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.

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Sen. Franken wins his (complicated) cause celebre: Net neutrality

Posted by: Allison Sherry Updated: February 26, 2015 - 9:34 PM

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Al Franken was elated Thursday when the Federal Communications Commission approved rules that ensure Internet providers treat all legal content equally.

"Last spring, I could not have predicted that we would be celebrating this victory today," Franken said, on the Senate floor. "The best principles of our democracy have won out. It's clear that the voices of the American people have been heard. I've often called net neutrality the free speech issue of our time."

Franken has long fought in the weeds on net neutrality. At a Judiciary Committee hearing last year on the issue, there was standing room only because so many "free Internet" activists filled the room to hear Franken speak. Franken often talked about Comcast's "100 lobbyists" on Capitol Hill fighting for the Time Warner merger and challenged fellow Judiciary Committee Republican Sen. Ted Cruz to explain his opposition to net neutrality. Cruz called the issue "the Obamacare for the Internet."

"It was a statement that seemed to demonstrate a basic misunderstanding of what net neutrality is and how the Internet works," Franken said Thursday."Some folks really don't get it."

Franken said thanks to the FCC's ruling -- commissioners split on a party line vote -- he can "stream videos of my amazingly cute grandson just as easily as I can stream a hit TV show."

Hennepin County Sheriff Stanek to politicians: Please don't shut down DHS

Posted by: Allison Sherry Updated: February 26, 2015 - 3:05 PM

WASHINGTON -- Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek shared a stage with Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson Thursday urging members of Congress to fund the federal agency in the next 30 hours or it will shut down.

A shutdown means forced furloughs for about 20 percent of the DHS personnel staff. Everyone else -- for example TSA and Customs and Border Protection agents at the airport and FEMA workers -- will be forced to work without pay.

Stanek is worried about federal grants.

Minnesota received about $10 million in cash from DHS last year -- fully half of that went to Hennepin County to help with law enforcement. While the money has been allocated, Stanek hasn't received all of it and if DHS shut down, the personnel office workers who cut the checks would not be coming to work.

"This is a critical time with what happened over the past weekend with the propoganda video and working with our diaspora community with countering violent extremism," Stanek said. "There could be a natural manmade disaster in Minnesota, an oil tanker turnover ... It's very important."

Congress is debating now whether to fund DHS "cleanly" -- that is, without Republican-added amendments stripping away money to enforce President Barack Obama's immigration reform orders from last year. Democrats fought back against the amendments, which led to the current standstill.

The Department runs out of money at midnight tomorrow.

As promised, Obama vetoes Keystone pipeline bill

Posted by: Jim Spencer Updated: February 24, 2015 - 3:04 PM

President Obama made good Tuesday on a promise to veto a bill approving construction of the Keystone pipeline. In his veto message, the president called the bill an effort to "circumvent" an established review process that needed more time to consider "security, safety and environmental" issues. Republican leaders in the U.S.. House and Senate must now decide if they will try to override the veto. Without a wildly unlikely change in Democratic votes, it will be impossible to override the president's veto and make the pipeline approval law. An override effort move would begin in the Senate and require a two-thirds majority vote, before moving to the House, where another two-thirds majority would be required to make the bill law. The Keystone bill passed the House with Minnesota's three rural Democrats - Collin Peterson, Rick Nolan and Tim Walz - voting for it with Republicans John Kline, Erik Paulsen and Tom Emmer. Democrats Keith Ellison and Betty McCollum voting against it. In the Senate, Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, both Democrats, voted against Keystone. Both have said they will not vote to override a Keystone veto. Neither will Minnesota House members Ellison or  McCollum. 

Morning Hot Dish: MNsure blasted, and Biden being Biden

Posted by: J. Patrick Coolican Updated: February 18, 2015 - 8:46 AM

Good morning. -17.22 Celsius today. “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” was published today in 1885; and, Anthony Kennedy was sworn in to the Supreme Court in 1988 after Bork (ideology) and Ginsburg (pot) were not. 

Busy day at the Legislature, with a lot of hearings, and the House is in session at 12:15. University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler will testify before the House Committee on Higher Education Policy and Finance at 2:45. Full schedule

Gov. Mark Dayton will meet with members of the Senate DFL Caucus this morning. (With their leader?) Closed press. Commissioners and staff. A call with Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper. (Pot legalization advice? Probably not.) Closed press. At 1:30, news conference in Mankato to announce his proposal to expand and improve Highway 14 (MnDOT District 7 Headquarters, 2151 Bassett Drive, Mankato).

Mea culpa: Yesterday I wrote that we didn’t know where Lt. Gov. Tina Smith was. As announced Friday, she was out of state visiting family until today. Reminding us all she’s not a native Minnesotan, and so can’t be trusted. (I kid.)

MNsure mess

MNsure got hammered by a legislative audit, report the Strib’s Chris Snowbeck and Jeremy Olson. Much of it was known already, but some new details will leave a mark.

Dayton released a list of projects that would be paid for by his transportation proposal, Janet Moore reports. Repubs say its smacks of political earmarking.

Privacy fight over license plate readers continues, Abby Simons reports.

Fight over teacher seniority coming, Ricardo Lopez reports.  

MinnPost on the Bakk and Dayton feud: It will continue, abate, pick up again.

The Atlantic on the Twin Cities “miracle” of opportunity and affordability. This will not help the cities’ smugness problem. Key data, people never leave:

Shaver looked at the outward migration of employed, college-educated people who earn at least twice the national average income—his proxy for the manager demographic — and found that of the 25 largest American cities, only one had a lower rate of outflow than Minneapolis (although he couldn’t compute data for three others). Among all college-educated workers, Minneapolis also had the second-lowest outflow.

Washington and beyond

Biden being Biden. Extra Bideny, in this case.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar spent the weekend in Cuba talking to locals, Allison Sherry reports. (Unrelated: Check out this documentary, “Buena Vista Social Club.”)

Times: Lots of new veterans in Congress bring fresh perspective to ISIS war vote.

Times: Rand Paul will announce in April.

The Post asks: What will Jeb say about Iraq?

Politico: Dems have no bench. (This could be a big deal on Senate races.)

Post: Major retreat in Ukraine.

Sen. Klobuchar spends weekend in Cuba hearing out locals

Posted by: Allison Sherry Updated: February 17, 2015 - 3:01 PM

WASHINGTON -- Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar spent the long weekend with a couple of other senators in Cuba meeting with government and religious leaders and feeling out business opportunities for Minnesota, she said in an interview Tuesday.

Klobuchar said locals often repeat the date Dec. 17 in conversations -- the day President Barack Obama took significant steps to normalize relations with the country of 11 million, including suspending some rules around banking, credit and travel restrictions.

Congress has to authorize lifting the official trade embargo, though, and travel ban. Klobuchar was the chief author of legislation in the U.S. Senate to lift the embargo introduced last week and she supports another proposal to kill the travel ban. Both measures face some opposition among Republicans and a couple of Democrats, including New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, who is the highest ranking member on the Foreign Relations Committee. 

"We met with every day people who had started businesses who are excited," she said. "There is a real interest in buying American products."

Minnesota already exports about $20 million in food to Cuba each year because of a waiver to export food for humanitarian purposes, but Klobuchar and others in the Minnesota delegation think the demand could skyrocket with free trade.

She said Cubans have a couple of top priorities: normalizing currency and getting better access to high-speed Internet and cell phones. She said the technological revolution to come there will open up society.

"Once they get Internet and once they get communications, that's the whole idea, I believe there will be improvements to everything else," she said. 

Klobuchar traveled to the island with Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill and Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, both Democrats.

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