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, Jim Spencer and intern Beena Raghavendran.

Teachers, DFL House members rally against GOP education bill

Posted by: Ricardo Lopez under Minnesota legislature, State budgets Updated: April 25, 2015 - 11:52 AM

Dozens of teachers and House DFL members rallied Saturday ahead of a floor debate on a Republican-sponsored education bill that they say will result in the cutting of programs and teaching staff, among other effects. 

House members are taking up the GOP-sponsored education omnibus bill, which proposes spending $1.06 billion more than the current two-year budget cycle. Of that, $157 million is new spending. Republicans are proposing an overall $16.9 billion budget for education.

Gov. Mark Dayton, by comparison, has proposed $695 million in new spending, the bulk of which would be for his top priority of offering universal preschool for all four-year-olds in the state. The Senate DFL has proposed spending an additional $350 million, and House DFLers this week called for $800 million in new spending. 

The Republican education bill boosts spending on early education programs by $40 million, through the expansion of early-learning scholarships for low-income families and a small increase to school readiness programs. They've also proposed    

Republicans have also proposed increases of about a half percent yearly on the state's per-pupil funding formula, which is currently at $5,831 per student. The House DFL caucus on Thursday proposed instead a two percent yearly increase on the formula.

Without those larger increases, DFL leaders say that schools will be forced to lay teachers off, grow class sizes and cut programs. 

Among some of the most contentious provisions in the Republican education bill is a proposal to diminish the role of seniority during layoffs, or unrequested leave. Another provision would streamline licensing procedures for out-of-state teachers. 

Education Minnesota, the statewide teachers union that organized Saturday's rally, has vigorously opposed the reform measures. 

The House is expected to take up the education bill at 1 p.m. after a 90 minute recess that caught DFL lawmakers by surprise. Minority Leader Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, said his caucus had anticipated that debate on the measure would get immediately underway at 11 a.m.   

Photo: Teachers and DFL House members rallied at the steps of the Capitol Saturday, criticizing the Republican education bill expected to be debated in the afternoon. 

After a year of railing against it, Sen. Al Franken relieved Comcast dropped bid to buy Time Warner

Posted by: Allison Sherry under Morning Hot Dish newsletter, Minnesota U.S. senators Updated: April 23, 2015 - 7:36 PM

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Al Franken said Thursday he was relieved to hear that Comcast was dropping its bid to buy Time Warner Cable. 

Franken, a Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, has been angry about the bid since the beginning, saying it will only make service more expensive and competition worse for consumers. He pushed federal regulators and the Department of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission to oppose the deal.

Just last week, Franken led a letter with five other senators asking federal regulators to halt it.

"I'm glad that over the last 15 months, more and more people have come to see it the way I do" he said, in a statement. "This transaction would create a telecom behemoth that would lead to higher prices, fewer choices and even worse service. We need more competition in this space, not less."

Gov. Mark Dayton threatens veto of any gun silencer bill

Posted by: J. Patrick Coolican under Gov. Mark Dayton, Minnesota legislature, Democrats, Republicans Updated: April 23, 2015 - 3:31 PM

Gov. Mark Dayton today threatened to veto any bill that legalizes firearm suppression devices, commonly known as silencers. 

The Republican-controlled House overwhelmingly passed a bill last week that would legalize the devices, which are said to reduce gun noise by about 30 decibels; even the smallest firearms create noise of at least 140 decibels, according the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. 

In a statement released by his office, Dayton said: "Nowhere in the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution does it refer to a right to bear a silencer. To allow gunshots to be silenced increases the danger to law enforcement officers, and to innocent bystanders."

Team Clinton hires lead for Minnesota grassroots operation

Posted by: Allison Sherry under Morning Hot Dish newsletter, Minnesota campaigns, Democrats Updated: April 23, 2015 - 3:51 PM

WASHINGTON -- Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign hired former gun safety advocate Scott Hogan to lead the grassroots organizing operation in Minnesota, officials said Thursday.

Hogan previously worked as the Minnesota director and campaign manager for Everytown for Gun Safety, which advocates for local and federal gun laws to promote gun safety, according to its website.

Hogan is an alum of Indiana University and speaks Spanish, according to his LinkedIn profile.

From the campaign:

"Working with Hillary supporters will coordinate local grassroots organizing meetings, volunteer trainings, house parties and days of action. By engaging supporters and training volunteers, the Clinton campaign is building local grassroots volunteer infrastructure that will be ready to compete and win the primary or caucus in that state."

The campaign also says that in May, these teams will organize people together at house parties to watch as she "lays out the vision for her campaign."

The Minnesota hire is apart of a 50-state grassroots organizing network the Brooklyn-based team is building now.

Gov. Mark Dayton declares state of emergency on bird flu epidemic

Posted by: J. Patrick Coolican under Gov. Mark Dayton, Minnesota legislature Updated: April 23, 2015 - 3:16 PM

Gov. Mark Dayton declared a peacetime state of emergency in response to the avian influenza epidemic afflicting Minnesota turkey farms and poultry farms across the nation. 

Dayton said the order will tighten lines of authority in state and local government and allow his office to properly coordinate planning between the Board of Animal Health, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. 

The National Guard is not being called up, but the Guard is participating in collaborative planning. 

Roughly 2.5 million birds have been destroyed in Minnesota so far; the state processed 43 million turkeys last year. Chickens, which don't spread the disease as efficiently, are also affected. 

Dave Frederickson, commissioner of the Department of Agriculture, said there is no threat to human health: "The poultry on grocery store shelves is safe and will continue to be safe." He acknowledged, however, he is worried about the industry. He urged farmers to contact the department if they need help and to practice strict bio-security on their farms.    

The United States Department of Agriculture currently has 134 workers on the ground in Minnesota, while the state has 86. The USDA will pay for flock indemnification, depopulation, carcass disposal and testing. 

A public health official said they are monitoring 140 Minnesotans who work closely with the birds for potential exposure. They have advised 87 to take a preventive medication; 70 have complied. None have tested positive for the H5N2, the scientific name of the bird flu. 

Dayton said he has apprised legislative leaders, and that they have pledged support: "Right now everybody is pulling together, and that's how it should be." 

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