2012 session scorecard

  • Updated: January 21, 2012 - 6:11 PM

The Vikings stadium issue has the potential to dominate the session like no other issue.


No issue will dominate the legislative session like a new Minnesota Vikings stadium - assuming it ever comes before the Legislature. Despite months of meetings, deadlines and talk of progress, there is not yet a stadium site chosen or a formal legislative proposal. Gov. Mark Dayton and Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk are pushing for a vote, arguing that the team could leave Minnesota if it does not get a stadium, which an analysis indicates would cost nearly a billion dollars and require substantial public subsidies. What's next: The Republican majority, perhaps sensing the November elections, has said that a Vikings stadium is not its highest priority and has repeatedly talked of ending this year's session quickly. But stadium politics could heat up quickly -- a site near the Basilica of St. Mary in downtown Minneapolis is emerging as a possible location, while electronic pulltabs in bars might be seen as a public funding source.


The issue: In 2011, DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and the Republican Legislature failed to agree on a decennial redistricting plan to redraw Minnesota political lines. What's next: House redistricting chairwoman Sarah Anderson said she hopes to try again this year. The Legislature faces a Feb. 21 deadline to get it done. A judicial court panel is working on its own maps, in case the politicians fail to agree, repeating a pattern set over decades.


The issue: Minnesota will have at least one constitutional question on the ballot in November - whether to define marriage as only the union of one man and one woman, constitutionally banning same-sex marriage. What's next: Legislators may seek to put other questions before voters. Lawmakers have talked of asking Minnesotans to constitutionally require voters to present photo ID at the polls; put more legislative constraints on lawmakers' ability to raise taxes and spend money, and make Minnesota a "Right to Work" state, limiting unions' power.


The issue: With Minnesota just recently showing signs of emerging from a recession, the state's Legacy Amendment continues to be one of the few sources of new money at the State Capitol. Since voters passed it in 2008, the amendment has provided hundreds of millions of dollars annually in state sales tax money for outdoors, clean water, parks and trails, and arts and cultural heritage projects. What's next: The legislative auditor said in November that the money, while adequately monitored, in some instances goes to groups with conflicts of interest. That debate is likely to continue. Those who defend how the money has been spent say the conflict claims are baseless. But critics add that it is murky -- at best -- whether the money is achieving the amendment's goals.


The issue: Gov. Dayton's Nov. 15 executive order setting a union election for certain in-home child-care providers awaits a court ruling that could bounce the issue back to the Legislature. What's next: Opponents of unionization will seek to prevent dues from being deducted from state child-care assistance payments, and to protect independent contractors from being required to join such associations.


The issue: A task force is to report to the Legislature on the future of "integration aid,'' state funds aimed at helping schools integrate classrooms. Anti-bullying legislation has been proposed by the governor and Attorney General Lori Swanson, and waivers from provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind law will be sought. Seniority for teachers' layoffs could become a target. What's next: Expect a battle over how to distribute integration aid, and whether the money should be redirected to improving the achievement of minority students.


The issue: The governor wants to offer a $3,000-per-employee tax credit to businesses that hire unemployed workers, veterans or recent graduates in 2012, as well as $10 million in incentives to draw new business to Minnesota. What's next: Republicans are balking at the governor's plan to end some corporate tax breaks to offset the estimated $35 million cost of the hiring incentives.


The issue: The Dayton administration is working hard at developing a health insurance exchange, required by federal law by 2014, to provide a new marketplace for health insurance for those not covered by employers. A handful of Republicans offered a bill last session to develop the exchange but got no support. What's next: Those GOP leaders again will try to put their own stamp on an insurance exchange. But can they pull their fractious caucus into the debate? Many Republican legislators oppose any "Obamacare" measure, hoping the U.S. Supreme Court will knock it out or, failing that, a Republican will take the White House and stop implementation of the law.


The issue: The governor has proposed borrowing $775 million to pay for construction and improvement projects that range from a new ballpark for the St. Paul Saints to $25 million to refurbish Nicollet Mall to $25 million to expand the Southwest Corridor light-rail line. What's next: Republicans, skeptical that all that borrowing will actually create as many jobs as the governor claims, will offer their own, smaller, bonding bill in the coming weeks.


The issue: The improving economy has left Minnesota with a modest state budget surplus, so legislators and the governor will not have to restart a budget fight that ended in a state government shutdown last summer. What's next: Republican legislative leaders are turning their attention to reducing business taxes and possibly tweaking the state's property tax system. DFLers are trying to resurrect a property tax credit that was eliminated as a part of the budget deal that ended the shutdown. With a short session during an election year, it is not clear how much legislators will want to tweak the tax system.


The issue: After years of budget deficits and significant cuts to programs, state leaders are facing a growing list of gambling expansion proposals. What's next: Some proposals appear to have support at the Capitol. The governor said he is open to using new revenue from electronic pulltabs to pay for a new Minnesota Vikings stadium. Backers of proposals to allow slot machines at horse racing tracks are trying to build legislative support by offering new money for a new stadium or to repay money the state owes to public schools. It is far from certain whether supporters have the votes to expand gambling. Even if they do, tribes that have a monopoly on casino-style gambling could file a lawsuit to block the proposals.



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