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

Capitol restoration to get more visible, much of building to close to public

Posted by: Patrick Condon Updated: July 3, 2014 - 11:48 AM

Major portions of the State Capitol building, including its rotunda, will close to the public next week as the years-long restoration project enters its next phase. 

The Department of Administration announced Thursday that work would become much more visible after the July 4 weekend passes. Among the projects getting underway are the replacement of the roof, and prepping much of the building's interior for new mechanical and electrical system installation. 

That means closing off the rotunda, every floor of the building's east wing, and the ground and first floors of the West Wing. Administration officials said those spots need to be closed off both to protect the public and architectural features. 

"The interior and exterior of the Minnesota State Capitol is a live construction site," said Department of Administration Commissioner Spencer Cronk. "We have a once in a lifetime opportunity to preserve this beautiful building for the next century, but with that opportunity comes shome short-term inconveniences. There will be a lot of noise and detours." 

Many of the building's most prominent tenants have already been moved off site. Gov. Mark Dayton and his staff moved to the Veterans Services Building at the south end of the Capitol campus. Attorney General Lori Swanson and her office relocated to office space in downtown St. Paul. 

The only tenants remaining for now are state senators with offices in the building. They'll be moved out after the 2015 session. 

Most of the building's art has been removed and is being stored by the Historical Society. Flagpoles from the top of the building have been taken off to make room for the roof replacement, and the golden chariot sculpture at the base of the dome will be enclosed to protect it during construction. 

The $273 million renovation and repair of the Capitol is scheduled to finish up in 2017. It was initiated with a focus on repairing deteriorating exterior stone, addressing safety concerns in the aging building, replaced outdated systems and creating more public space. 

Local government lobbying costs increased to $8 million in 2013

Posted by: Rachel E. Stassen-Berger Updated: June 23, 2014 - 11:35 AM

Local government lobbying costs increased to $8 million in 2013, a jump of a little less than $260,000 compared to 2012, according to a new report from the Office of the State Auditor.

The slight increase comes after a dip in local government lobbying. Back in 2012, the State Auditor found that lobbying costs decreased by 6 percent, or nearly $500,000, compared to 2011.

The report tallies up lobbying spending by "cities, counties, school districts, and special districts, directly employed staff and/or contracted with professional lobbyists to represent their interests before the Legislature," according to the office.

The year over year increase follows a pattern of higher spending during budget years, like 2013, compared to years when the Legislature largely focuses on capital borrowing issues, like 2012.

Still, the state mandated report also reflects the longer term trend of increasing lobbying costs. Back in 2003, local governments spent just over $6 million on lobbying, about $2 million less than they spent in 2013.

The 2013 annual report, like previous ones, found that larger local governments spent more on lobbying than smaller ones.

It also found that large lobbying firms made considerable sums lobbying for local governments.

Read the entire report here and all previous years' reports here.

Zellers urges probe into alleged MSOP cover-up; auditor says it's unlikely

Posted by: Abby Simons Updated: June 18, 2014 - 5:52 PM

Minnesota gubernatorial candidate Kurt Zellers urged the state’s legislative auditor to investigate the destruction of a serial rapist's violent fantasy logs as he vies for his release from the controversial Minnesota Sex Offender Program

On the heels of a Star Tribune report that the state’s attorney general alleges a coverup surrounding the potential release of Thomas Duvall, Zellers, a former Republican state House speaker, wrote a letter to Legislative Auditor Jim Nobles urging him to investigate the destruction of Duvall's journals, written as part of his treatment plan.

"What we have seen is a series of either distortions, cover-ups, misinterpretations, or just downright failure," Zellers said Wednesday. "Last February there was a news report that this was some sort of act by Mr. Duvall. Now here we are a few months later, it wasn't Mr. Duvall but someone with DHS destroying these documents."

Nobles ackowledged that he received Zellers' letter but doesn't intend to act.

"This issue is before a state Supreme Court appeals panel and I think that's where it belongs," Nobles said. "The issue was raised by the attorney general, and I think the proper place for this issue to be addressed and resoved is the appeals panel. I don't see a role for my office."

Zellers' comments came after the most recent revelations about the destruction of the logs surrounding the closely-watched and heated debate over whether Duvall can be released from custody. A federal judge urged the state Legislature to take action, but reform efforts went nowhere last session, with both lawmakers and Gov. Dayton urging one another to take action.

Zellers said a "top to bottom" audit is necessary to determine what happened to Duvall's journals, and to address whether he should be released. He blamed Dayton for a lack of leadership on the issue, brushing off criticism that the Legislature failed to act, noting that nothing passed with a House, Senate and governorship under DFL control.

"As governor it starts from the top down," he said. "You can legislate all you want but if your commissioners aren't going to abide by the law or at least the laws that were passed, as a governor it should start and end at the top. If you're not going to do your job then step aside."

Dayton's Deputy Chief of Staff Bob Hume fired back at Zeller's in a statement, blasting Zellers for "political posturing."

"The fact remains that Mr. Duvall is not a prisoner, he is civilly-committed," Hume said. "The decision to destroy his own personal property is between him and his lawyer. Under state statute, which Rep. Zellers helped write and has not mustered the will to change, that is the law."

Nobles' office has previously been involved in audits of MSOP. A 2011 report by the office that showed Minnesota has four times the number of civilly committed sex offenders per capita than 19 other states with similar programs and urged the Legislature to develop a plan for alternate placement for some offenders housed at MSOP along with other reforms.

Pew poll: Primary voters tend toward extremes, partisans more partisan

Posted by: Rachel E. Stassen-Berger Updated: June 12, 2014 - 10:15 AM

A new nationwide poll from the Pew Center on People and the Press finds that consistent conservatives and liberal make the decisions in primaries at the same time Democrats and Republicans' contrasts grow.

The poll, which surveyed 10,000 adults, found that those who are consistently conservative are more likely to turn out to vote. The same was true for consistent liberals, although to a slightly lessor extend.

The results are instructive for campaigns facing heated primaries, as Minnesota will experience this August, and for voters who may be unhappy with the election outcomes.

Ideological Consistency and Primary Voting

Adults on the more conservative and liberal ends of the spectrum are also more likely to vote in all elections and more likely to give money to political causes.

Notably for Democrats hoping to boost this year's midterm election turnout, conservative adults are significantly more likely to say they always vote than liberal adults.

The findings come as people are less likely to hold much in common with people of the opposite party.

Perhaps because of those differences, Republicans and Democrats over the past two decades have a growing dislike of each other.

Read the complete report here.

Dayton off to D.C. to press for water project funding, talk economy

Posted by: Baird Helgeson Updated: June 10, 2014 - 10:02 PM

DFL Gov. Mark Dayton is traveling to Washington, D.C., Wednesday to push for federal money for the Lewis & Clark fresh water pipeline in southwest Minnesota.

Dayton will attend a meeting hosted by U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., with U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. The governor, U.S. Sen Al Franken, D-Minn., and other members of Minnesota's congressional delegation plan to stress the water project’s economic importance to southwestern Minnesota.

Minnesota's political leaders are pressing the federal government to commit funding to reduce or eliminate any additional costs to area residents and local governments.

Minnesota legislators approved an agreement at the end of the last legislative session that speeds the full payment for the $77 million project, which means local communities don’t have to wait for the full federal portion.

On Thursday, Dayton and ten Minnesota business leaders will meet with senior White House officials for a roundtable discussion on Minnesota’s rebounding economy.

Later that afternoon, Dayton will attend a celebration at the White House to honor the Minnesota Lynx for winning their third WNBA Championship in 2014.