Republican negotiators in the House and Senate have reached agreement on a bill that cuts nearly $1 billion in spending. The key change from bills that passed the House and Senate is a reduction in unspecified cuts. The total is now $100 million that State Finance officials have to find.
The goal is to send it to Governor Dayton by the end of the week. Dayton has yet to say whether he'll veto the measure but he has criticized lawmakers for taking a "piecemeal approach" to the budget.
Former Human Services Commissioner Cal Ludeman heavily edited a report on sex offenders to reflect the views of his boss, Tim Pawlenty.
Surly Brewing Company wants to build a new brewery/restaurant/beer garden in Minnesota. The problem is their plan needs a law change and things could get ugly as the promise of new jobs conflicts with concerns over the livelihoods of bar and restaurant owners.
Food stamp use jumped 17% in Minnesota.
Background checks are the new gun rights battleground.
Sen. Ellen Anderson says she was dumped from the LCCMR.
The Met Council has published a list of its finalists.
There are five bidders for Gov. Dayton's radio show. Dayton isn't giving up editorial control of the show.
President Obama urges CEOs of the nation's businesses to work with him.
The Congressional Budget Office says the federal government's share of taxes this year will be the lowest since 1950.
The level of federal judicial vacancies is reaching a crisis point.
Several lawmakers, including Sens. Kobuchar and Franken, are pushing for a new border patrol facility in Hallock.
Biobusiness booms in Minnesota. Franken is mentioned.
DFL Rep. Tim Walz held a town hall in Winona.
GOP Rep. John Kline returned from a trip to the Middle East.
Several House Democrats, including DFL Rep. Keith Ellison, are pushing for a resolution on Egypt.
Pawlenty for Prez Watch
MPR takes a look at Tim Pawlenty's health care claims and find that his claims on savings are slim.
President Obama appointed Pawlenty's pastor to his council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
Pawlenty and Bachmann will face off in a CPAC straw poll this weekend.
Bachmann for Prez Watch
The Federal Elections Commission is asking questions about GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann's fall campaign fundraising report.
GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann will take part in a Tea Party town hall tonight.
Bachmann is inviting a budget expert to a Tea Party Caucus meeting.
Posted at 10:23 AM on February 8, 2011
by Tim Pugmire
Filed under: Mark Dayton
Gov. Mark Dayton has hired a commissioner to run the state Department of Administrtaion.
Dayton announced today the appointment of Spencer Cronk to the cabinet post. Cronk previously worked as
Executive Director of Organizational Development and Senior Advisor for the Department of Small Business Services for the City of New York. He worked in the administrtaion of Mayor Michael Bloomberg to streamline and reorganize city services and built a track record around performance improvement, data-driven decision-making and finding efficiencies in large organizations.
"Spencer is a talented leader who has demonstrated his ability to get results in large, complex public sector organizations," Dayton said in a news release. "He brings great energy and experience to my administration. I welcome him as key player in our administration's efforts to make state government work better for people."
Posted at 10:39 AM on February 8, 2011
by Tim Pugmire
Filed under: Mark Dayton
Gov. Mark Dayton has selected a new commissioner of human rights.
Dayton announced today the appointment of Kevin Lindsey to the cabinet post. Lindsey is a civil litigation attorney in the Office of the Ramsey County Attorney. He will lead an agency with a mission "to make Minnesota discrimination-free."
"Kevin is a respected lawyer and advocate with deep experience in the community working on issues of fairness in the workplace and in the community," Dayton said in a news release. "He will be a strong, professional voice in the Dayton Administration."
Posted at 11:08 AM on February 8, 2011
by Tim Pugmire
Filed under: Mark Dayton
Gov. Mark Dayton announced today that Josh Tilsen will lead the Bureau of Mediation Services (BMS).
Dayton's pick of Tilsen was his third appointment of the day. It also filled the final vacancy in his cabinet. Tilsen is currently a full-time hearing officer and mediator with BMS.
"Since 1939, the Bureau has had the responsibility for settling labor disputes constructively and fairly. This work is important to the state's economy and the state's workers," Dayton said in a news release. "Josh Tilsen is respected for his professionalism by both management and labor, and I am confident he will lead this agency well."
Governor Dayton finalized his cabinet today after he appointed his commissioner of Administration, Human Rights and Mediation Services.
Here are the 24 members of Dayton's cabinet:
Department of Administration - Spencer Cronk
Agriculture Department - Dave Frederickson
Bureau of Mediation Services - Josh Tilsen
Commerce Department - Mike Rothman
Department of Corrections - Thomas Roy
Education Department - Brenda Cassellius
Office of Enterprise Technology - Carolyn Parnell
Department of Employment and Economic Development - Mark Phillips
Department of Health - Edward Ehlinger
Office of Higher Education - Sheila Wright
Housing Finance Department - Mary Tingerthal
Human Rights Department - Kevin Lindsey
Department of Human Services - Cindy Jessen
Iron Range Resources - Tony Sertich
Department of Labor and Industry - Ken Peterson
Minnesota Management and Budget - Jim Schowalter
Metropolitan Council - Susan Haigh
Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission - Ted Mondale
Department of Natural Resources - Tom Landwehr
Pollution Control Agency - Paul Aasen
Public Safety Department - Ramona Dohman
Revenue Department - Myron Frans
Department of Transportation - Tom Sorel
Veterans Affairs - Larry Shellito
Gov. Mark Dayton announced today that former GOP state Sen. Dennis Frederickson will be southern director for the Department of Natural Resources. He also announced that former Sen Bob Lessard will be a senior adviser to DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr. Chris Niskanen, the outdoors writer for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, will also be communications director for the DNR.
Frederickson served as a state Senator from 1980 - 2010. He decided against running for reelection. Lessard served in the Minnesota Senate from 1976 - 2003. He was a member of the DFL Party and the Independence Party during his time in office.
Niskanen is a prominent outdoors writer who worked for the Pi Press for 17 years.
"We went out and found the very best people we could to lead us into the future," said Landwehr in a news release. "I'm very excited about leveraging their skill and experience to better reach out to the people of Minnesota and represent their needs and concerns."
Here's part of the release:
DNR assistant commissioners include: Assistant Commissioner for Legal and Government Affairs Mary McConnell. She formerly served as vice president and general counsel of Polaris Industries Inc. and previously held a similar role at Genmar; Assistant Commissioner for Customer Relations and Outreach Erika Rivers, a seven-year DNR employee who was most recently project manager for the Lake Vermilion State Park development; and Assistant Commissioner for Field Operations and Community Outreach Mike Carroll, previously director of the Northwest Region and former director of the Division of Forestry.
Regional directors include: Southern Region Director Dennis Fredrickson, a 30-year state senator with extensive experience in natural resource legislation; Central Region Director Keith Parker, a media and community relations professional formerly with Twin Cities Public Television as director of Minnesota Partnerships; and Northeast Region Director Craig Engwall, who has held that position since 2006. The Northwest Region directorship is currently vacant.
DNR's new communications director is Chris Niskanen, who served as outdoors editor for the St. Paul Pioneer Press for the past 17 years. Niskanen is an award-winning journalist, the author of a new book on state parks, and an advocate of social media who previously wrote a popular blog on the Pioneer Press website.
In Commissioner's Office appointments, Bob Meier is named special assistant to the commissioner for legislative affairs. Bob Lessard, a 26-year veteran of the Capitol and a long-time champion of the outdoors, also will become a special assistant to the commissioner for community outreach. The Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council takes part of its name from Lessard, who was among the first legislators to suggest using the state's sales tax to fund to fish and wildlife conservation. He will work with conservation organizations and other groups around the state to ensure that the agency is listening and responding to their ideas and concerns.
Divisional leadership includes: Laurie Martinson, director of the new Division of Operations Services; Larry Kramka, director of the Division of Lands and Minerals; Ed Boggess, formerly acting director and now director of the Division of Fish and Wildlife. Courtland Nelson remains director of the Parks and Trails Division; Jim Konrad remains director of the Enforcement Division; Steve Hirsch remains director of the division of Ecological and Water Resources; and Dave Epperly continues as director of the Division of Forestry.
A Minnesota House panel has advanced a bill requiring Minnesotans to show photo identification before voting.
The Government Operations and Elections Committee approved the measure today on a 9 to 6 vote. Under the bill, voters who don't have a drivers license would receive a free, government-issued identification card. The measure also eliminates the practice of vouching as a way for people to prove their residency on Election Day. Republican Representative Mary Kiffmeyer of Big Lake said the danger of vouching is that it relies on honesty.
"We're putting a lot inside this polling place with our election judges," Kiffmeyer said. "Using technology and using provisional ballots, I think we structure the process to treat the voters on election day in the same sort of way that anybody else that registers before election day goes through."
DFL opponents of the bill, including Governor Dayton, have said it's a solution looking for a problem. Dayton wouldn't completely rule out vetoing a photo ID but expressed skepticism about the claims of voter fraud in Minnesota.
"So if we could fine tune that and make it even better to assure voters as we must that every vote is counted and counted properly, then I'm all in favor of that," Dayton said. "But to just cast aspersions on the system and try to do some drastic overhaul runs the risk of A: being a lot more expensive, and B: just making the situation worse, not better."
Dayton says he'd be willing to create a panel to study the issue.
The state's DFL and Republican party leaders are trading barbs today over a campaign flier circulating in the northern Minnesota House district where a special election is scheduled next week.
The flier from GOP candidate Paul Jacobson shows a hunter aiming a gun under the message "take your best shot." The piece criticizes DFL candidate Carly Melen as "full of holes" on gun issues. But in the aftermath of the Tucson shootings, DFL state Party Chairman Ken Martin called on Republicans to tone down the rhetoric.
"It's not necessarily the fact that they used this issue," Martin said. "I think there's more important issues that they should be focusing on. It's the way that they decided to portray this in this literature piece which is really despicable."
State GOP Chairman Tony Sutton defended the brochure. Sutton said the message was about 2nd amendment issues and nothing else.
"Rather than talk about the issue, they try and have this diversionary attack," Sutton said. "It is unconscionable that they would for political purposes try and exploit the tragedy in Arizona, when it's obviously when you look at the piece, it's obviously a hunter."
Jacobson and Melin are running for the seat formerly held by DFLer Tony Sertich of Chisholm. Cynthia Kafut-Hagen is the Independence Party candidate.
Governor Dayton suggested today that he may take a trade mission to China later this year. Dayton made the comments when he was speaking with the Minnesota Farmer's Union about the importance of soybean exports to Asia. He joked that he told Chinese trade officials that Minnesota's soybeans are the best anywhere in the world. He then said he's interested in heading to China later this month.
"I look forward to leading with Commissioner Frederickson (Ag Commissioner Dave Frederickson) and President Peterson (MFU President Doug Peterson) and others as a delegation of Minnesota Agri-producers and businesses to China hopefully in August. It will focus on increasing our exports and foreign products to China and fostering those relationships that are so important to our agricultural prosperity."
Dayton's spokesman Katharine Tinucci says no firm plans have been made yet but emphasized that Dayton has an interest in going back to China. She says Dayton has been there seven times in the last decade.