, I was, and still am, concerned about the lack of detail in the response."

Tuesday's letter to the company asked for clarification on how Uber defines "legitimate business purpose" when employees are able to access consumer rider information. He also pressed the company on when, and with whom, it shares customer data. 

Uber, which works by consumers sending for drivers via an app on a smart phone, now operates in every major U.S. city and 52 countries worldwide. Last June, its valuation was set at $18 billion. Its smaller competitor Lyft was also pressed by Franken last year to clarify privacy practices. Franken was mostly satisfied with Lyft's response, which arrived earlier this month.

Franken asked Uber to meet a Feb. 11 deadline. 

Dayton proposes allocating $11 million to reform sex offender program

Posted by: Abby Simons under Gov. Mark Dayton, Minnesota legislature Updated: January 28, 2015 - 10:01 AM

Gov. Mark Dayton is recommending more than $11 million in state dollars go toward reform of the state’s controversial sex offender program.

The recommendation, part of Dayton’s proposed $42 billion budget unveiled Tuesday, includes allocating $7.3 million in the 2016-17 biennium and $3.8 million in 2018-19 biennium to evaluate the treatment progress of the residents of the Minnesota Sex Offender Program (MSOP) and to move 50 of them to less-restrictive settings if they are approved. Nearly 700 residents are held indefinitely at treatment centers in Moose Lake and St. Peter.

According to the Minnesota Department of Human Services, which oversees MSOP, two people have been discharged from the program, one in 2012 and the other in 2014. Both are in supervised community placements. A third was provisionally discharged in 2000, but it was revoked because he did not comply with the program, although he did not reoffend, the department said.

The controversial program has long remained a hot potato for lawmakers and Gov. Dayton, who blame one another for failing to address problems with MSOP, whose policies were described by a federal judge as “draconian” and ordered the Legislature to take action or face court-ordered changes.

A federal trial is scheduled for Feb. 9 to determine the constitutionality of the program.

Draft opinion: Sen. Tomassoni's new job not a conflict

Posted by: J. Patrick Coolican under Minnesota legislature, Minnesota state senators, Democrats Updated: January 27, 2015 - 5:01 PM

A draft opinion from a key state board finds no conflict of interest on the part of Sen. David Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm, who recently took a job with a group that lobbies the Legislature. 

The draft opinion of the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board can be seen here(Beginning page 61.) 

Republicans had accused Tomassoni of a conflict of interest after taking a job with the Range Association of Municipalities and Schools, an Iron Range group that lobbies the Legislature for state funds. Tomassoni has said he won't begin as executive director until after this legislative session, will take a leave-of-absence during future legislative sessions, and will not lobby his colleagues on RAMS issues. 

A letter from the board summarizing the opinion reads, in part: "A conflict of interest occurs from a specific decision or action that meets certain criteria. A conflict of interest is not created by a legislator’s employment or occupation. As drafted this opinion is consistent with prior advisory opinions issued to members of the Legislature on this subject."

Republicans on Dayton budget: too big, wrong priorities

Posted by: Patrick Condon under Minnesota governor, Gov. Mark Dayton, Minnesota legislature, Minnesota state senators, Democrats, Republicans, State budgets Updated: January 27, 2015 - 3:47 PM

Republican leaders of the Minnesota Legislature gave a chilly reception to the budget proposal that Gov. Mark Dayton released Tuesday, arguing that it spends too big over the next two years and doesn't go far enough in setting priorities for state government. 

"He is spending every penny of this," House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, said of the state's current $1 billion budget surplus. "We are also a little disappointed in the lack of returning some of the money back to Minnesotans." 

The budget blueprint that Dayton submitted to legislators Tuesday calls for a total of $42 billion in state spending for the two years that start on July 1. Senate Minority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, pointed out that the size of the two-year budget was $34 billion when Dayton took office. 

"That is a big increase in spending," Hann said. 

By far the largest share of spending boosts in the Dayton proposal would go to schools, both an increase in per-pupil payments to schools, and specific increases in programs that target early learning. Republicans criticized that approach, saying education programs demand "reforms" aimed at increasing student performance. 

"It spends more money doing the same things we've done the last 15 to 20 years, and we have not seen any results so far, and somehow we're expected to believe that's going to improve education and make it excellent?" Hann said. 

Daudt did say he supported Dayton's proposal to boost spending for early reading programs. But he said he was disappointed Dayton did not propose additional state money for nursing homes, which has been a high priority for the new House Republican majority. 

The only major piece of tax relief in Dayton's proposal is a $100 million child care tax credit. Republicans said they were open to that, although Daudt said Dayton's proposed income ceiling of $124,000 might be too high. "I'm not sure that's the kind of folks that need that kind of tax relief," Daudt said. 

Republicans were not forthcoming with details of their own budget priorities. Daudt said Republicans would not start assembling budget bills until after the next state economic forecast, in late February. He also said Republicans were not yet ready to say how much under $42 billion the next budget should be. 


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