Politics with J. Patrick Coolican

Metro legislators make demands

Good morning! Sun! Go get your vitamin D.

Mixed news at the Legislature. The Transportation Conference Committee, tasked with ironing out differences between House and Senate transportation bills passed last year (big, big differences) will meet this morning for the first time since March 16.

Progress, right?

But then there’s this scoop from Ricardo Lopez this a.m.: A group of seven DFL senators have written to bonding Chair Leroy Stumpf and said they will withhold their votes on a bonding bill unless it includes $135 million in state money for the Southwest light-rail line. Without the state money, the $895 million in federal money goes away. A coalition of transit advocates and business interests is strongly behind it. But Thursday, GOP House Speaker Kurt Daudt had this to say: “If for some reason we leave here without accomplishing funding for roads and bridges, it will be because Democrats have laid down a line in the sand that they won’t leave here unless we fund controversial trains in the metro area that are incredibly expensive and incredibly inefficient.”

This is the problem, or one of the problems, with geographic polarization. The ask isn’t that remarkable -- after all, Highway 53 on the Iron Range, serving far fewer Minnesotans, was more expensive and passed last year -- but segments of the outstate heavy GOP caucus are not exactly sympathetic to metro interests and have a real visceral antipathy toward rail. Given the $600 million House bonding proposal (still unseen) it’s hard to see how all this fits together, considering a super majority is needed to pass because House DFL want light rail but have another set of priorities. And throw in the governor.

The House was going at 2 a.m. this morning, a full 13 hours after they started, working through a massive HHS, Public Safety and Govt. Finance bill that had a lot of hot button issues like abortion and guns. An interesting moment, from a bit of Twitter observation, was Rep. Jim Knoblach, R-St. Cloud, dressing down Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, on the latter’s amendment to require a cost analysis of refugee resettlement, saying it would burden Catholic Charities and other nonprofits. St. Cloud, recall, is suddenly 10 percent Somali and Knoblach is fighting for his DFL-leaning seat.

Earlier in the day, after a cordial breakfast (that’s the Minnesota way!) Gov. Mark Dayton turned to the cameras and blasted Republicans and said he would not negotiate social issues tucked into budget bills. My story.

Daudt will probably say the provisions were added as amendments and he had no control over them. Which is true. Ish.

Tweet from Pat Kessler: MN Gov Dayton repeats warning to GOP: Don't include "Tea Party" policy in budget bills. "End of discussion. No negotiation."

Do House Republicans believe him? He drew a number of lines in the sand last year, only to have them washed away in a surf of his own capitulations.

If he makes good on the threat, and they can’t even pass supplemental budget bills, it will be all about the framing and message war out of the session.

Dayton wants a review of the state’s diversity efforts.

Deal on drug sentencing reform, but they have to get it through the Legislature in three weeks.

Warsame backs Noor over Kahn.

Trump rally in Orange County and it got ugly (once very conservative, now home to large immigrant populations of Latinos and Vietnamese-Americans.)

GOP elites, with Tim Pawlenty quoted, are resigned to Trump, according to this Post piece.

Prince’s death now a criminal probe.

I swear I’m not saying this because the Strib bought them, but City Pages seeming more relevant, at least to this newish resident. They’ve compiled four decades of their Prince journalism. Great trove to scan over your lunch. And here’s a great piece on what it was like to work for him, from his chef.

One reason I like “Game of Thrones”? The politics:

Tyrion: What is it that you want exactly?

Varys: Peace. Prosperity. A land where the powerful do not prey on the powerless.

Tyrion: Where the castles are made of gingerbread and the moats are filled with blackberry wine. The powerful have always preyed on the powerless, that's how they became powerful in the first place.

Varys: Perhaps. And perhaps we've grown so used to horror we assume there's no other way.

Have a great weekend everyone. When we return, three weeks. And the election in six. Where to find me: patrick.coolican@startribune.com and @jpcoolican

-- J. Patrick Coolican