On the heels of a summit to discuss how to avoid repeating last year’s propane shortage in the midst of one of the most brutal winters in decades, Gov. Mark Dayton said Minnesota’s propane supply has increased by as much as 20-30 million gallons over last year, while rail lines and storage facilities have increased their capacity for both the harvest and rapidly approaching cold weather.
“I’d say the situation is very encouraging; much has advanced over what it was a year ago,” Dayton said, shortly after meeting with representatives from the propane, agriculture and rail industries as well as his Commissioners of Agriculture, Commerce, Pollution Control, and Transportation.
“We’re not out of the woods; nobody is complacent but there’s been a lot more focus on this,” he said.
Minnesota Department of Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman said a key propane storage facility in Conway, Kan. has increased its storage capacity by 15 percent, while multiple places in state have done the same. Dayton said the railroads have responded to calls to improve capacity to transport both harvested grain and propane.
Last winter, Dayton’s Executive Council voted unanimously to authorize and extend an emergency order to help alleviate the shortage, which included a hotline for propane-related issues. The state also received an additional $16 million for its Low-Income Energy Assistance Program, allowing the state to increase its crisis funding from $500 to $1,000 in assistance per household.
“I expect if it’s another severe winter and if there’s another late harvest that requires a lot of propane for drying, then we’ll have another tight supply situation, but we’re better prepared to handle that,” Dayton said.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, as of August 9, propane supplies in the Midwest were 1.9 million barrels higher than last year, but still 1.6 million barrels below the five-year average.
Dozens of protestors filled the a stately Capitol office building Tuesday morning to share their view that the state of Minnesota should divest from Israel.
Despite occasionally shouting at Gov. Mark Dayton, they found the same answer others have found before: there's no current plan to change Minnesota's investment in Israel, which is two decades old.
"We really want to hear from you. We really want to understand what it's going to take," said one of the members of the divestment group, Break the Bonds.
"We have a different view, I have a different view than yours," Gov. Mark Dayton said. "As far as I'm concerned the case is closed as far as our decision. Now, I may not be here next January and there may be other new board members...From my standpoint, here we've had this debate, we disagree..."
"Why don't you answer her question," someone shouted from the audience.
"We're just at a point of disagreement," Dayton said.
Another protestor piped up to accuse Dayton of saying back in July that Palestinians "deserved" to be bombed. Dayton replied that he did not recall saying that and he did not believe he said that.
Protestors murmured in disagreement.
"You're quoted as saying that," a women said.
"You did say it, so what did you mean?" a man said.
In the July Star Tribune article protestors cited, Dayton, in fact, did not say that anyone deserved to be bombed.
He said, instead, "Tonight, I join with you in expressing my support of the people of Israel in defending themselves against Hamas’ terrorism."
Dayton suggested the protestors should return in March of next year when the long-held bonds will expire. The state currently holds $10 million in bonds issued by Israel and $15 million invested through the U.S. Agency for International Development and that is also considered an investment in Israel.
After some more shouting from protestors, Dayton said: "Excuse me, I'm going to terminate the meeting if we can't have a civil conversation."
Shortly thereafter, the Board of Investment meeting ended because the agenda was completed and the Land Exchange Board meeting began in the same room.
During that later meeting, the protestors could be heard chanting so loudly outside those left in the room had to speak louder and move closer to the board members to make themselves heard.
A $3 million disaster contingency fund will likely cover the state’s share of nearly $41 million in summer storm damage until the Legislature reconvenes in January 2015, according to analysis by state officials.
The memo to Gov. Mark Dayton and legislative leaders from Minnesota Management Commissioner Jim Schowalter and and Budget and Homeland Security and Emergency Management Director Kris Eide outlines the plan to cover the $40.8 million in damages caused by severe storms and flooding following assessments from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
According to FEMA, 37 Minnesota counties and three tribal governments qualify under the President’s Disaster Declaration, meaning the federal government will cover 75 percent of the damage costs, leaving the state on the hook for $10.2 million. Between staggered withdrawals from the $3 million allocated by the Legislature, and advances from the Department of Revenue, there will likely be no need to call the Legislature to a special session to allocate more disaster money.
“We anticipate the existing appropriation will be sufficient to reimburse communities for the 25% non-federal share of the FEMA Public Assistance payments due between now and January 20145.” The memo read, adding that priority will be given to areas that suffered more significant damages.
Read the entire memo here:
Tom Horner, the Independence Party candidate for governor in 2010, waded back into governor's race politics on Tuesday when he endorsed GOP candidate Jeff Johnson in his challenge to incumbent DFL Gov. Mark Dayton.
"I believe Jeff will bring to government a commitment to accountability that's sorely missing," Horner said, standing alongside Johnson at a Capitol news conference. "We have too many examples of this governor's after-the-fact criticism of legislation and policies that he championed and signed into law."
Asked for an example of that, Horner cited the Vikings stadium bill that Dayton signed in 2012 that allowed the team to amass significant revenue by selling so-called "seat licenses." Dayton, Horner said, "claimed he didn't know that was in it."
Dayton brushed off Horner's criticisms and his endorsement of Johnson. "He didn't support me in 2010 so I'm not surprised," Dayton said. Of Johnson, he said, "he said he's proudly part of the tea party, and now he's joining up with the Independence Party. I guess he's trying to broaden his appeal."
Horner is a former Republican operative who later co-founded a successful Twin Cities public relations firm. In 2010, he left the GOP and embraced the Independence Party, the one-time political home of former Gov. Jesse Ventura.
Running against Dayton and GOP candidate Tom Emmer that year, Horner captured 12 percent of the vote with a message of fiscal discipline and social moderation. Dayton beat Emmer by a thin margin of about 9,000 votes, and some Republicans suggested Horner's candidacy was partly responsible. Horner had secured endorsements from a number of prominent retired Republican politicians, including former governors Arne Carlson and Al Quie.
That led then-GOP state chairman Tony Sutton to brand such Republicans "quislings," a reference to a World War II-era Nazi appeaser. The GOP Central Committee met to officially strip Carlson and Quie of their party membership.
"Our party shouldn't have done that," Johnson said Tuesday. "That was a mistake."
Horner said he continued to occasionally interact with the Independence Party as recently as earlier this year. But he said this year's IP candidate, Hannah Nicollet, is not mounting a viable campaign. Nicollet failed to raise enough campaign funds to qualify for a public campaign subsidy that would have given her a much-needed financial boost.
"I've never even met Tom Horner," Nicollet said. "If he likes Jeff Johnson's vision, that's his prerogative."
Nicollet said she is confirmed to participate in the first of five gubernatorial debates, on Oct. 1 in Rochester, and that she hoped to participate in the four other scheduled debates in the race. Nicollet also said she hoped to start releasing ads online in the next week or two.
If neither Nicollet nor the other IP statewide candidates are able to muster more than 5 percent of the vote in their races this November, the party would lose its status as a major party under Minnesota law.
Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican challenger Jeff Johnson have settled on five gubernatorial debates in the month of October, after a tussle that saw Johnson suggest 13 debates but ultimately agree to one fewer than what Dayton offered.
The first debate between the two is scheduled for Oct. 1 in Rochester . The last will be Oct. 31 on the public television program "Almanac." In between, the two will meet three more times -- in Moorhead on Oct. 8, in Duluth on Oct. 14 and St. Paul on Oct. 19.
In August, the Johnson campaign proposed 13 debates. The Dayton campaign identified six that the governor would attend -- those five listed above and a final, Nov. 2 debate in St. Paul on Minnesota Public Radio.
Johnson was critical of Dayton for not agreeing to the full schedule. But late last week, the Johnson campaign put out a press release signing off on the five October debates but declining the MPR debate.
"He wanted to do six debates and he wanted to dictate exactly which ones they were," Johnson campaign spokesman Jeff Bakken said. He said that the Johnson campaign requested, in exchange for the MPR debate, that Dayton agree to a seventh debate in late October on one of two Twin Cities TV stations that were offering to host them.
Dayton has said he believes six debates would have been plenty for voters to draw distinctions between him and Johnson.
Here's a full list of the date, location and sponsor of the five debates agreed to by both campaigns:
Wednesday, Oct. 1 -- Mayo Civic Center in Rochester, hosted by the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities, the Rochester Post-Bulletin and Rochester Chamber of Commerce.
Wednesday, Oct. 8 -- Moorhead, hosted by Forum News Service and WDAY-TV.
Tuesday, Oct. 14 -- Duluth, hosted by the Duluth Chamber of Commerce and Duluth News Tribune.
Sunday, Oct. 19 -- Hamline University in St. Paul, hosted by KMSP/Fox 9.
Friday, Oct. 31 -- St. Paul, hosted by TPT/Almanac.