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, Baird Helgeson, Patricia Lopez, Jim Ragsdale, Abby Simons, Rachel E. Stassen-Berger and Glen Stubbe. Contributors in D.C.: Allison Sherry, Corey Mitchell and Jim Spencer.

Posts about Minnesota legislature

Dayton delays State of the State address until April 30

Posted by: Baird Helgeson Updated: April 9, 2014 - 7:24 PM

Gov. Mark Dayton is postponing his State of the State speech one week until April 30, his office announced Wednesday.

The governor has been recuperating from hip surgery and had planned to give his annual address the week before.

“The governor would simply like more time to prepare his remarks,” said Linden Zakula, s Dayton spokesman.

The governor is scheduled to give the address in the House chambers, with House members and state Senators present.

DFLers push to close women's pay gap, add workplace protections

Posted by: Baird Helgeson Updated: April 9, 2014 - 11:58 AM

House Democrats are making a final push for a measure designed to close the general pay gap and strengthen workplace protections for women.

The measure expands family leave and provides accommodations for pregnant and nursing employees. It would expand access to affordable childcare and take several steps to reduce the gender pay gap, like better enforcement of equal pay laws for state contractors. The proposal also attempts to offset financial consequences for victims of domestic violence, stalking and sexual assault.

Democratic leaders say the “Women’s Economic Security Act” would be one of their most significant achievements of the legislative session, and a step that would add lasting improvement to the state’s economy.

“In 2014, we shouldn’t be in a position where women are making less and have different economic opportunities than men,” said House Speaker Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis. “This should be important to all Minnesotans because when women do better, families do better, and all of us do better.”

The House is expected to pass the measure Wednesday, and could be on DFL Gov. Mark Dayton’s desk in coming weeks. The governor is expected to sign the proposal.

Supporters held a rally on the Capitol steps before the vote Wednesday morning, surrounded by Thissen and dozens of legislators and supporters.

“The bill we’re voting on today is about strengthening working families – because when women have equal opportunities to succeed, it means stronger families, stronger communities and a brighter future for our state,” said Rep. Carly Melin, a Hibbing DFLer who has been a chief backer of the measure.

Democrats have tried to work closely with the business community to resolve any possible objections. The business community has strongly opposed a component of the measure that was stripped out and is expected to pass separately – an increase in the state’s minimum wage to $9.50 an hour.

Advocates say women continue to earn, on average, 80 percent of what men make, a gap that has remained stubbornly persistent for a decade.  

Debra Fitzpatrick, director of the Center on Women and Public Policy at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, said the gender pay gap robs every Minnesota woman of almost $500,000 over the span of their career.

“That isn't going to change without a comprehensive, research-based approach like the Women's Economic Security Act," she said.

“Please, let’s show all women and the nation that it does not have to be an economic disadvantage to be born a woman,” said Danielle Hans, a Minneapolis resident who spoke at the event.

Once signed into law, Thissen said, “I think it is going to make Minnesota a nation leader on these issues.

Dayton to sign anti-bullying bill into law

Posted by: Abby Simons Updated: April 9, 2014 - 10:29 AM

A hotly contested bill to crack down on bullying in schools across the state will become law this afternoon following an 11-hour debate in the Minnesota House of Representatives.

The Safe and Supportive Schools Minnesota Act cleared the House 69-63 shortly after midnight Wednesday following a debate where one opposing lawmaker compared the bill to George Orwell’s classic novel “1984,” about government surveillance. The drawn-out debate filled with hypotheticals also included references to Hitler, Xbox video game systems and spanking.

A Senate version of the bill authored by Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, passed 36-31 Thursday after five-hour debate. Gov. Mark Dayton will sign the bill into law at 4 p.m.

Strengthening Minnesota’s antibullying law—considered one of the weakest in the nation--has been a decade-long goal of gay rights activists and others concerned about bullying that affects a broad spectrum of students perceived as different. But the pushback from opponents has been strong, saying it forces schools to give up local control and gives preference to certain groups of students.

Under the bill, every school district would be expected to develop and enforce plans to reduce bullying and would have to make regular progress reports to the state. The state itself would be required to develop a model plan.

“Frankly, we’d rather that school districts engage their community and create new policy to limit bullying that we know is happening, rather than use the state model policy that will be created with t eh passage of this bill.” said the bill’s House sponsor, Rep. Jim Davnie, DFL-Minneapolis, said in a statement.

The bill also creates a School Safety Technical Assistance Council and Center which will provide services and planning for schools and communities as they implement anti-bullying policies.
 

Minnesota Senate passes $209 million in new spending

Posted by: Baird Helgeson Updated: April 8, 2014 - 7:37 PM

Minnesota would spend an addition $209 million for education, prisons and raises for state-paid home health workers, under a proposal that passed through the state Senate on Tuesday.

“There are many things in here that are desirous,” said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Dick Cohen, DFL-St. Paul.

The 37-27 vote came after a prolonged floor debate in which Republicans repeatedly failed to amend the measure. Republicans have pushed for deeper tax cuts instead of more spending.

“Minnesotans have once again been denied additional tax relief," said Sen. Michelle Benson, R-Ham Lake. She called the measure "a disappointing display of misplaced priorities.”

DFL legislators who control both the House and Senate are trying to finish up the spending measures that they are paying for out of the state’s $1.2 billion projected budget surplus for he remainder of the budget cycle. Already, legislators have earmarked about $550 million for business and consumer tax relief and another $150 million for the state’s rainy-day fund.

The Senate proposal includes several provisions with strong bipartisan support, including 5 percent raises for home health workers, which will cost about $80 million.

“We support this,” said Senate Minority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie. “This is something that was neglected in the budget last year.”

The proposal also includes a $2 million-a-year boost to state nursing homes to offset a measure to raise the state’s minimum wage to $9.50 an hour.

An unexpected increase in criminal convictions prompted Democratic legislators to set aside an additional $11 million to pay for the growth in the state prison population and the cost of renting beds from county jails.

The Minnesota Department of Corrections reported that incarcerations were up 8 percent over earlier estimates, which is an average of 513 extra offenders each year.

Law enforcement officials say the increased incarcerations come from a wide range of crimes, including a 23 percent jump in methamphetamine convictions, a 15 percent increase in DWI offenders, a 5 percent increase in criminal sexual conduct convictions. Corrections officials logged a decrease in prisoners for non-methamphetamine drug offenses.

The proposal adds millions in new spending on elementary education, including $8.8 million in early learning scholarships. The proposal sets aside money to bridge the disparity gap for minority students and for teacher evaluations.

Senators also included $3.5 million to ensure that all low-income students have a hot school lunch.

The measure also includes a one-time appropriation of $2.5 million to deal with financial challenges at the University of Minnesota Duluth.

The Senate measure differs from the House, so a special conference committee will try to resolve differences between the two. The measure increases spending by more than $741 million in the next budget cycle, ending in 2017.

Dayton: Lawmakers 'hiding behind their desks' on marijuana issue

Posted by: Baird Helgeson Updated: April 8, 2014 - 3:36 PM

Gov. Mark Dayton said Minnesota legislators are “hiding behind their desks” on a proposal to legalize medical marijuana.

Parents of children with seizure disorders have lambasted the governor’s opposition to legalizing medical marijuana, saying he is the only person standing between their children and the herb that could help them.

The governor offered to enroll the children in a Mayo Clinic study that could provide relief, but so far the parents have rejected the offer, saying similar studies never worked in other states.

It remains far from certain supporters even have the votes in the Legislature to legalize medical marijuana.

DFL Rep. Carly Melin, a strong backer of the proposal from Hibbing, said she believes the votes are there, but so far House Speaker Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, has not called for a vote.

Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, has authored a new proposal to legalize medical marijuana, but House officials say that proposal will not get a floor vote.

When asked if he would veto a medical marijuana measure if it got to his desk, Dayton put the pressure squarely back on legislators. “Let’s see them vote,” he said Tuesday.

With just over a month remaining in the legislative session, the governor said he believes Democratic lawmakers are spending too much of the projected $1.2 billion surplus.

He did not quarrel with the items legislators wanted to spend money on, but warned against spending so much the state goes back into deficit in coming years.

He did not threaten to line-item veto any new spending, saying he hopes to work it out with legislative leaders later this month.

The governor also said he’d like to spend closer to $1 billion on statewide construction projects, saying the state can easily afford the extra debt payments.

Legislative leaders agreed to $850 million in new borrowing last year, but the state’s improving finances and billions of dollars in worthy projects has Dayton pressing for more.

Dayton was particularly critical of the amount designated for higher education buildings and projects, which he has said is inadequate.

Minnesota can't have a first-rate higher education system with third-rate facilities, Dayton said.

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