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 state senators

Even legislators get surprised; here's how. VIDEO

Posted by: Rachel E. Stassen-Berger Updated: May 16, 2014 - 6:23 PM

Minnesotans are often shocked by the Legislature.

But legislators also get surprised.

Reporter Abby Simons asked them what surprised them this session. They answered.

Rep. Brian Johnson, R-Cambridge:

Rep. Michael Paymar, DFL-St. Paul:

Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mezeppa:

Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis:

Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston:

Rep. Leon Lillie, DFL-North St. Paul:

Rep. Paul Torkelson, R-Hanska:

On near unanimous votes, legislators usher in $100 million in tax cuts

Posted by: Rachel E. Stassen-Berger Updated: May 16, 2014 - 4:29 PM

With near unanimous votes, the Minnesota and Senate approved a tax bill to usher in $103 million in tax cuts and enable southwestern Minnesota to fund its portion of a water piping project.

The bill now heads to Gov. Mark Dayton for his signature.

The measure's tax relief comes in addition to the income and business tax cuts legislators approved a few months ago.

"This is a good bill," Senate Taxes Committee chair Rod Skoe, DFL-Clearbrook.

The tax bill won particular plaudits from Rep. Rod Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake.

"I simply want to say: thank you, thank you, a thousand thank yous," Hamilton said.

His parched southwestern districts is among those due to benefit from the Lewis and Clark water project, which became a linchpin of this year's legislative session.

Finding $22 million in state funding for the project and developing policy language allowing local governments to raise money to pay their shares caused a melee among lawmakers in the waning hours. But, with just hours to go before expected adjournment, lawmakers and the Dayton administration worked it out.

The measure would enable state government to send out refund checks to Minnesotans shortly before the 2014 session, Sen. Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhassen noted during Senate debate.

Under the legislation, about 500,000 homeowners would get a refund on their property taxes with the average refund this year amounting to $837 this year. About 350,000 renters would get a refund as well, with their average coming to about $643. Small businesses and farmers would also see refunds.

"It's amazing what we can do when we work together," said Sen. Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa.

Photos: House vote on taxes (top); Senate vote on taxes (lower).


House approves ban on online lotto scratch-off sales, measure heads to Dayton

Posted by: Abby Simons Updated: May 16, 2014 - 2:21 PM

Less than two hours after a Senate vote to ban the sale of online scratch-off tickets, the Minnesota House of Representatives followed suit, sending the measure to Gov. Mark Dayton.

The House voted 126-2 for the ban following more criticism for the Minnesota Lottery for adopting online sales, as well as sales at gas pumps and ATMs, without the Legislature’s approval. Online sales of Powerball and similar tickets remained intact.

“We have a state lottery that has been out of control,” said Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa. “This brings them back into control.”

Rep. Rick Hansen, DFL-South St. Paul, said that although he intended to vote for the measuere, it was another example of the Legislature being behind a measure that has already been adopted. He suggested a technology working group to address these issues, considering the Legislature only convenes for a few months a eyar.

“I think as a Legislature, we are going to have to try to get handle on how we approach technology,” Hansen said.

Dayton has not indicated whether he would sign the bill. Lottery Executive Director Ed Van Petten said that although he was disappointed on a legislative move he claimed was built from misinformation, he stopped short of saying he’d urge Dayton to veto the bill.

“Only if he asks my opinion,” Van Petten said. “I totally trust his judgment to do what’s right for us and for him. We live in a political world and he’s the boss.”

Partial indoor e-cigarette "vaping" ban heads to Dayton for signature

Posted by: Abby Simons Updated: May 16, 2014 - 1:41 PM

A retooled measure that would ban the use of electronic cigarettes—commonly known as “vaping”-- in some public places head to Gov. Mark Dayton’s desk for signature into law.

The measure re-passed the House 93-35 and the Senate 52-13 Thursday as part of the Health and Human Services Policy omnibus bill, which also includes a ban on the use of indoor tanning beds by children under 18.

The final version of the bill prohibits vaping in most government-owned buildings including correctional facilities, daycare facilities including home daycares, hospitals and any buildings owned by the University of Minnesota or Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, including dorm rooms. The bill does not ban use in city-owned buildings, but they have the option of adopting by equal or more strict bans.

The bill also require4s child-proof packaging for all e-cigarette liquids p[prohibits e-cigarette use in public schools, bans retail sales from mall kiosks and allows local governments to pass stronger restrictions and ensure penalties for sale of e-cigarettes to minors.

The final result was a compromise between a stricter Senate versions authored by Sen. Kathy Sheran, DFL-Mankato, which placed e-cigarettes under the Clean Indoor Air Act, banning their use in all public places. A House version narrowed the ban to state buildings and public schools. The bill’s House author, Rep. Laurie Halverson, DFL-Eagan, removed the Clean Indoor Air Act provision in hopes of garnering enough votes to pass the bill.

In the past year, 80 percent of Minnesota’s 200 e-cigarette retailers have set up shop in kiosks and brick-and-mortar stores, garnering gratitude from users who say the devices are a safe alternative for those trying to quit smoking. But the devices, which can contain nicotine laced with various flavors that emit a vapor rather than smoke, concern some who say little is known about what chemicals secondhand vapors contain, and whether they’re harmful. However, opponents of an indoor use ban say there’s no proof that the vapor emitted from the products is harmful or dangerous.

Despite earlier reservations about a ban, Gov. Mark Dayton said he intends to sign the bill.

Minn. Senate votes 56-5 to rescind online Lotto scratch-off sales

Posted by: Abby Simons Updated: May 16, 2014 - 11:59 AM

The Minnesota Senate voted Friday to do away with the sale of online scratch-off tickets, as well as at gas pumps and ATMS, following a contentious debate over whether the Minnesota Lottery’s director had the authority to expand into online ticket sales without the Legislature’s approval.

The Senate voted 56-5 for the ban, which would take effect Oct. 30. Online sales of Lotto-style games like Powerball would remain intact.

The vote followed harsh criticism over the move by lawmakers, which continued on the Senate floor before the vote. Sen. Carla Nelson, R-Rochester, called the move indicative of “The theme of overreach by this administration,” similar to Secretary of State Mark Ritchie launching online voter registration without lawmakers’ approval. A judge last month ordered that to a halt, but the Legislature quickly approved it, keeping the website intact.

Lottery Executive Director Ed Van Petten said Thursday that he expected the move to outlaw online sales would pass, but was disappointed.

“It’s obvious the movement was based on total misinformation, but it is what it is,” Van Petten said. “The Legislature is telling me they don’t want the additional revenue and that’s their choice.”

Sen. Sandy Pappas, DFL-St. Paul, said the move would cost the state $11.7 million, but “sends a pretty clear message that the Senate does not want what they consider to be an expansion of online gambling without legislative approval.”

Sen. Rod Skoe, DFL-Clearbrook, pointed out that Van Petten formerly ran the Kansas Lottery, where electronic scratch-offs were implemented in 2004, only to be shut down three years later. But Pappas jumped to Van Petten’s defense, saying Minnesota’s electronic scratch-offs were “a different and updated means of delivery,” adding that it’s Van Petten’s job to generate revenue for the state through the Lottery.

“There are going to be financial consequences,” Pappas said.

The measure heads next to the House.