WASHINGTON - U.S. Sen. Al Franken is in "good shape for re-election" 18 months out from Election Day 2014 with approval ratings above 50 percent and a big leads over all of his potential opponents, according to the Democratic polling firm, Public Policy Polling.
In a survey of 712 Minnesota voters from May 17-19, the firm found that Franken drew more than 50 percent support against all of his potential GOP rivals. The poll's margin of error is 3.7 percent.
Franken won office in 2008 with a slim 312 vote margin and Republicans have long argued that he will be vulnerable in 2014. Still, the GOP has struggled to recruit a high profile candidate to run against Franken.
So far, no Republicans have officially declared their candidacy though businessman Mike McFadden appears closest to launching a campaign. The GOP's highest-profile potential recruits, U.S. Reps. John Kline and Erik Paulsen, have both declined a Senate bid.
"Al Franken has proven to be a pretty popular Senator," said Dean Debnam, the firm's CEO. "Add to that a relatively weak Republican bench in Minnesota and he's looking like a clear favorite for re-election."
PPP works for Democratic candidates (in fact, the firm polled Minnesota's 6th District on behalf of DFLer Jim Graves and his bid against Bachmann earlier this week) but generally has a reputation for accuracy.
The firm polled Franken against McFadden, U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, talk radio host Jason Lewis, state Sen. Julianne Ortman, state Sen. Julie Rosen and Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek. With the exception of Bachmann, most of those potential candidates had limited name recognition with the public.
Two potential candidates who pulled their names from consideration early were former Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman (who was defeated by Franken). PPP's poll suggests why neither ran: both were viewed favorably by less than 40 percent of those polled.
Minnesota is not the only state where the GOP is struggling to recruit strong candidates. The AP recently reported that Republicans in Iowa and Michigan were having similar problems in the face of open seats currently occupied by Democrats.
Franken's fellow U.S. Senator from Minnesota, DFLer Amy Klobuchar, continues to have a very high job approval rating of 61 percent. Klobuchar was re-elected by a landslide last year.
PPP says it will also release polling results about Gov. Mark Dayton tomorrow.(0 Comments)
From MPR's Tim Nelson:
Gov. Mark Dayton says the just-concluded legislative session was a landmark.
This morning he touted results including statewide all-day kindergarten and financial support for Rochester to help with the Mayo Clinic's Destination Medical Center plan.
"When people asked me last fall what would happen when we had a DFL legislature and a DFL governor, I said one word: progress," Dayton said. "And that's what we've brought about in the last five months."
Dayton and DFL leaders said legislation passed this year will also give Minnesotans property tax relief, a fairer income tax system with higher taxes on top-tier earners, a two-year tuition freeze for University of Minnesota and MNSCU students and tax incentives to create private sector jobs.
Republicans decried the results, much of which happened without any GOP support.
"We started with a $627 million budget problem and Democrats solved it by raising sales, income and business taxes that everyone will pay," said Senate minority leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, ahead of a statewide barnstorming tour.
"Unfortunately, everyone will pay more because of the Democrats' overreaching."
Republicans were particularly critical of the Legislature's passage of a bill authorizing day care workers and personal care assistants to vote to join a union. Republicans called it "political payback" to unions looking to expand their reach in the state's workforce.
Legislative leaders said they didn't overplay their political hand, but corrected a long-standing imbalance, marked by chronic budget crises for the state.
"I think this is a Legislative session where we really turned the corner," said House Speaker Paul Thissen. "We did finally get past the partisan gridlock and balance our budget without gimmicks in a fair and lasting way. And that is going to be a lasting legacy."
Dayton was also critical of Republicans for not agreeing to a proposed $800 million state borrowing bill. Lawmakers could only agree to a pared-down version that funds Capitol restoration work, improvements to the Minneapolis Veterans home and flood protection in northwest Minnesota.
Dayton said the state should have done more.
"The Republicans wouldn't pass a bonding bill that had all these economic development projects, the Mayos of these small towns; Fosston and St. Cloud, Mankato. Not so small. But those were the equivalent projects. And they just turned them all down," he said. "They don't believe there's any role for government in positive economic development, and they're wrong."
The state's Independence Party was also critical of the results of the legislative session.
"The 2014-2015 budget still does not address that the debt that this state incurred to our schools in 2012-2013. Republicans and Democrats are both complicit in it. They both passed imbalanced budgets," said party chair Mark Jenkins.
He called on state leaders to pay back the so-called school shift by Dec. 1, or the party would file a lawsuit to ask the court to balance the state budget.
The Dayton administration isn't worried about the potential suit.
"The budget is absolutely balanced, it's absolutely constitutional," said state budget director Jim Schowalter. "Simple timing of payments has been found under the purview of the Legislature and the governor for years."
State lawmakers wrapped up their work on slew of legislation last night.
Here's an overview of the Legislature's final few hours of work, including budget details.
The Legislaturepassed a bill that will allow in-home care providers to unionize.
Minnesota cities will get an $80 million increase next year in Local Government Aid.
A campaign finance board bill was stripped of tougher political donor disclosure rules.
Lawmakers decided the Twin Cities metro area should get more outdoors money.
Lawmakers approved State Capitol bonds.
Advocates of an anti-bullying bill say they'll try again next year.
There will be no minimum wage hike this year.
And now that the Legislature has adjourned, the political spin begins...
The FBI will interview Andy Parrish, one of Rep. Michele Bachmann's former staffers. The FBI joins the Federal Election Commission, congressional investigators, an Iowa Senate panel and an Iowa police department in looking into various aspects of Bachmann's unsuccessful bid for the White House, according to MPR reporter Brett Neely.
Jim Graves, a challenger to Bachmann for the 6th Congressional District seat, commissioned a poll that shows he's slightly ahead of Bachmann, 47 to 45.
Senior White House aides knew about the IRS giving greater scrutiny to Tea Party groups, but did not tell President Barack Obama, the Washington Post reports.
Politico looks at who knew what and when in the IRS scandal.
Now that the Legislature is done with its work for the year, the Daily Digest is on hiatus.(1 Comments)
Posted at 2:05 AM on May 21, 2013
by Tom Scheck
Those hoping the Legislature would increase the state's minimum wage will be disappointed. That's because DFLers in the Minnesota House and Senate couldn't reach agreement on a new base wage.
House Democrats were pushing for the minimum wage to increase $9.50 an hour. Senate Democrats pushed to increase the wage $7.75 an hour.
Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, says he's disappointed that Senate Democrats weren't willing to go higher. He said he'll continue to push for a higher wage next year.
"We're talking about a pay increase for 350,000 Minnesota workers that would help the economy and make a big difference in their lives," Winkler said. "And if the people who say they're Democrats aren't willing to do that then I question whether they're being honest about their own values."
The current state minimum wage is $6.15 an hour but most workers earn the higher federal minimum wage.
DFL Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk says he plans expect lawmakers to work on the issue over the interim. He says he expects a wage hike to pass next session.
Minnesota lawmakers worked right up to their midnight deadline to put the final pieces of a two-year, $38 billion state budget into place. They then adjourned for the year.
The last votes included the Senate's passage of a massive tax bill, and House approval of a measure to finance state government operations. Both votes were delayed most of the final day by negotiations on a new, smaller bonding bill that covers repairs on the state Capitol.
The last day of the session began with the House resuming debate on a contentious bill to allow for the unionization of two groups of workers whose customers are eligible for taxpayer subsidies: in-home child care providers and personal care assistants who work with the elderly and disabled.
Several Republicans, including Rep. Linda Runbeck, R- Circle Pines, described the effort as a money grab by organized labor.
"This is just shocking," she said. "What's happening is we're taking taxpayer dollars that are intended to help small children and the vulnerable elderly and disabled, and we're giving them over to the union."
But Democrats argued that the two groups of workers deserve a right to organize for collective bargaining. Rep. Michael Nelson, DFL- Brooklyn Park, said his bill doesn't, as critics claimed, intrude on small businesses.
"It also does not form or create a union, or force anyone into one," he said. "It just gives those that have expressed an interest a chance to have a vote on whether or not they want to form a union."
The passage of the bill ended a 10 hour debate that stretched over more than two days. But it also triggered a harsh reaction from opponents on the floor to applause coming from supporters in the gallery.
Three days after an $800 million bonding bill failed to gain the necessary 81 House votes needed for passage, a pared down $156 million package of public construction projects passed.
The measure includes money for flood mitigation projects and improvements to the Minneapolis Veterans Home. But most of the bill, $109 million, is for the next phase of renovation work on the deteriorating State Capitol building. Rep. John Ward, DFL-Brainerd, said keeping the renovation going is critical.
"This Capitol is a 108-year-old building that is an iconic gem for the state of Minnesota," he said. "But it is at its tipping point, members. It is at its tipping point."
The backroom House negotiations to reach a deal on the bonding bill held up Senate action on the tax bill. That critical debate finally began with two hours remaining in the session.
The DFL-backed tax bill raises more than $2 billion in new revenue, through an income tax increase on the wealthiest 2 percent of Minnesotans, a cigarette tax increase of $1.60 per pack and the elimination of some corporate subsidies. It pays for new spending for public education and property tax relief, as well as erasing the state's $627 million projected budget deficit.
Sen. Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhassen, said the tax bill is the result of excessive government spending under Democrats
"Our Minnesota state Legislature, led by the DFL, has said yes to virtually every request of every special interest group that has come and asked for something more," she said. "Nearly every spending proposal is included in the state budget. On a day like this we realize how much the cost is going to be, and it's going to be enormous."
Republicans also argued that the tax increases will kill jobs and drive businesses out of the state. But DFL Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk of Cook said the CEOs he's met with place greater importance on the state workforce.
"This state is going to be successful if we have the best workforce around," he said. "Lower taxes would be nice, but you have to continue to invest in what has made you strong. And I would argue that, and I think the CEOs I met with would argue, it's been the investment Minnesota has made in its workforce that has created all these Fortune 500 companies here and all the vendors that serve them."
DFL leaders were unable to reach a final agreement for a minimum wage increase. Bakk said he expects a bill to be passed next session.
Lawmakers return for the 2014 session in late February.
The Legislature is sending a pared down public works construction bill to Governor Dayton.
DFL legislative leaders cut a deal with their Republican counterparts to craft a $156 million bonding bill that continues the restoration of the state capitol, provides flood mitigation to northwest Minnesota and funds a Minneapolis Veterans Home.
Rep. John Ward, DFL-Brainerd, says the bill is the best option in a year when they typically don't do public works projects.
"It is a bonding bill that takes care of the urgent needs of the state while providing some jobs, taking care of some of the infrastructure," Ward said. "Taking care of the needs that we have in the state of Minnesota."
Several Democrats complained that the bill doesn't spend enough. Rep. Carlos Mariani, DFL-St. Paul, supported the bill but says he wished it spent more.
"I think it's a fine bill," Mariani said. "I've been a supporter of the Capitol. I absolutely agree with you that we cannot afford to lose this facility. This is a Minnesota gem. What concerns me is what's not in this bill."
The measure was scaled back after the House failed to get the needed votes to pass an $800 million bonding bill. The new bill overwhelmingly passed both the House and Senate.
A spokeswoman for Governor Dayton says he'll sign the bill.
From Elizabeth Dunbar:
Parks in the Twin Cities metro area won't get a bigger piece of the Legacy bill's parks pie, but lawmakers decided the metro should get more outdoors money.
The conference committee report on the Legacy bill allocates 40 percent of the parks money to state parks, 40 percent to metro parks and 20 percent to regional parks in greater Minnesota. The distribution was recommended by a commission appointed to solve a perennial dispute between metro and rural lawmakers over where the parks money should go.
The Senate version of the bill adopted those recommendations, but the House version gave 43 percent to metro parks. As part of a compromise, metro parks will get 40 percent of the parks money, but they will also get $6.3 million from the Outdoor Heritage Fund to restore habitat within metropolitan regional park system.
The money was not part of the Lessard Sams Outdoor Heritage Council's recommendations. The council reviewed a similar proposal from metro parks for habitat projects, but it received low marks.
In the arts portion of the bill, county fairs will not receive any Legacy money. County fairs received $2.8 million in the last two years for arts and cultural heritage programs. Lawmakers decided to give county fairs $2 million in the agriculture spending bill instead.
Overall the bill allocates $496 million in money raised from the extra three-eighths of 1 percent added to the sales tax by voters in 2008. The
House and Senate still must vote on the final conference committee package.
UPDATE: The House has passed the bill 77-57.
UPDATE AT 6:30P: The Senate passed the bill.
Minnesota Public Radio is slated to receive $3 million in the next two years from the Legacy's Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.(0 Comments)
State lawmakers are trying to wrap up the 2013 legislative session before a midnight deadline for adjournment.
They've already passed most of the big pieces of the next two-year budget, but several key issues remained unresolved in the closing hours.
The House concluded a debate that stretched over a couple of days over the unionization of two groups of government-subsidized workers . The bill allows in-home child care providers and personal care assistants that work with the elderly and disabled to hold elections on whether to join unions. It passed 68-66, with a few DFLers joining the GOP opposition.
Republicans accused Democrats of paying back their allies in organized labor for their help in last fall's election. Rep. Peggy Scott, R-Andover, said the union bill is unnecessary and inappropriate.
"I see this unionization of self-employed people, mostly women-owned businesses, as an assault on women-owned businesses," Scott said.
There were also claims that the bill would wrongly divert tax dollars to pay union dues. But the bill's author disagreed. Rep. Michael Nelson, DFL-Brooklyn Park, said the state reimbursement to providers is for services rendered, and at that point the money no longer belongs to the taxpayers.
"It is the day care providers' money. It is the PCA's money," Nelson said. "What they do with it is their business."
On a more bipartisan note, the House also passed an omnibus elections bill, 99-32. It includes a provision to expand the use of absentee voting in the state, by eliminating the requirement that a voter have a valid excuse for not voting in person on Election Day.
The state Senate is expected to take up the tax bill passed by the House early this morning. The measure raises $2 billion in new tax revenue through an income tax increase on the wealthiest 2 percent of Minnesotans, a $1.60 per pack cigarette tax increase, an elimination of some corporate subsidies and other tax code changes.
Both chambers must also pass a finance bill for state government operations.
Two other proposals-- a bonding bill for state Capitol renovations and a minimum wage increase-- remained unresolved.(4 Comments)
Minnesota lawmakers are back in action this morning, trying to complete their remaining work before a midnight deadline for adjourning the 2013 session.
The House was expected to resume debate on legislation to allow the unionization of state-subsidized child care providers and personal care assistants. Lawmakers have already logged many hours on the issue, but House Speaker Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, said a vote is expected this afternoon.
"We have an agreement with the Republicans on a time limitation on how long further debate is going to go, and then we're going to take a vote," Thissen said.
The House is also taking up a state government finance bill, the legacy bill and elections bill.
In the Senate, lawmakers will take up the tax bill passed by the House early this morning. The bill raises $2 billion in new revenue to erase a $627 million deficit and pay for new spending.
The Senate's first action of the day was to unanimously reject the confirmation of state Tax Court Judge George Perez. Gov. Mark Dayton had requested the action. Perez is facing suspension and censure.
House and Senate negotiators were expected to meet later to discuss a minimum wage increase compromise. The House is still pushing for an hourly rate of $9.50 by 2015, while the Senate is at $7.75. Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, said he expects the conference committee to work throughout the day.
"I think passing a significant wage minimum wage increase for low-wage Minnesota workers is very doable in the last day of session," Winkler said.
A smaller bonding bill to cover the State capitol renovation, which passed in the Senate, is also still in play.(0 Comments)
WASHINGTON - The contest in Minnesota's 6th District is already shaping up to be the most high-profile congressional race in the state next year. In a highly unusual move, incumbent GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann has already begun airing ads while DFL challenger Jim Graves, who first challenged Bachmann last year and came within 4,300 votes of ousting her then, already has the support of national Democrats and is aggressively raising money.
Now, the Graves camp is touting a poll from the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling that shows Graves slightly ahead of Bachmann, 47 to 45, although within the poll's 4.4 percent margin of error, 18 months ahead of election day 2014.
PPP has established a reputation for accuracy although readers should always treat internal polls released by campaigns with some suspicion, since the candidate paid for the poll and is trying to favorably spin its findings.
If the results are to be trusted, Bachmann's public image appears to be the issue harming her because 76 percent of the respondents identified themselves as moderate to very conservative. A majority of those surveyed, 51 percent, viewed Bachmann unfavorably while 44 percent had a favorable impression of her. Bachmann performed particularly poorly with female voters, with just 38 percent saying they would cast a ballot for her compared to 50 percent for Graves.