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.

Posts about Minnesota state senators

Bakk says bird flu costs to state may reach $6M or more

Posted by: Patrick Condon Updated: April 27, 2015 - 2:11 PM

Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk said Monday that the Legislature will have to come up with $6 million, and possibly more, for several state agencies that are battling the outbreak of avian flu at Minnesota turkey farms. 

Last week, both the House and Senate approved almost $900,000 in emergency funds for the state Department of Agriculture and Board of Animal Health. But Bakk said the costs are adding up quickly, and that Minnesota Management and Budget had recalculated the total to $6 million by the end of last week. 

That total could continue to rise depending on the course of the outbreak, he said. 

Bakk said lawmakers would have to work on figuring out a way for Gov. Mark Dayton to be able to allocate additional funds if necessary once the session ends. He said he'd like to figure out a contingency fund arrangement of some sort so that a special legislative session over the issue could be avoided. 

Dayton is convening a Monday afternoon meeting of the state Executive Council to extend a state emergency order. By the end of last week, almost 50 turkey farms in Minnesota had been affected by the outbreak, resulting in the loss of almost 3 million birds. 

Hot Dish morning newsletter

Posted by: J. Patrick Coolican Updated: April 27, 2015 - 9:52 AM

Three weeks left, if all goes well

Good morning. Wild advance and three weeks until the 2015 legislative session ends, assuming the House and Senate can come to an agreement and Gov. Mark Dayton signs on.

Senate Taxes Chairman Rod Skoe introduces his omnibus tax bill today. It will contrast sharply with the House plan. Senate in session at noon. House at 3:30. Full schedule.

Dayton and Lt. Gov. Tina Smith meet with Canadian Governor General (?) David Johnston. Dayton has an emergency meeting of the Executive Council at 3:00 for bird flu that’s open press. Then he makes remarks at 6:30 for the opening of the Olympus Brooklyn Park (Olympus, 9600 Louisiana Ave North, Brooklyn Park.)

An oft-quoted statistic that by 2018 70 percent of Minnesota jobs will require post-secondary education is flat wrong, Adam Belz reports. It’s way too high. It’s a number that gets thrown around the Capitol a lot.

Schools scrambling to get ready for new mandatory ACT. On April 28, 64,000 juniors will sit for the exam, Erin Adler reports.

Former Minneapolis City Council policy aide recording the stories of the transgendered, Erin Golden reports.

House GOP passed their education budget Saturday, and Ricardo Lopez was there.

Over the weekend, Pat Condon looked at the much touted Republican rural agenda and finds gaps in the budget plan.

RSB and Montgomery mention the unmentionable: A possible shutdown.

Washington and beyond

AP: Clinton Foundation acknowledges missteps in donor disclosure.

Roll Call: Comcast failed acquisition a win for Franken. 

Times on the White House Correspondents’ dinner. Gross.

State Senate backs $893K for avian flu response, but dispute emerges

Posted by: Patrick Condon Updated: April 21, 2015 - 2:58 PM

The Minnesota Senate on Tuesday unanimously approved $893,000 in emergency state funds to respond to the avian flu outbreak, although a political squabble over a non-related provision attached to the legislation by the DFL's Senate majority may slow down distribution of the money. 

The House passed the avian flu money on Thursday. It's divided into two pots: $514,000 for the state Department of Agriculture, and $379,000 for the state Board of Animal Health. 

"There is some urgency," Sen. Kevin Dahle, DFL-Northfield, said Tuesday during Senate debate.

Dahle noted that the number of Minnesota turkey farms affected by the outbreak has been rising; it most recently was tallied at 28 farms in 14 counties. Minnesota is the nation's largest turkey producer. 

However, a day earlier in Senate Finance Committee, DFL senators attached a provision that would move up a yearly date on which the Minnesota Management and Budget office reports the size of the state's budget reserve to legislators. Backers said it's meant to give lawmakers more time to prepare for the legislative session and the scope of  resources available. 

On Monday, House Speaker Kurt Daudt released a statement saying he did not want unrelated measures attached to the avian flu money. "The legislature has a tradition of not adding unrelated provisions to disaster relief and emergency response bills," Daudt said. 

That makes a House-Senate conference committee on the bill likely, meaning a likely delay of several days in getting the bill to the desk of Gov. Mark Dayton for his signature. At a news conference Tuesday just ahead of the Senate action, Dayton praised lawmakers for acting quickly on the measure. 

GOP senators warned in Tuesday's floor debate that the provision added by Sen. Dick Cohen, DFL-St. Paul, would slow down the progress of the avian flu money. DFL senators united to defeat a GOP amendment to remove the unrelated measure. 

"This provision you're talking about has nothing to do with avian flu," said Senate Minority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie. Neglecting to strip it out "will delay disaster relief to the farmers of this state." 

Senate votes to bar state money for soccer stadium

Posted by: Patrick Condon Updated: April 20, 2015 - 4:55 PM

(This post has been updated)

The Minnesota Senate voted overwhelmingly Monday to exclude state tax dollars from being spent on a proposed new soccer stadium near downtown Minneapolis. 

The widely bipartisan, 61-4 vote in favor of the ban came during debate on a broad budget bill covering state departments and operations. The Senate later approved the full bill, but a companion House bill funding state government does not currently include the soccer stadium provision. 

The amendment's effect may be largely symbolic in any case. The private group that's landed a Major League Soccer franchise has not asked for a direct state subsidy, and the Senate amendment does not tie the hands of elected officials in Hennepin County or Minneapolis, who are likely to be involved in funding talks. 

Sen. Branden Petersen, R-Andover, proposed the ban in the form of amendment clarifying that "no state funds may be appropriated or tax expenditures used to fund the construction of a new major league soccer stadium." 

A private ownership group led by Dr. Bill McGuire has landed a Major League Soccer franchise and is eyeing a site near the Minneapolis Farmer's Market for a stadium for the Minnesota United FC. The group met last week with legislative leaders and Gov. Mark Dayton, and indicated they'd be seeking a property tax exemption and a sales tax break on construction materials for the new stadium.  

The sales tax exemption would carry a price tag of about $3 million, against a private investment of around $250 million.

Monday's overwhelming Senate vote was yet another sign the group has a tough road ahead in seeking any public support, however small. Dayton, DFL and GOP leaders at the Capitol and Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges have all previously voiced opposition to a public component to the plan.  

No proposal for public involvement in stadium construction has been introduced in either the Senate or House. 

Senate rejects Sunday liquor sales, signs off on Sunday growlers

Posted by: Abby Simons Updated: April 16, 2015 - 5:18 PM

The Minnesota Senate again rejected a push to repeal the state’s 80-year-old ban on Sunday liquor sales by a closer-than-ever margin, while a measure to allow the Sunday sale of growlers from taprooms became a step closer to law

After an hour-long debate, the Senate voted down the measure, 35-28. The amendment brought forward by Sen. Susan Kent, DFL-Woodbury, was part of the Senate’s omnibus liquor bill, which easily passed the Senate, 51-11. The measure includes Sunday sales of growlers from taprooms, and the “Bloody Mary bill,” which allows the 8 a.m. Sunday sales of liquor from bars and restaurants instead of 10 a.m.

Kent's amendment included a ban on Sunday liquor deliveries in efforts to appease the Teamsters, who have long stood in opposition to Sunday liquor sales.

Despite the defeat, advocates for Sunday sales say that there’s still hope this session, pointing toward a potential House vote and the fact that six votes were gained this year. Last year, the Senate voted down a Sunday sales amendment 42-22. The House in 2013 rejected a similar measure 106-21.

“The short answer is, the House is the next step,” said Sen. Dave Osmek, R-Mound, a Sunday sales proponent. “If they can pass it, it goes into conference committee; I think we’ll get it this year.”

Though the debate was filled with the usual pro and anti-Sunday sales arguments, a number of lawmakers pushed for supporting Sunday sales if only because a repeal of the ban is inevitable.

“It’s not ever if this happens, it’s when,” said Sen. Dave Senjem, R-Rochester. “…It’s going to happen eventually. Let’s get this issue behind us and move on.”

Others remained steadfast in their opposition to the measure, like Sen. Vicki Jensen, DFL-Owatonna, who repeated a concern heard among many lawmakers that a move will harm small businesses, and that she’s voting against it.

Sen. Eric Pratt, R-Prior Lake, said he would back the amendment with some hesitation. He was told by liquor store owners in his district that being open Sundays would not create higher profits, but he disagrees that small liquor stores really have a choice. Big box stores with more resources will force smaller stores to stay open to remain competitive, he added.

"I’m going to support it because I think the consumer has changed and our society has changed, but let’s not fool ourselves that this is a free market stand." he said.

Before the vote, Sen. Roger Reinert, DFL-Duluth, who led the push for Sunday sales, praised the thorough, constructive debate.

“This is the kind of conversation Minnesotans watch and feel good about,” he said.

Kent, acknowledged the Sunday sales momentum as part of organized lobbying efforts, but said it’s more than that.

“It feels like neighbors. Yes, there are obviously organized efforts like on Twitter, but it’s individuals who are speaking up,” she said, adding that the effort was not dead. “It’s still April so it’s not done yet.”

Note: An earlier version of this post misstated Sen. Eric Pratt's Sunday sales vote. He supported the measure.

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