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 U.S. senators

President Obama signs Fond du Lac land swap bill

Posted by: Corey Mitchell Updated: March 21, 2014 - 6:21 PM

President Obama signed a bill into law today that allows the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and Carlton County to swap thousands of acres of land.

In exchange for 3,200 acres of reservation land that Carlton County currently owns, Fond du Lac will relinquish 1,451 acres of land off the reservation.

The bill is based on an agreement worked out several years ago by tribal and county leaders, said Carlton County Land Commissioner Greg Bernu. The exchanged property is estimated to be of equal value.

Congressman Rick Nolan wrote the U.S. House bill and U.S. Sen. Al Franken authored the Senate counterpart. Nolan says the legislation rectifies a promise broken by the federal government in the mid-1800s.

“Despite the 1854 treaty that set aside 101,000 acres of land exclusively for the Fond du Lac Reservation, homesteaders and others were wrongly allowed to settle on this land — much of which was then later forfeited to the county for non-payment of taxes,” Nolan said during a December speech on the House floor.

“The result today is a checkerboard of ownership that significantly limits both the band’s and the county’s ability to effectively manage lands they both control.”

The Star Tribune could not immediately reach Fond du Lac chairwoman Karen Diver for comment.

Heartland campaign PAC created to go after Franken

Posted by: Rachel E. Stassen-Berger Updated: March 21, 2014 - 6:38 PM

Updated

Some of the well-funded groups Democratic U.S. Sen. Al Franken has long warned his supporters were coming to attack him may actually be materializing.

This week, the Federal Elections Commissioner posted the registration of the Heartland Campaign Fund, a Super PAC, registered in St. Paul.

Greg Johnson, of St. Paul's Weber Johnson Public Affairs and the PAC's treasurer, said in an email that: “Minnesota voters have an important decision to make on the re-election of Al Franken. The Heartland Campaign Fund intends to engage in a dialogue with voters over the course of the election year.”

He told Bloomberg News, which first spotted the PAC's filing, that it would focus on "Franken’s failed record."

Johnson's name, however, is a familiar one in Minnesota politics. He has long been a Republican operative and activist. He has been treasurer of Minnesota's Future, a Minnesota-based independent spending committee that spent almost $1.5 million on state races in 2012 to elect Republicans and an equal amount in 2010.

Heartland's creation is the first sign that national spending may be ramped up to take down Franken, who won his first race by a razor thin, recount inducting margin.

Franken has long told backers that he would be targeted.

"We've always known that special interests were going to come after Sen. Franken and that this would be a tight race," said Alexandra Fetissoff, Franken campaign spokeswoman.

Several Republicans are running against Franken.

14031200139 by Rachel E. Stassen-Berger

March 20: Klobuchar, Franken prod Army Corps to move faster to halt spread of Asian carp

Posted by: Corey Mitchell Updated: March 20, 2014 - 5:59 AM

Democrats Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken are among a coalition of U.S. senators are pushing the Army Corps of Engineers to speed up plans to halt the spread of Asian carp.

Eleven senators representing six of the eight states abutting the Great Lakes recently sent a letter to Jo-Ellen Darcy, assistant secretary of the Army for civil works, asking a series of questions about the Corps' plan of action. 

In the letter, they urged the Corps to not only put in place short-term measures to stop Asian carp from getting into the Great Lakes, but to “move aggressively toward a long-term solution” to keep the invasive species out.

Senators from Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, and New York signed the letter.

If Asian carp begin breeding in the state’s lakes and rivers, it could cause irreparable harm to the state’s tourism, fishing and boating industries, Franken and Klobuchar said.

The Corps issued a report in January with eight options for blocking the invasive carp’s path to Lake Michigan, but says Congress and regional stakeholders must decide the final plan.

At present, the Corps maintains operates navigational locks in the waterways and an electric fish barrier in a shipping canal near Chicago to block migration.

The House and Senate already have passed legislation that would close the Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock and Dam in Minneapolis in an effort to protect Minnesota’s northern waters from Asian carp, which crowds out native species. The bill is being considered in conference committee.

Asian Carp Letter

Minnesota Democrats press Obama to sign order protecting LGBT workers from discrimination

Posted by: Corey Mitchell Updated: March 19, 2014 - 8:15 AM

Six of the seven Democrats in Minnesota’s congressional delegation are among the House and Senate members pressuring President Obama to sign an executive order protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans from workplace discrimination.

All told, 195 members of Congress signed the letter, including U.S. Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar and U.S. Reps. Keith Ellison, Betty McCollum, Rick Nolan and Tim Walz signed the letter; Democratic congressman Collin Peterson did not.

Obama has the ability to ban employment discrimination by government contractors.

“Issuing an executive order prohibiting discrimination against LGBT workers in federal contracts would build on the significant progress for LGBT rights made during your time as President and would further your legacy as a champion for LGBT equality. We urge you to act now to prevent irrational, taxpayer-funded workplace discrimination against LGBT Americans,” the letter reads.

Congressional legislation would apply to all employers. The proposed Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) has passed the Democratic-controlled Senate, but the legislation has stalled in the Republican-led House.

No Republicans signed on to the letter asking Obama to issue an executive order.

White House officials would prefer to see Congress pass ENDA, since executive action wouldn't protect all LGBT workers.

Ellison, a member of the U.S. House LGBT Equality Caucus, will moderate a panel discussion on transgender concerns, issues of inequality and LGBT youth experiences at 5 p.m. central standard time today at the Fridley Community Center.

Congressional letter to President Obama requesting an executive order protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual an...

Franken wants free school lunch for more low-income students

Posted by: Baird Helgeson Updated: March 17, 2014 - 2:57 PM
U. S. Sen. Al Franken with students in New Hope.

U. S. Sen. Al Franken with students in New Hope.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Al Franken is resurrecting his proposal to pay for hot school lunches for students who get reduced-priced meals.

“We should really be committed to making sure kids don’t go hungry at school,” Franken said in an interview with the Star Tribune. "It's just wrong."

Franken had lunch Monday with students at Meadow Lake Elementary School in New Hope, saying research is clear that students learn better when they are well nourished.

A member of the Senate Education Committee, Franken introduced the proposal in 2009 and again in 2010, but the measures never became law.

Right now, students whose parents make between 130 percent and 185 percent of the federal poverty lines qualify for reduced-priced lunches of 40 cents per meal. Under the proposal, the taxpayers would pick up the tab for those lunches.

It is not clear how much the proposal would cost or how many students would be affected.

One of Franken’s GOP challengers, Mike McFadden, said the issue highlights the differences between the two.

Franken, he said, looks for a federal solution to something that state leaders are already about to tackle.

“We  should really look to the state or local government,” McFadden said.

State Sen. Julianne Ortman, Franken’s other GOP challenger, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and legislators are rushing passage of a proposal to have the state pick up the tab for students whose parents can’t pay for reduced-price lunches.

Recent news stories outlined how some Minnesota school districts only offered low-income students cheese sandwiches when their meal accounts ran dry.

Dayton and legislators from both parties said that is completely unacceptable.

The Minnesota House voted overwhelmingly to set aside $3.5 million to pay for those lunches. The Senate is expected to follow suit.

Franken said if his measure becomes law, the federal government would take over the state’s share of the lunches.

“Kids don’t do as well when they are hungry,” he said.

 Star Tribune photo by Elizabeth Flores

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