Great Thaw, hard work and soaring rhetoric

The Great Thaw has begun -- 18 degrees and climbing.

Most committees are meeting for the first time this week. People hate politics and the Legislature because of the money and sordid goings-on and the decidedly mixed motives of the participants, but if the talk on the first day of House Environment and a joint House and Human Services Policy and Finance was any indication, it’s hard work: Trying to protect wetlands and water quality while protecting jobs; preventing an outbreak of Ebola and a further outbreak of the flu; taking care of disabled children and the mentally ill and trying to do it all without breaking the back of taxpayers. And the Environment Committee had pastries and coffee, too. And Rep. Denny McNamara has 100 first cousins, he informed us.

So we we’ll try not to get too jaded. For today anyway, in the spirit of the thaw.

Gov. Mark Dayton and Lt. Gov. Tina Smith are at the Capitol Preservation Commission at 10 this morning in the Veterans Services Building where they’ll approve the final elements of the reconstruction. You can never tell when the governor may make news, so we’ll see.

House Aging and Long-term Care meets for the first time today. As does House Property Tax and Local Government Finance. Chairman Steve Drazkowski recently told constituents in his e-mail newsletter that “This session, a good portion of my time will be spent figuring out ways to lower your personal property tax burden.”

House Transportation Policy and Finance continues to get schooled up in advance of what is presumed to be a big fight over transportation funding. (MinnPost compares transpo funding plans.)


Sen. Sean Nienow has finished up his own personal bankruptcy.

My colleague Abby Simons has it:

A Minnesota state senator who filed for bankruptcy after reneging on a six-figure small-business loan was relieved of $840,000 in debt last year.

The Chapter 7 bankruptcy case of Sen. Sean Nienow, R-Cambridge, officially closed in October, just three months after Nienow and his wife, Cynthia, filed. In court filings, the couple claimed they owed $930,000 to creditors, but had only $122,000 in assets — almost all of which is comprised of his home, which he has mortgaged twice.

The bulk of the debt was owed to the U.S. Small Business Administration, which in 2009 loaned the Nienows $613,000 to buy National Camp Association Inc., a now-defunct guidance and referral service aimed at helping families find camps for children, among other services.

Nienow is a conservative Republican who says his faith in his free market philosophy is unchanged.

Strib colleague Ricardo Lopez reports Federal tax conformity is coming (aligning state taxes with federal taxes so Minnesotans can get the same tax breaks.) Can’t wait until it passes so we can all stop using the terrible phrase “federal conformity” like it’s some common usage.


MPR reports Congress, including Rep. Collin Peterson, is proposing to take grey wolves off the Endangered Species List in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and Wyoming.

Pat Condon reports an early Iowa poll, with Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush ahead of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

Politico with a deep dive on Sen. Rand Paul.

The Times reports that Wall Street is taking on Dodd-Frank in the new Republican Congress.

Finally, in the spirit of the thaw, some uplifting rhetoric. One for each side of the partisan divide: Reagan at the Wall and RFK in South Africa.

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