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 legislature

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.

Teachers, DFL House members rally against GOP education bill

Posted by: Ricardo Lopez 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. 

Gov. Mark Dayton threatens veto of any gun silencer bill

Posted by: J. Patrick Coolican 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."

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

Posted by: J. Patrick Coolican 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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