Ballroom blitz

Surely you remember the '70s song, later sampled by the Beastie Boys on "Paul's Boutique":

And the man in the back said everyone attack

And it turned into a ballroom blitz

Not so much at the annual Minnesota Chamber of Commerce's "Session Priorities" dinner, a tradition of the first week of each legislative session when pols, lobbyists and the business class talk politics over dinner and drinks in a ballroom at the RiverCentre in St. Paul.

But it did get a bit interesting, as Gov. Mark Dayton told the assemblage what many didn't want to hear, and then key legislative leaders of both parties faced off on the stage.

It's fair to say this right-leaning crowd is not Dayton's base, but the reception was polite, especially considering Dayton's message: We must raise taxes for transportation.

Pat Condon, writing for the Star Tribune:

"I don't relish having to raise the revenues needed to start repairing 25 years of neglecting Minnesota's transportation system," Dayton told the business crowd. "I just consider it my responsibility, and yours."

The DFL governor's proposal, which he's expected to spell out in greater detail later in January, includes as the main funding source a 6.5 percent-per-gallon tax on gasoline at the wholesale level — one he's estimated would cost drivers about an additional 12 cents per gallon at the pump. Dayton has not yet specified the size of the license tab fee he'll seek. He's also proposing a half-cent sales tax increase in the seven-county metropolitan area to pay for transit projects….

(The Chamber) is so far not on board with Dayton's fuel tax and license tab proposal.

After Dayton spoke, legislative leaders assembled on the theater-in-the-round style stage, where they performed "____." (Email me your submission. Keep it clean. Winner gets a prize.)

Bakk, Hann, Thissen and Daudt talked taxes, MNSure, workforce development and transportation.

New Speaker Kurt Daudt was well received, as this was friendly turf for the new GOP leader.

I left a little early, sending out a self-congratulatory tweet about my dad teaching me at my first Yankees game to always leave early and beat the traffic. So it figures that right after I left, I'm told Minority Leader Paul Thissen and Daudt got a little snappy over transportation funding.

DFL Rep. Ryan Winkler, setting himself up to be a bit of a liberal troublemaker this session, sent out this tweet: Sounds like another another (sic) evening of competing conventional wisdom at @MN_Chamber dinner. We need a new agenda for MN working families.

GOP Rep. Pat Garofalo chimed in: Low taxes alone won't create jobs. But high taxes alone will kill jobs.

Moving on

Today, both the DFL Senate and the GOP House will drop their first showcase legislation and hold 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. news conferences, respectively, to discuss. We'll be there. Expect taxes, MNSure, workforce development, education and vocational education, transportation, long-term care.

Day two of political problems for the proposed Southwest light-rail line. The governor's office released the transcript of an interview he gave with MPR that ran Wednesday in which he was less than robust in his support.

Here's the Strib's Janet Moore:

Prospects are dimming this year for the $1.65 billion Southwest light-rail line as stronger opposition at the State Capitol is added to a lawsuit by residents opposed to the line and other potential delays.

Although Gov. Mark Dayton still favors the line, even he is wondering if there's enough support to push through the most expensive transportation project in state history.

The Southwest project is "so bogged down now that I don't know whether it's going to be viable or not," Dayton said, according to the transcript of a recent interview provided by the governor's office. "I think the people who want to clog up the process have in mind to have this fall apart, and they may get their way."

Neighbors and the Park Board are against it in its current iteration.

Whose Iron Range $$$$ is it?

The Strib's Jennifer Bjorhus on the new Iron Range board commissioner and a big decision coming up:

The new head of the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board faces a potential fight over who controls as much as $100 million the state agency wants to squirrel away in a nonprofit.

Mark Phillips, whom Gov. Mark Dayton appointed IRRRB commissioner on Wednesday, described the nonprofit spinoff as a "a very serious maneuver" he will address carefully.

The agency voted in December to put most of its $139 million trust fund in a nonprofit corporation called the Range Trust to protect it from being raided by the Legislature for other uses, a move that provoked concerns among lawmakers and some members of the public. The governor gave his approval on the nonprofit move Dec. 29.

That was quick: Former House Speaker Kurt Zellers joined up with Brian McClung, a former Tim Pawlenty spokesman and chief of staff; and Chas Anderson, former deputy education commisioner and House Republican Caucus chief of staff. They are now equal partners in MZA+Co, a new public affairs consultancy.

CORRECTION: The Flaherty & Hood photo exhibit is Jan. 14. RSVP to Julie Liew, or call 651-259-1917.


From Allison Sherry:

On Capitol Hill Wednesday, it was a lot of "Let's introduce our same bills that didn't pass the last Congress and see whether we can get traction in the new Congress" day, since pending legislation dies and gets reborn with new sessions.

Sen. Al Franken confirmed his support for a net neutrality bill; Sen. Amy Klobuchar vowed to re-introduce a sex trafficking bill that helps prosecutors and gives some support to victims; GOP Rep. Erik Paulsen re-introduced a bill to repeal the medical device tax, with more than 250 co-sponsors; Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson re-introduced legislation that requires federal bureaucrats to adopt the least costly method to effectively implement a law.

Watch this space on likelihood of these proposed pieces of legislation passing in the coming months.

Rep. Rick Nolan will be sworn in today. He skipped the official ceremonies earlier this week to be at his daughter's side. She is battling lung cancer.

In Slate, Jamelle Bouie has a thoughtful piece on the potential appeal of a Jim Webb candidacy and the Democrats' problems with working class whites.

New York Times political memo: 2016 Republican race divided by age; older candidates like Huckabee and Jeb Bush must grapple with new, more conservative party.

Great Biden awkwardness gifs.


Kirby Delauter won't sue paper for using his name, which is Kirby Delauter.

Finally, can we get some of this action up here?

JEFFERSON CITY — During the 2014 legislative session, the High Street offices of the Missouri Times became the venue for legislators and their staffs to enjoy parties with lobbyist-paid liquor, beer and snacks that went largely unreported to the Missouri Ethics Commission.

Publisher Scott Faughn called each party an "unveiling," honoring a particular lawmaker. He text-messaged invitations with the names of sponsoring lobbyists or organizations. At the appointed time, participants who agreed to be interviewed said, a photograph of the chosen legislator would be hung on the office wall and those in attendance would be asked to comment.

I need to party with Scott Faughn.

Can't imagine why the media is viewed as unfavorably by the American public as used car salesmen, to say nothing of politicians and lobbyists.

you know where to find me

Tips, complaints, insider stock trading advice to; follow me on twitter: @jpcoolican