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, Rachel E. Stassen-Berger and Glen Stubbe. Contributors in D.C.: Allison Sherry and Jim Spencer.

Auditor: Municipal liquor stores break sales records for 18th consecutive year

Posted by: Abby Simons under State budgets Updated: December 23, 2014 - 12:48 PM

Minnesota’s municipal liquor stores broke sales records for the 18th consecutive year, selling more than $332.8 million in 2013, according to a report by Minnesota State Auditor Rebecca Otto.

Otto’s annual report on municipal liquor store operations showed an increase in sales of $3.2 million, or 1 percent over 2012. The stores, which were originally opened to control sales of alcohol, have since provided extra cash for communities, as well as access in areas that may not attract privately-owned businesses.

In 2013, 205 Minnesota cities ran 237 municipal liquor stores. Of those, 111 operated both on-sale and off-sale establishments, while 94 cities were off-sale only.

Highlights from the report include:

- Sales at individual outlets ranged from $125,051 in Round Lake to $15.4 million in Lakeville.

 - The top nine sellers were located in the greater Metro area. The 10th and 11th largest sellers, Fergus Falls and Detroit, represented western Minnesota.

- Despite record sales, the stores’ $26.8 million combined net profit dropped $500,522, or 1.8 percent, from 2012.

- In 2013, Minnesota’s municipal liquor stores transferred $18.6 million in profits to other city coffers. This represents a decrease of 19.2 percent from total net transfers in 2012. Net transfers totaled $7 million in the metro, compared to $11.6 million in greater Minnesota.

- Metro operations are larger and more profitable than outstate. Although 19 of the 205 cities running municipal liquor operations are in the metro, they represent 37 percent of sales and 36.5 percent of municipal liquor operations’ net profit. Metro sales averaged $3.2 million in 2013, compared to $1.1 million in all of outstate Minnesota.

- More Minnesota cities reported net losses in 2013. This year, 33 reported losses compared to 25 in 2012. All cities with losses were in greater Minnesota.

View the entire 62-page report, complete with maps, graphs and each store’s performance, here.

Lawmakers again mull regulation of license plate readers

Posted by: Abby Simons under Minnesota legislature Updated: December 22, 2014 - 5:46 PM

Lawmakers and law enforcement appear bound for yet another showdown over how long cops can hang on to information gathered by high-tech license plate readers.

The 2015 legislative session will mark the third consecutive year that lawmakers will attempt to regulate just how long cops can store data gathered by the license plate readers—small cameras mounted in squad cars or in fixed mounts that scan license plates, storing information on when and where a vehicle is located when the scan was taken.

On Monday, the bipartisan Legislative Commission proposed a “zero-retention” bill that prohibits storage of any data unless it indicated a “hit” for certain type of offenses or is active investigative data. All the rest would be discarded. Agencies that use the technology would also be subject to a biennial audit and would have to maintain a log of their use.

Police renewed their opposition to the bill, saying they were “disappointed.”

“Today’s recommendation sends a clear message that we have to work even harder to prove to lawmakers and the public just how valuable the technology is to solving crimes and convicting criminals,” said Andy Skoogman, executive director of the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association. “Like all technology, we believe LPR must be secured and safeguarded to ensure public accountability and transparency.”

The Legislative Commission’s proposal is similar to last year’s, required that the license plate “hits on innocent people are deleted immediately unless the vehicle had been stolen, the owner had an outstanding warrant or he information related to an active investigation. However, a Senate bill backed by law enforcement would allow police to keep the information for 90 days and use it for broader purposes.

The two sides were unable to reach a compromise and no bill reached a final vote before the Legislature adjourned for the 2014 session.

Read the recommendations, and Police Chiefs statement below:

12-22-14 Lesch Recommendations on LPR

ALPR Statement 12.22.2014

DFL calls for ethics review into Ortman campaign's alleged payment for endorsement

Posted by: Abby Simons under Democrats, Republicans Updated: December 19, 2014 - 5:42 PM

The Minnesota DFL is calling for an ethics probe into why State Sen. Julianne Ortman’s campaign cut a check to a onetime rival in exchange for his endorsement at the Republican Party’s state convention last May.

Ortman, R-Chanhassen, confirmed this week to Star Tribune blogger Michael Brodkorb that her U.S. Senate campaign wrote a check to a former competitor. Ortman, who failed to gain the party’s endorsement and eventually dropped out of the race, said the payment was unauthorized by the campaign.

On Friday, DFL Chairman Ken Martin called for an ethics complaint to be filed with the Minnesota Senate.

“Sen. Ortman admits to a wrongdoing that brings dishonor to the Senate,” Martin said. “She should be held accountable by her colleagues.”

Ortman did not respond to messages seeking comment.

Fellow Republican U.S. Senate candidate Monti Moreno first confirmed the payments in an interview with Brodkorb last month, saying he was approached by Ortman’s campaign manager, Andy Parrish, at the convention in Rochester. Moreno said Parrish offered to pay off up to $5,000 in campaign debt in exchange for the endorsement. Moreno accepted and said he later received a check for $400 from the Ortman campaign. Another U.S. Senate candidate, Philip Parrish (No relation to Andy Parrish) also confirmed to Brodkorb that he was approached, but that he turned down the offer.

Businessman Mike McFadden went on to win the endorsement.

Ortman reiterated to Brodkorb this week that the "check was not authorized by me or by the campaign." Ortman added that "the matter has been referred to [a Federal Election Commission] Compliance expert."

Earlier this year, Minnesota Senate Republicans filed ethics complaints against DFL state Sens. Jeff Hayden and Bobby Joe Champion for alleged abuses of power. A panel failed to resolve the complaints, which are now postponed indefinitely.

In his statement, Martin pressed Senate Minority Leader David Hann to back any complaints filed against Ortman.

“Sen. Hann has a track record of being concerned about the integrity of the Senate and actions of members of the Senate majority,” Martin said. “We’ll see if that concern includes the conduct of his caucus members, especially one who admits to questionable campaign practices or if Hann was using the Senate Ethics Committee only to score political points.”

Senate Republican Caucus spokeswoman Katie Fulkerson said Hann would not comment.

House GOP bounces Minneapolis' Wagenius from longtime post on natural resources committee

Posted by: Patrick Condon under Minnesota legislature, Democrats, Republicans Updated: December 18, 2014 - 8:57 PM

State House Republicans have yanked Rep. Jean Wagenius, a Minneapolis DFLer and longtime ally of environmentalists, from her longstanding spot as lead House Democrat on the committee that oversees state spending on environment and natural resources. 

Republicans take over the House majority when the new legislative session convenes on Jan. 6. On Thursday, the GOP released its list of 2015-16 committee assignments. Wagenius previously chaired the environmenta and natural resources commitee in 2013-14, chaired it in previous sessions as well, and served on it since she first entered the House in 1987. 

A spokesman for House Democrats said when the caucus submitted its committee wishlists to incoming Republican Speaker Kurt Daudt, that it was made clear Wagenius was the party's choice to be the top DFLer on what will now be called the Environment and Natural Resources Policy and Finance Committee. Instead, she was excluded from the committee altogether. 

Rep. Paul Thissen, the House DFL leader, described it as "unprecedented" that the minority party would not get to choose its own committee lead. "Rep. Wagenius is in her 15th term and is the 4th most senior woman in the Minnesota House," Thissen said in a press release. He went on to suggest it was because "House Republicans don't take climate change or protecting Minnesota's water and air seriously." 

A spokeswoman for Daudt said he was attempting geographical balance on the committee assignments, and noted the committee already has several members from Minneapolis and St. Paul. In place of Wagenius will be Rep. Jeanne Poppe, a Democrat from Austin. 

"We have put together a committee structure that is balanced and we look forward to rolling up our sleeves and getting to work on problems Minnesotans care about," Daudt said in a statement. He was not made available to answer follow-up questions. 

The 21-member committee will have 12 members from otustate Minnesota, six from the Twin Cities suburbs and three from Minneapolis and St. Paul. 

Wagenius was first elected in 1986 to represent a south Minneapolis House district that's centered around the Lake Nokomis area. She has associated herself with a number of environmental causes, including efforts a decade ago to ban the controversial herbicide atrazine. She once described herself as a "Mother Earth feminist" in a campaign bio, a term the state Republican Party later mocked in a press release. 

When Democrats took over the House two years ago, Wagenius's environment committee was expanded to also oversee state spending on agriculture. That led to howls from Republicans who were upset that a Minneapolis Democrat and environmentalist would be controlling distribution of money for ag programs. At the time, Democrats also denied several seats to several Republican members who wanted to be on the committee; but they did honor the GOP request to make Rep. Denny McNamara, R-Hastings, the Republican lead. 

McNamara said Thursday that he did not ask for Wagenius to be taken off the committee. "That was the speaker's call," he said, referring to Daudt. Asked about his relationship with Wagenius, McNamara said: "She's got her views and I've got mine. I think we've got a lot of respect for each other." 

House committee assignments, schedules released for 2015-16

Posted by: Abby Simons Updated: December 18, 2014 - 5:20 PM

The Minnesota House has unveiled its committee assignments for the 2015 and 2016 legislative sessions.

The coming session led by the Republican-controlled House will see 26 committees. The largest among them is Ways & Means, with 28 members. The smallest committee is ethics, with four members. The complete list of committee assignments and schedules is below.

The DFL caucus swiftly responded to the assignments. In a statement, incoming House Minority Leader Paul Thissen called the decision to remove Rep. Jean Wagenius, DFL-Minneapolis, from the House Environment and Natural Resources Commitee. Wagenius, who is in her 15th term, has served on the Environment Committee since 1987 and has chaired the committee. She was the DFL's designated minority lead for that committee, Thissen said.

"Just because House Republicans don't take climate change or protecting Minnesota's water and air seriously doesn't mean that the majority of Minnesotans agree with them." Thissen said in a statement. "Rep. Jean Wagenius is a woman of great integrity who would bring much needed experience to the important work of the environment committee.”

Committee Assignments GOP and DFL Final



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