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.

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White House to hold summit on violent extremism, touting Minnesota practices

Posted by: Allison Sherry Updated: January 12, 2015 - 4:48 PM

WASHINGTON -- White House officials said Monday they will hold a summit on countering violent extremism next month -- relying in part on the experiences of local Minneapolis/St. Paul officials.

The summit will highlight domestic and international work in preventing violent extremists and their supporters from "radicalizing, recruiting, or inspiring" individuals or groups in the United States.

Federal officials will home in on best practices from the Twin Cities, Boston and Los Angeles -- all three are part of a pilot project integrating social services, education and local law enforcement in countering violent messages in vulnerable communities.

"Through presentations, panel discussions and small group interactions, participants will build on local, state and federal government ... to better understand, identify and prevent the cycle of radicalization to violence at home," the White House said.

The summit will be held Feb. 18.

Rep. Tim Walz trades Transpo Committee for House Armed Services

Posted by: Allison Sherry Updated: January 9, 2015 - 3:23 PM

WASHINGTON -- Rep. Tim Walz took on a new committee this week, swapping Transportation and Infrastructure for House Armed Services, which places the 5th-term Democrat on two of the more powerful committees dealing with military and veterans issues.

In a statement, Walz, the highest ranking enlisted soldier to serve in Congress, said he was looking forward to the new challenge.

Only one Minnesotan, Democratic Rep. Rick Nolan, now serves on Transportation and Infrastructure -- a committee historically important to the state, which has a long list of infrastructure needs. The late Rep. Jim Oberstar, who served 36 years in the House, chaired the committee back in the 2000s.

Transpo/Infrastructure was among newly elected GOP Rep. Tom Emmer's top committee choices, but the freshman was placed on Agriculture and Foreign Affairs instead.

Walz's spokesman Tony Ufkin said Friday the committee "isn't what it used to be" with the elimination of earmarks and that Congressman Walz still plans on working on infrastructure needs in his district.

"We kind of feel like you can be a strong transportation advocate, while not being on the committee so I don't think a whole lot has changed here," he said.

Ufkin said his boss getting a slot on Armed Services means he has more venues to push veterans and military reform legislation -- like a personality disorder bill, which looks at veterans who may have been discharged unfairly.

House approves Keystone XL with support of most Minnesota representatives

Posted by: Jim Spencer Updated: January 9, 2015 - 12:25 PM

WASHINGTON - Some of Minnesota's U.S.. House delegation crossed party lines to support a bill to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline Friday.

The Republican-sponsored legislation drew yes votes as expected from Minnesota's GOP representatives John Kline, Erik Paulsen and Tom Emmer. But a majority of the state's five Democratic representatives - Tim Walz, Rick Nolan and Collin Peterson - also vote yes. They were among 28 House Democrats who supported the bill, which passed 266-153.

In interviews with the Star Tribune, all three said they preferred to ship heavy crude oil squeezed from the tar sands of Canada by pipeline rather than by rail.

But Walz said the pipeline issue should not foreclose a push for more renewable energy sources. 

"When you get mired in these issues that become political litmus tests instead of broader-based solutions, it causes you problems," he said. "What I've always said about Keystone is that the people selling it as pushing your gas prices going down are selling you a bill of goods. But those who say if we don't build Keystone, we will not get tar sands crude - that's not going to happen."

With some tar sands oil already being extracted and much more to come, "the question now is what is the safest way to move it," Nolan said. 

Peterson had earlier predicted that President Obama would veto the Keystone bill if it passed the House and Senate. The president renewed that veto threat this week.  

"I don't know if there will be enough votes to override a veto," Peterson said.

Democrats Betty McCollum of St. Paul and Keith Ellison of Minneapolis opposed the Keystone XL. 

Lyft to Sen. Al Franken: We are guarding customer privacy

Posted by: Allison Sherry Updated: January 5, 2015 - 2:43 PM

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Al Franken called the ride-sharing company Lyft's response to his privacy questions "promising" Monday after the company delivered an eight-page letter vowing they were trying to be honest with customers about how they use personal data.

Lyft's letter comes a couple months after Franken pressed the San Francisco-based company, whose drivers cruise around in cars adorned with pink mustaches, to clarify how it uses customer data, including whether the company shares consumer information with third parties and how long the company maintains riders' personal travel information.

Ride-sharing companies like Lyft, and its larger competitor Uber, work by users "requesting" rides from roaming drivers using cell phones. The drivers find their riders by cell phone GPS tracking devices. 

"I appreciate the company's effort to provide thorough answers," Franken said, in a statement on Monday. "I look forward to further discussing these matters."

The second-term Democrat pressed both Lyft and Uber at the end of last year to be more transparent with how they bank and use consumer data after some unflattering stories broke about Uber threatening to publicize personal travel data about reporters writing critical stories about them.

Though Uber responded to Franken in December, the senator was deeply disappointed in that response, and said  he wanted more information from the company in the future. Franken said Uber's response fell short in how he expects the company to handle consumers' private travel information -- including when and where customers take cars and how long the company hangs on to personal rider information.

Franken is particularly sensitive about how companies use GPS tracking data and introduced a law last year, which didn't pass in the last Congress and would have to be re-introduced this year, that would give consumers more control over how tracking data is accessed on cell phones.

What comes next is unclear, though Franken said Monday he wanted to continue the conversation in this Congress. 

Rep.-elect Tom Emmer stocks offices with Bachmann alumni

Posted by: Allison Sherry Updated: December 30, 2014 - 4:07 PM

WASHINGTON -- Rep.-elect Tom Emmer is staffing his DC and Minnesota offices with Bachmann-ites.

Emmer, a Republican taking over representation of the Sixth Congressional District after Rep. Michele Bachmann's departure, announced Tuesday that seven of the 13 new staffers hired for his offices were previously working for the congresswoman. 

"These individuals offer impressive backgrounds, years of experience, and strong Minnesota ties that will be vital to best serving my constituents," said Emmer, in a statement.

The congressman gets sworn in, along with the rest of the 114th Congress, next week.

Among his new hires:

Robert Boland, senior adviser in Washington, D.C. Previously, Boland served as chief of staff and legislative director to Bachmann.

Jason Frye, legislative director. Previously, Frye was a military legislative assistant to Bachmann.

Mikayla Hall, deputy communications director. She was previously Bachmann's press secretary.

Kevin Wysocki, senior legislative assistant. Wysocki was Bachmann's senior legislative assistant and worked himself up from an internship.

Barbara Harper, constituent services director. She worked in this same role for Bachmann for the past eight years.

Montgomery Pace, scheduler. Pace was an intern last year in Bachmann's office.

Caitlin Fontaine, staff assistant. Fontaine was an intern in Bachmann's office last year.

Additional hires include Becky Alery, who was a spox for GOP Senate candidate Mike McFadden, who lost to Sen. Al Franken in November. Alery is the communications director and will be based in D.C. Karen Miller, deputy district director in Emmer's Minnesota office.

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