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, Rachel E. Stassen-Berger and Glen Stubbe. Contributors in D.C.: Allison Sherry and Jim Spencer.

Posts about Health care

Johnson hammers on unionization again

Posted by: Rachel E. Stassen-Berger Updated: September 17, 2014 - 1:19 PM

Standing in front of DFL Gov. Mark Dayton's temporary Capitol area office, Republican gubernatorial candidate Jeff Johnson said he would try to reverse the massive unionization of child care and home health workers now underway in Minnesota if he became governor.

"I would certainly try," Johnson said. "It would be hard to reverse but not impossible."

Republicans, including Johnson, have long hammered on Dayton and DFLers in the Legislature for approving a measure to allow child care and home health care workers to decide whether to unionize. The resulting unions would negotiate with the state.

The controversial 2013 legislative vote was a top priority for the Service Employees International Union, which is working with home care workers, and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which works with child care workers.

Last month, home health care workers approved unionization. Child care providers are organizing a unionization vote for next year.

Johnson and anti-unionization activist Jennifer Parrish, a child care businesswoman, both suggested that Dayton's support of unionization was "payback" for union support and contributions during the 2010 election.

Although a quid pro quo of support in exchange for administrative action could be illegal, Johnson said he was not accusing Dayton of any illegal activity.

Jeremy Drucker, spokesman for the Dayton campaign, declined to comment on Johnson's accusation of payback. But he did say the governor believes in child care providers' right to organize.

"Governor Dayton supports giving child care providers the chance to hold an election and decide for themselves whether or not they want to form a union. This right was guaranteed by the U.S. Congress in 1935," Drucker said in a statement.

Dayton, who has been in Minnesota politics for decades, has long been considered union-friendly and during his term and campaign has received significant support from Minnesota unions. He has not always, however, moved in lock step with union interests and before the 2010 primary, many unions supported one of his Democratic opponents.

Jennifer Munt, a spokeswoman for AFSCME, said Johnson position shows he is "against working women."

As to the accusation of "payback," she said "we support candidates who support workers...for us that is our fundamental value."

Updated to remove photo and fix a typo.

Minnesota home care workers vote to unionize

Posted by: Abby Simons Updated: August 26, 2014 - 4:03 PM

Minnesota home care workers celebrated Tuesday after voting to unionize in what is widely considered the largest election of its kind in state history.

Of 5,872 ballots cast, 60 percent of home care providers voted to organize the Service Employees International Union. Home care providers and their clients erupted in cheers when the results were announced at the AFL-CIO’s labor pavilion Minnesota State Fairgrounds.

“We have been working towards this day for many years, we’ve seen the stories of the low pay, lack of benefits and training and the low pay facing home care workers,” said home care provider Sumer Spika of St. Paul, who helped organize the effort. “We know what this does to Minnesota families and we know that it needs to change.”

Of nearly 27,000 eligible voters, only 21 percent cast ballots. Opponents say the number who did not vote ‘Yes’ is indicative of the number of providers who did not want a union, and vow to continue a legal challenge to the unionization.

“No one is opposing the right of individual homecare providers to freely associate with the union if they so choose, but the issue raised in this legal challenge is whether those individuals who don’t want anything to do with the union can have it imposed on them.” Said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation in the wake of the election results.  That’s why the providers’ legal challenge to this forced unionism scheme will go forward.”

The vote comes after nine home health care workers sued last month to block the union vote, but a federal judge ruled last week that the plaintiffs could not sue until workers elected to unionize.

Barring the legal challenge, the home care providers’ union will now begin bargaining with the state.


Dayton agrees to limit self-funding, campaign spending

Posted by: Updated: May 30, 2014 - 11:34 AM
Mark Dayton, center, and Tina Smith talk with Secretary of State Mark Ritchie

Mark Dayton, center, and Tina Smith talk with Secretary of State Mark Ritchie

Gov. Mark Dayton signed an agreement Friday that will sharply limit his ability to personally bankroll his re-election campaign.

Dayton agreed not to spend more than $20,000 of his own money in exchange for about $447,000 in public subsidy. The agreement also limits Dayton’s campaign to about $3.6 million.

That's a sharp contrast to 2010, when Dayton poured $3.7 million of his own money into the campaign and narrowly beat GOP rival Tom Emmer.

Now an incumbent with a list of accomplishments, the governor said the agreement will allow him to spend less time raising money and more time traveling the state meeting with Minnesotans.

The agreement has no bearing on what outside groups can spend defending Dayton or attacking his rivals.

Dayton, a department store heir, has already embarked on an active fundraising schedule, taking in more than $1.1 million.

Dayton and his running mate, Tina Smith, came to the Secretary of State’s office Friday to file the paperwork to make their campaign official.

The governor said the theme of his first campaign was to make Minnesota better.

“I think we’ve indisputably made Minnesota a better state,” said Dayton, noting new education investments, a balanced budget and progressive legislation, such as legalization of same-sex marriage. “That’s why I am running, not only to make Minnesota better, but to make it the best.”

Dayton and Smith will travel to Duluth this weekend to accept the DFL’s endorsement for governor and lieutenant governor.

Ample signs are already emerging that Dayton will have a heated and divisive race.

A GOP group that has criticized Dayton and Democrats for months parked a rented truck in front of the Secretary of State’s office displaying a huge banner criticizing the governor for the troubled rollout of MNsure, the state’s health insurance exchange.

The group, Minnesota Jobs Coalition, plans to park the truck outside the DFL State Convention in Duluth.

Truck greeting Gov. Mark Dayton outside Secretary of State's office.

Truck greeting Gov. Mark Dayton outside Secretary of State's office.

Dayton signs medical marijuana bill

Posted by: Patrick Condon Updated: May 29, 2014 - 10:13 AM

Gov. Mark Dayton on Thursday signed the bill legalizing marijuana treatment of some medical conditions including cancer, other terminal and some chronic diseases, and to help reduce seizures in children with epilepsy. 

Dayton's signature officially makes Minnesota the 22nd U.S. state with a medical marijuana program. About 5,000 people are expected to be eligible , with the first legal access to compounds of the cannabis plant expected on July 1, 2015. 

"I thank everyone who worked together to craft and pass this legislation. I pray it will bring to the victims of ravaging illnesses the relief they are hoping for," Dayton said in a prepared statement.

The governor signed the bill privately, with no public ceremony as he often does with high-profile legislation. Dayton's insistence that law enforcement groups and some medical organizations sign off on the final proposal angered many of the private citizens who lobbied for the bill. That group included adult patients as well as parents of children with severe forms of epilepsy. 

The state Department of Health will manage the medical marijuana program, in which enrollees will consent to have their use and outcomes closely monitored. There are nine qualifying medical conditions, which besides those mentioned above also include HIV/AIDS, glaucoma, Tourette's syndrome, ALS and Crohn's Disease. Patients' medical providers will have to confirm to the state that they are eligible to participate. 

Minnesota's program will have a number of unique aspects compared to the other states. It will be the only medical marijuana program in the country that does not allow possession and smoking of actual marijuana plant material. Instead, patients will have access to oils and liquids that contain various plant extracts. Many doctors with experience in medical marijuana call that unusual, given that oil extracts are seen as much more potent that the plant. 

Police and prosecutor groups lobbied heavily against allowing plants or smoking in Minnesota's program, and Dayton made it clear for months that he was not willing to support a medical marijuana bill if it was opposed by law enforcement groups. 

Private manufacturers will bid with the Department of Health to produce and distribute the oils and liquids. The law authorizes to manufacturing and eight distribution sites around the state.

Most of the Legislature's Democrats and many Republicans approved the program in the closing days of the legislative session. 

Zellers, running mate differ on taxes, minimum wage

Posted by: Updated: May 23, 2014 - 11:32 AM
Kurt Zellers, right, introduces GOP running mate, Dean Simpson

Kurt Zellers, right, introduces GOP running mate, Dean Simpson

GOP gubernatorial candidate Kurt Zellers has tapped former Rep. Dean Simpson as his running mate, selecting someone more moderate on issues of the minimum wage and taxation.

“He is what Main Street Minnesota is all about,” said Zellers, a former Minnesota House Speaker who served with Simpson in the Legislature. “We’ve been missing a good salesman and a good cheerleader for Minnesota for the last four years."

Simpson described himself as “a little bit on the moderate side” at a Capitol news conference to introduce the team. A former New York Mills mayor and four-decade grocery store owner, Simpson has voted in favor of tax increases before and said he supports looking at expanding the sales tax to include more items.

He also said he has no interest in repealing the minimum wage increase DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and Democratic legislators passed earlier this year.

Simpson said his grocery store employees make more than the minimum wage and that once the new $9.50 hourly wage is fully implemented, he will probably give workers raises to make sure they are comfortably above it.

“I am certainly not going to try to do anything to repeal it, that’s for sure,” Simpson said.

Simpson’s position puts him at odds with the candidate at the top of the ticket.

After Democrats announced the deal to raise the base wage, Zellers pledged to work to rescind the wage increase if elected governor.

Zellers expressed skepticism about tax breaks that Dayton and legislative leaders agreed to as part of the successful bid to lure the Super Bowl to Minnesota in 2018.

Zellers was a prominent opponent of the state-backed portion of the new Minnesota Vikings stadium, but Simpson supported a measure to aid the new Twins stadium.

Of the tax incentives for the Super Bowl, “I always thing that is tenuous at best,” Zellers said. “You introduce a few guys from Florida to ice fishing, that’s a great day.”

If elected, Zellers would likely need to become a crucial leader in the effort to make sure the event is a success.

The candidate declined to say whether he'd support state involvement, but added: “I am going to be the best cheerleader and the best salesman for Minnesota as I can be."


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