Today, a Minnesota legislative panel will examine the Minnesota Board of Nursing’s licensing and disciplinary practices, in the wake of a Star Tribune investigative series on nurses that highlighted cases of nurses continuing to practice after violations.
The newspaper’s analysis found that dozens of nurses who have neglected and maltreatment patients, stolen drugs or practiced while im
paired have kept their licenses.
Read the background here:
Search the Star Tribune’s database of disciplinary actions taken against licensed nurses here:
The Star Tribune will capture the action from today’s joint House-Senate hearing, which starts at 12:30 p.m., live below:
Minnesota property tax rates could increase again next year, in spite of the $2.1 billion tax bill that was supposed to give homeowners a break.
The Minnesota Department of Revenue released preliminary property tax levy rates Tuesday that showed the state's cities, counties, townships, schools and special taxing districts planning across-the-board tax increases. The actual rates will not be released until February.
In July, Revenue had predicted that state property taxes would decline by $121 million in 2014 -- the first drop in a decade -- as communities took millions of dollars in local aid from the tax bill and passed at least some of it along to homeowners.
Some communities -- including Minneapolis and Dakota County -- are planning property tax cuts in 2014. But other communities, battered by recession and budget cuts, may opt to find other ways to spend their windfall from the state.
"We're going to have to wait and see what the cities and counties do," said Revenue Commissioner Myron Frans. "Some cities and counties are really trying to return some of this money for property tax (breaks) and some are fixing potholes and other things."
The November numbers are preliminary and the state won't have the final property tax numbers until the communities lock in their 2014 rates. Until then, Frans said, the state is encouraging local governments to pass at least some of the tax savings along to homeowners.
"Between now and then, the state is "encouraging them to look hard at their budgets here in the next three or four weeks," Frans said, "and use the money that we provided ... to reduce their levies if they can."
The early numbers show 2.1 percent property tax increase among Minnesota cities, 1.5 percent among counties and 2.1 percent among townships.
Minnesota school tax levies were set to decline by $60 million in the coming year, Frans said, but voters approved another $120 million in school levies.
"I'm still optimistic," Frans said. "The key for us is, we're watching these preliminary numbers, we want to make sure the cities and counties take a careful look and make sure we use the tools we gave them to...do what they can to provide property tax relief."
Those tools from the state included provisions in the tax bill that eliminated $129 million worth of sales taxes to cities and counties; $130 million worth of increased aid to local governments and increased aid to schools.
Communities will report their final property tax levies to the state in December and those numbers will be announced in February
Minnesota’s tax collections in October beat expectations by more than $56 million.
The Minnesota Department of Revenue took in $1.6 billion for the month, about 3.6 percent higher than estimated.
Income tax collections came in at $718 million, about $30.3 million more than budget officials estimated.
Sales tax collections were $455 million, beating targets by 4.4 million.
The state took in $63.9 million in corporate income taxes, up $1 million over estimates.
Other revenue came in $20 million over estimates, at $362 million.
Budget officials warn not to read too much into monthly revenue statements. They can vary wildly based on a range of factors, including timing of tax payments.
Gov. Mark Dayton’s office responded viscerally to criticism from Rep. Kurt Zellers about the recommended release of a violent sex offender, hours after Zellers called it wrongheaded and dangerous.
“He urges Rep. Zellers to finally do what he neglected to do as Speaker: pitch in and help find a better solution to this extremely difficult problem,” Deputy Chief of Staff Bob Hume said in a statement. Zellers, R-Maple Grove, is a gubernatorial candidate and former House Speaker.
The vivid public rebuke came after Zellers publicly bashed the potential release of Thomas Duvall, 58, and delivered a letter to Attorney General Lori Swanson in support of her request to block his release.
Duvall, who was convicted three times of sexually assaulting teenage girls, and has attacked at least 60 women.
An internal panel at the state Department of Human Services has recommended a supervised discharge for Duvall. DHS Commissioner Lucinda Jesson did not oppose that recommendation, but asked for an independent examination of Duvall before the panel's hearing.
Gov. Mark Dayton backed Jesson on both fronts but said earlier this week that reforms were necessary. A panel of three state judges will hear arguments today on whether to hold an in-depth hearing similar to a trial on Duvall’s proposed provisional release from the 18-year-old program. If released, Duvall would be only the second person discharged from the program.
In his statement, Zellers referenced a Star Tribune report regarding one of Duvall’s victims, who said she was told by a prosecutor that Duvall would be released and it was a “done deal.”
“I am concerned by comments made publicly that Duvall’s release is a ‘done deal’ and is imminent despite these concerns.” Zellers’ letter said. “I hope the panel will hear testimony from the victims and the Attorney General, and halt the provisional release of Duvall.”
The administration called Zellers “seriously incorrect” in inferring that Duvall’s release is “imminent.” The final decision from the three-judge panel has not yet been issued and the recommended re-evaluation of Duvall that is scheduled for January.
“There is nothing ‘imminent’ in this process,” Hume's statement said. He also accused Zellers of blocking bipartisan efforts to block reform of the state's sex offender program.
“After both DFL and Republican Senators voted last spring to make changes recommended by an expert panel, and the house DFL Caucus indicated its willingness to proceed with bi-partisan support, Rep. Zellers’ Republican Caucus adamantly refused to support any of those changes,” Hume's statement said.
Here's Hume's full statement:
Republican Rep. Andrea Kieffer decided not to run for re-election for many reasons, she said Friday.
Her vote to legalize same-sex marriage was not among them.
"I would say that would have been the most compelling reason for me to run again," said Kieffer, a two-term representative from Woodbury. She was one of five legislative Republicans to support legalization earlier this year.
Kieffer said that no Republican had filed against her because of the vote and the reaction to her vote in May has been positive. Last year, her suburban district voted against the constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, making her one of 33 Republicans who won last year in a district that rejected the amendment.
Instead, Kieffer said her decision not to run again was driven by personal reasons and her frustration with partisanship at the Capitol.
"I think everyone should strive to challenge and improve themselves and the world around them. But also remember to take a step back and look at the big picture. Ask yourself: Am I spending my time and resources wisely? Am I being effective?" Kieffer said. "At the end, I hope to have no regrets."
The personal: Keiffer's 23-year-old daughter has mitochondrial disease.
"My family needs me right now," she said.
"She is good. She's happy and comfortable and not in pain and she is able to take care of herself. I think those are wonderful blessings," Kieffer said.
Kieffer has already worked to raise awareness about the disease and raise money for research for it. She also said that, although she was for cell research before she learned of her daughter illness, it is a fortuitous position given that such research could help with the disease that befell her daughter.
"This is exactly the kind of stuff that our legislators are blocking that could potentially open up all these cures," she said. Kieffer said she will stay active in the mitochondrial disease foundation.
Compounding that reason not to run: the tone of politics these days.
"I am frustrated down at the Capitol. I feel like it's just banging your head at against a brick wall sometimes. The party politics gets in the way of good public policy so many times," she said. "It gets very frustrating."
Although she won her district by 10 percentage points last year and six percentage points the year before, the Woodbury area is considered a swing district. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney won 52 percent of its votes last year; Democratic U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar won 62 percent and Democratic U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum won 48 percent, narrowly besting the Republican candidate.
"I think that this district looks at the candidate more than the party," she said. She said if voters get to know a candidate, "I think that goes way farther than political party."
Before Kieffer announced she would not vie for re-election, Democratic planning commission member Kay Hendrickson said she would run. Since the announcement, Minnesota Republican Party Deputy Chair Kelly Fenton said she was seriously considering a bid.