WASHINGTON -- Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek shared a stage with Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson Thursday urging members of Congress to fund the federal agency in the next 30 hours or it will shut down.
A shutdown means forced furloughs for about 20 percent of the DHS personnel staff. Everyone else -- for example TSA and Customs and Border Protection agents at the airport and FEMA workers -- will be forced to work without pay.
Stanek is worried about federal grants.
Minnesota received about $10 million in cash from DHS last year -- fully half of that went to Hennepin County to help with law enforcement. While the money has been allocated, Stanek hasn't received all of it and if DHS shut down, the personnel office workers who cut the checks would not be coming to work.
"This is a critical time with what happened over the past weekend with the propoganda video and working with our diaspora community with countering violent extremism," Stanek said. "There could be a natural manmade disaster in Minnesota, an oil tanker turnover ... It's very important."
Congress is debating now whether to fund DHS "cleanly" -- that is, without Republican-added amendments stripping away money to enforce President Barack Obama's immigration reform orders from last year. Democrats fought back against the amendments, which led to the current standstill.
The Department runs out of money at midnight tomorrow.
President Obama made good Tuesday on a promise to veto a bill approving construction of the Keystone pipeline. In his veto message, the president called the bill an effort to "circumvent" an established review process that needed more time to consider "security, safety and environmental" issues. Republican leaders in the U.S.. House and Senate must now decide if they will try to override the veto. Without a wildly unlikely change in Democratic votes, it will be impossible to override the president's veto and make the pipeline approval law. An override effort move would begin in the Senate and require a two-thirds majority vote, before moving to the House, where another two-thirds majority would be required to make the bill law. The Keystone bill passed the House with Minnesota's three rural Democrats - Collin Peterson, Rick Nolan and Tim Walz - voting for it with Republicans John Kline, Erik Paulsen and Tom Emmer. Democrats Keith Ellison and Betty McCollum voting against it. In the Senate, Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, both Democrats, voted against Keystone. Both have said they will not vote to override a Keystone veto. Neither will Minnesota House members Ellison or McCollum.
WASHINGTON -- Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken recommended on Friday to President Barack Obama that Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Wilhelmina Wright be nominated to be a federal judge in Minnesota.
Wright came up through the ranks as a federal prosecutor and trial judge in Ramsey County. If nominated by Obama, she would still need to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Both Klobuchar and Franken are on the Judiciary Committee, which would be her first stop.
"She's the total package -- her breadth of experience, deep legal knowledge and strong character make her highly qualified for the position," said Klobuchar, a former prosecutor herself, in a statement.
Before joining the bench, Wright was an assistant U.S. attorney for the District of Minnesota, where she represented the United States in complex economic fraud cases and violent crime cases. During her time as a federal prosecutor, she received the United States Department of Justice Director’s Award and the United States Department of Justice Special Achievement Award.
Before joining the U.S. attorney’s office, Wright practiced with Hogan & Hartson, LLP in Washington. She received her bachelor's degree from Yale University in 1986 and her law degree from Harvard Law School in 1989.
Gov. Mark Dayton said he appointed Wright to the Minnesota Supreme Court in 2012 and “am greatly impressed with her character.” Should Wright leave the Supreme Court, Dayton would get to make another appointment.
If nominated by Obama, Wright would take the seat now held by Chief Judge Michael J. Davis, who will retire from active service on August 1. Her nomination would have to be approved by the U.S. Senate.
WASHINGTON -- St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman is talking up the city's paid leave policy at the White House Friday -- an idea generating popularity nationally and touted by President Barack Obama in this week's State of the Union address.
St. Paul started giving opportunities for its 2,700 employees to take paid paternity as of Jan. 1. Non-birth parents get two weeks and birth parents get four weeks. St. Paul was among the first cities nationally to adopt the plan.
The policy will cost the city about $200,000 annually, though Coleman says he expects to make that back in retaining talented staffers amid the state's booming economy.
Coleman says it helps the city stay competitive with the private sector.
"Everyone says you should run government like a business," he said. "We'll never be able to offer the benefits that Google does ... but this helps."
On Tuesday's State of the Union address, Obama touted the plan.
"Today, we're the only advanced country on Earth that doesn't guarantee paid sick leave or paid maternity leave to our workers ... And that forces too many parents to make the gut-wrenching choice between a paycheck and a sick kid at home. So I'll be taking new action to help states adopt paid leave laws of their own."
Coleman shares a panel with the mayors of Knoxville, Tenn and Atlanta, Georgia. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez will also be there.
WASHINGTON -- Less than 12 hours after President Barack Obama touted an idea to provide free community college to some students, the chairman of the House Education Committee had a message: No new federal programs.
Republican Rep. John Kline, who represents Minnesota's Second Congressional District and is at the helm of the Education Committee, said he wasn't interested in taking on the president's proposal to make community college free. Kline said he didn't agree with the how the White House planned to pay for it -- by increasing capital gains taxes -- and he didn't think a new federal program was the way to move forward.
In his annual address to both chambers of Congress, Obama proposed free community colleges to students on track to graduate and who had good grades. He said higher education was in the nation's interest and helped strengthen the middle class.
"Whoever you are, this plan is your chance to graduate ready for the new economy without a load of debt," Obama said.
But Kline noted existing Pell grants and federal financial aid packages were available for low-income students. In Minnesota, 130,048 people were undergraduates at community and technical colleges. Of those 63 percent sought financial aid and about 35 percent were eligible for Pell grants. The average community college tuition in Minnesota is $5,370 a year.
Kline called the idea too lofty and rhetorically questioned why the president stopped at community colleges. "Why not say all college is free?" he said, in a press gathering in his office Wednesday morning.
Kline said his first priority is getting a No Child Left Behind overhaul to the House floor within the next eight weeks. He said he is optimistic, with a Republican-controlled Senate this time, that they could find common ground and send a bill to President Obama this year.
The chairman also noted he wants to reauthorize the higher education act, but that "we can't just create a new program that we can't pay for."
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