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

Dayton off to D.C. to press for water project funding, talk economy

Posted by: Baird Helgeson Updated: June 10, 2014 - 10:02 PM

DFL Gov. Mark Dayton is traveling to Washington, D.C., Wednesday to push for federal money for the Lewis & Clark fresh water pipeline in southwest Minnesota.

Dayton will attend a meeting hosted by U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., with U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. The governor, U.S. Sen Al Franken, D-Minn., and other members of Minnesota's congressional delegation plan to stress the water project’s economic importance to southwestern Minnesota.

Minnesota's political leaders are pressing the federal government to commit funding to reduce or eliminate any additional costs to area residents and local governments.

Minnesota legislators approved an agreement at the end of the last legislative session that speeds the full payment for the $77 million project, which means local communities don’t have to wait for the full federal portion.

On Thursday, Dayton and ten Minnesota business leaders will meet with senior White House officials for a roundtable discussion on Minnesota’s rebounding economy.

Later that afternoon, Dayton will attend a celebration at the White House to honor the Minnesota Lynx for winning their third WNBA Championship in 2014.

As Obama aims at student debt, state senator touts Minn. efforts

Posted by: Patrick Condon Updated: June 10, 2014 - 5:45 PM

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. 

Minnesota tax revenue lags slightly in May

Posted by: Baird Helgeson Updated: June 10, 2014 - 4:08 PM

Minnesotans paid more than $1.4 billion in state taxes in May, about $17 million less than state budget officials predicted.

Individual income tax collections were $15 million, or 2.3 percent, less than protected. Sales taxes nearly hit their target, coming in at $372 million, just $1 million below estimates. Other form of revenue beat targets by $22 million, offsetting much of the decline in other areas.

The state has taken in $16.8 billion for the fiscal year, about $95 million below the forecast.

Minnesota budget officials urge caution in interpreting revenue numbers, which can fluctuate wildly from month to month.

Seifert pledges to reject lobbyist donations

Posted by: Baird Helgeson Updated: June 10, 2014 - 7:53 AM

Republican gubernatorial candidate Marty Seifert is challenging opponents to refuse campaign contributions from lobbyists.

The former legislator from Marshall claims he has never accepted lobbyist contributions in his previous campaigns and will hold to that standard his newest quest for the governor's office.

“Not accepting lobbyist contributions so far this election ... has made my campaign unique,” Seifert said Tuesday in a statement. “I feel strongly that my opponents should also agree to live by this same standard.”

The other gubernatorial campaigns could not immediately be reached for comment.

Seifert has twice lost the GOP endorsement for governor. He is now running in an Aug. 12 Republican primary against the GOP endorsee Jeff Johnson and Orono businessman Scott Honour, who has tapped his personal fortune to beef up his fundraising efforts. Former House Speaker Kurt Zellers, a Maple Grove Republican, is also running in the primary.

DFL Gov. Mark Dayton, who has tapped his personal wealth to finance previous campaigns, has agreed to limit his campaign spending to about $3.6 million in his quest for re-election.

Minnesota cops name Rep. Simonson Legislator of the Year

Posted by: Abby Simons Updated: June 9, 2014 - 4:54 PM

Citing his lead role in passing groundbreaking legislation to curb the sale of synthetic drugs in Minnesota, the state's lobbying arm for rank-and-file police officers has named Rep. Erik Simonson the 2014 Legislator of the Year.

The Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association (MPPOA) announced the award for Simonson, DFL-Duluth, on Monday, citing the career firefighter's dedication to fighting crime since he was elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives in 2012.

"Rep. Simonson has worked side-by-side with law enforcement while serving in the Legislature and has become a leader on public safety issues at the State Capitol," said MPPOA Executive Director Dennis Flaherty.

In May 2013, Simonson was appoitned chair of the Select Committee on Controlled Substances and Synthetic Drugs, which after months of hearings and traveling the state to hear Minnesotans' stories, passed legislation this year that aims cut the flow of synthetic drugs into the state. The new law grants cease and desist powers to the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy, allowing them to immediately seize suspected synthetic drugs from businesses that sell them. The law also expands the definition of synthetic drugs to enable easier enforcement. The legislation is the first of its kind and has become a model for other states.

On his Twitter account, Simonson said he was proud to receive the award.

"Thank you to all our police officers who put it on the line every day!" he wrote.

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