Gov. Mark Dayton has asked legislators to reject a tax court judge he reappointed.
Dayton wants the Senate to vote to reject the confirmation of Tax Court Judge George Perez, whom Dayton had reappointed to the Tax Court.
In a letter to legislators, Dayton said on May 10, a review panel for the Board on Judicial Standards found violations of the Code of Conduct by Perez, and recommended censure and suspension without pay for nine months.
"Had I known about the board's findings, I would not have reappointed him to another term in the Tax Court," Dayton said. "I believe that Judge Perez's reported misconduct violates the integrity of our state's judicial system, and that his continued service is not in the best interest of Minnesota citizens."
The panel found that the judge had regularly missed the three-month deadline for issuing opinions and falsified dates to hide the delays. Perez's attorney said he will seek to reduce the suggested penalty.
The all-night showdown over whether to allow child-care providers and home-care workers to vote on unionization turned out to be just the first act.
The Minnesota House took up the bill in the wee hours of the Saturday night-Sunday morning session and debated it for about five hours. The bill was then laid on the table and the House adjourned until noon Sunday.
The sponsor, Rep. Michael Nelson, DFL-Brooklyn Park, said the when the House returns, it will take up whatever budget bills are ready for final action.
The debate on the unionization bill will resume at some point Sunday or Monday, he said. It can be taken up for further discussion at any time. The session must end by midnight Monday.
Nelson was cheered by union activists as he left the chamber early Sunday. He said he was able to defeat all hostile amendments and continues to hope he can pass the bill and send it to Gov. Mark Dayton, who supports it.
"The plan right now is to go home and get some sleep," Nelson said after the all-nighter. "We'll resume it some time tomorrow. We've got budget bills that will be coming forward, that we've gotten back from the Senate. We'll take the priorities up first, take care of the priorities for the state of Minnesota, get our budget passed.
"At that time, when we can, we'll take up this bill again."
Asked if he could pass the bill, Nelson said, "I hope so. I wouldn't do all this work if I didn't think so."
The bill stirred the Senate to a 17-hour debate last week that broke records for length. The Senate passed the bill by only three votes.
Both sides had members outside the House chambers throughout the all-night debate, and said they would return Sunday afternoon.
Earlier on Saturday the House passed the K-12 education and environment-agriculture funding bills, while the Senate passed the environment-agriculture bills. Among budget bills still to be acted on are transportation finance, state government finance and taxes.
In the unionization bill, opposition has focused on the child-care portion because providers run their own small, private businesses, and the application of the union model to such work is a stretch even for some Democrats.
Based on years of field organizing by two unions – the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, or AFSCME, and the Service Employees International Union, or SEIU – the bill would allow union votes among two groups: In home family child care providers, both licensed and unlicensed, who care for children receiving a state subsidy; and Personal Care Assistants, or PCAs, who are employed by the person they care for, generally a relative, and who also work in the home.
Estimates of the total number of workers vary. The unions estimate the total for both groups at 21,000. The state Department of Human Services says the number of child-care providers who would be affected at 12,712 – a number that does not include affect PCAs.
After days of hoping, waiting and fasting, supporters of allowing undocumented residents to get legal drivers licenses broke into tears, cheers, chants and song as the bill passed the Minnesota Senate.
Advocates have camped out at the Capitol for days to add pressure on lawmakers to vote
on the issue.
Shortly after 10 p.m., they got their vote. The Senate approved the measure 36-28.
Despite the approval and the joy that filled the marble hall outside the Senate, backers of the measure still have a long way to go. The House has yet to approve the measure, which would allow people to apply for drivers licenses with a non-U.S. passport and get a license that would be marked "For Driving Only."
Even if the House does pass it, which appears unlikely, the measure would likely stop with Gov. Mark Dayton. His spokeswoman said he opposes the idea.
Underage partiers who call for emergency help for an ailing friend can avoid prosecution under a bill given final approval by the Legislature on Saturday.
The proposal, known as a "medical amnesty," is aimed at encouraging people who may be violating alcohol laws to call for help if a friend needs medical assistance.
It states that a person is immune to prosecution for under aged possession or consumption of alcohol if he or she calls 911 to help someone else, stays on the scene and cooperates with authorities when they arrive.
College student organizations have pushed for the bill. The Senate approved it by a 51-10 vote on Saturday, following approval by a 124-8 margin on Thursday. It now goes to Gov. Mark Dayton.
The Minnesota Senate signed off on a $11.3 billion budget for the state’s health and human services programs Saturday.
The bill is one of the largest the Legislature will pass in the final days of the 2013 session and it passed on a party-line vote. Among other things, the HHS omnibus includes a 5 percent pay increase for nursing home caregivers who have not gotten a raise in four years. The budget also includes extra funding for in-school mental health care and assistance for families seeking pricey autism therapy for their children.
“This bill is a good bill that moves Minnesota forward,” said Senate Health and Human Services Chairman Tony Loury, DFL-Kerrick, before the Saturday vote.
The bill passed the House Friday night and now moves to the governor's desk for his signature. The new budget year starts in July.
Republicans blasted the bill, both the way it is funded and the things it won’t be funding. In a year when the Democratic leadership is pushing a $2 billion tax bill, Republicans argued that HHS – the part of the budget that serves the oldest, sickest and poorest Minnesotans – shouldn’t have been singled out for $50 million in budget cuts.
Senate Minority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, warned that the state’s HHS budget is too reliant on federal funding. The state will receive millions of dollars from Washington to help with the rollout of the new federal Affordable Care Act programs.
Hann said he has no confidence that those funds will be there in the long term. If they go away, he said Minnesota will be left with the bill for new programs designed to ensure that Minnesotans have access to affordable health care and health insurance.
“I think the Health and Human Services budget is really about setting priorities,” Hann said. “We have to talk about reform, how we’re going to meet those priorities in a way that is sustainable. We have to do that in a way that is fiscally disciplined. I think this bill that we have before us fails on all three of those points.”
The health and human services budget took a battering during the recession, including more than a billion dollars’ worth of cuts in the last budget cycle.
“Those were incredibly devastating cuts,” Lourey said. “The cuts last biennium were so deep, we put in words, in our budget, that we were going to discontinue people from cancer treatments … we were going to discontinue people from kidney dialysis. Lifesaving treatments. That was a hard thing to watch.”
The new HHS budget is about 6 percent larger than the current budget. An aging population and rising demand keep pushing the budget higher each year.
In an effort to curb that growth, the DFL leadership called for $150 million in targeted cuts to the health and human services budget. During weekend budget negotiations with Gov. Mark Dayton, they reduced that target to $50 million – leaving HHS negotiators with enough extra money to fund pay increased for nursing home workers.
Those proposed sparked an outcry, particularly from the state’s caregivers, who had not seen an increase in their wages in years. The new budget includes $30 million for caregiver raises, Lourey said.