It's a busy day at the State Capitol but before we get to the end of session drama, I'd like to point you to this National Journal story on how Americans are losing trust in the nation's institutions. It's worth the read.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is scheduled to meet with Gov. Dayton, the four caucus leaders and the stadium bill authors today. The meeting comes at a time when stadium negotiations are intensifying at the Capitol.
The meeting comes as the NFL starts to question the state's interest in keeping the Vikings.
The visit comes as there are reports that Vikings owner Zygi Wilf's plane was spotted at a southern California airport.
The Senate Committee is scheduled to take up several stadium bills today.
The House Tax Committee approved a bill that would expand charitable gambling. The bill could be considered a vehicle for a Vikings stadium.
GOP Rep. Dean Urdahl writes an op-ed criticizing sports columnist Jim Souhan for botching his vote on the stadium bill.
Gov. Dayton scolded GOP lawmakers for passing a supplemental budget with things he likes but including language that would diminish his executive authority.
The House narrowly defeated a bill that would restore the Capitol.
Under the Dome
The House passed a bill that would license more social workers.
Final action is near on U of M stadium beer sales.
Abortion bills are a part of the end of session mix.
GOP Rep. Mary Franson said Earth Day is a "Pagan Holiday."
The Duluth News Tribune says DFL Rep. Tom Rukavina sent a letter to the Pequaywan Township board threatening to take away their taconite tax money. The town supervisors voted for a resolution that criticizes copper mining.
Former Senate staffer Michael Brodkorb denied misconduct during a hearing.
The Star Tribune reports that the VA is responding to Afghan and Iraq vets by adding mental health workers.
Stares are being asked to apply for an unemployment test plan.
U.S. unemployment claims signal slower hiring.
The ousted Secret Service supervisors in the Colombia scandal have been identified.
DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar says student loan interest rates could double without action.
DFL Sen. Al Franken criticized Republicans who didn't show up for a hearing on the impact of climate change.
DFL Rep. Keith Ellison suggests GOP Rep. Allen West "has no decency" for suggesting many Democrats in Congress are Communists.
The House passed a GOP small business tax plan. GOP Rep. Erik Paulsen is mentioned.
DFL Rep. Collin Peterson is optimistic about the Farm Bill.
DFL Rep. Tim Walz is one of many lawmakers who is criticizing the lavish spending by the GSA.
Cities and counties spent $1.1 million on federal lobbying last year.
Race for Congress
GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann has endorsed Allen Quist for Congress. Quist is challenging state Sen. Mike Parry for the GOP endorsement.
Gov. Dayton's dad has given $1,000 to Parry's campaign for Congress.
The Democrats in the 8th District participated in a debate on Thursday night.
Race for U.S. Senate
The four Republicans running for U.S. Senate debated the issues at a forum in Bemidji on Thursday night.
Race for President
Mitt Romney will meet privately with RNC members.
Mitt Romney is staffing up his communications shop.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who is mentioned as a possible Romney running mate, touts the DREAM Act. Politico says it's putting Romney in a bind.
Romney also visited an Ohio plant that closed under President Bush. Romney blamed Mr. Obama for failing to reopen it.
Vice President Biden says Democrats have a chance to win Arizona.
President Obama's 2008 campaign failed to disclose $2 million in donations.
George Clooney is hosting a fundraiser for Obama. He's also playing a part in a new campaign sweepstakes.tid=pm_politics_pop
Correction: An earlier version of this post said Brodkorb admitted misconduct. He denied it. Sorry for the error.(4 Comments)
This week, the Minnesota House approved a bill that would require a doctor to be present when a woman takes a pill called RU-486, otherwise known as the abortion pill.
Rep. Joyce Peppin, R-Rogers, is the chief sponsor of the bill. During floor debate, she said that RU-486 is dangerous and needs more supervision during administration.
"The drug is so dangerous that it was banned in places like Canada and China, places that are very liberal on abortion policies in general," Peppin said.
Peppin's claim misses the mark.
Medical abortion is available in Canada, but RU-486 has not been approved there.
Health Canada, which is in charge of approving drugs, would not comment on whether RU-486 is up for approval. But groups that support RU-486 there say the process is ongoing.
Canadian organizations that oppose RU-486 have raised concerns over the drug's safety, pointing to deaths stemming from septic shock. Some of these groups single out a 2001 case that reportedly involved a woman involved in a RU-486 clinical trial.
China, on the other hand, has long allowed the drug. In fact, it was one of two countries where the drug was originally licensed.
Peppin did not respond to PoliGraph's request for sourcing.
To say that RU-486 has been banned in Canada is misleading. It hasn't been approved, though it's unclear if that will ever happen.
Meanwhile, it's false that China has banned the drug.
On balance, this claim leans toward false.
After this story was published, Rep. Peppin raised some concerns about our ruling. She sent two articles - one from 2001 and one from 2008 - citing a Chinese news report and a state drug agency announcement that RU-486 could not be sold in pharmacies.
PoliGraph could not find the original Chinese news reports or a statement from the nation's drug authorities cited in those articles.
A 2001 article from China.org states that drugstores are not allowed to sell the drug because of some of the side-effects, which can include bleeding and cramping. Rather, the drug must be administered in hospitals.
But that doesn't mean the drug is banned in China. In fact, it's widely used and has been for a long time.
A 2012 study in the International Journal of Women's Health makes this clear. According to the study, which compared the effectiveness of the RU0486 dosage regimen recommended by the World Health Organization and the regimen Chinese patients take, studied the experiences of 337 Chinese women who took the drug in clinics around the country.
According to the report, "Approximately two million women in China use this regimen annually."
PoliGraph weighed the additional evidence, and found that there's no reason to change the verdict on this claim.
H.F. No. 2341, accessed April 20, 2012
Minnesota Public Radio News, Abortion bills part of end-of-session mix, by Elizabeth Dunbar, April 19, 2012
Will Canada follow US lead on RU 486?, by Barbara Sibbald,
National Abortion Federation, Frequently Asked Questions about Mifepristone, June 2008
Contraception, Review of medical abortion using mifepristone in combination with a prostaglandin analogue, July 2006
Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, RU486: A risky and deadly abortion drug, accessed April 20, 2012
The Interim, Canadian dies in RU-486 trials, by Tony Gosgnach, October 20, 2001
National Academies Press, A Political History of RU-486, by R. Alta Charo, 1991
Joyce Arthur, Executive Director, Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada, April 19, 2012
Olivia Caron, Health Canada, April 20, 2012(6 Comments)
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney emerged from a meeting with state leaders this morning without a breakthrough in the battle over a Vikings stadium.
"After many, many years, the time has come to pass the legislation and move forward," Goodell said. "We expect and hope that after today's meeting, there is a general commitment to be able to do that in this session, and that will assure the Vikings will be here for a very long time, which is our objective."
Goodell said there were no ultimatums. "There were no implied threats or any threats at all. What we talked about was the importance of creating a solution here," said Goodell. "I think the legislative leaders and the governor understand the time is now."
It's unclear if any of the leaders in the meeting hadn't heard or didn't believe that message from the Vikings and the NFL before.
The real question is what's going to happen in the Minnesota House, where the stadium bill failed to clear a committee on Monday. GOP House Speaker Kurt Zellers declined to commit to bringing the issue to a vote on the floor, which is what the team and League have been demanding.
"I think we'll have that answer for you in the next couple of days, I think. Right now, I think it's a little too early. Essentially, the bill is dead. It died in Gov Ops. But there's creative ways around here to make sure things do move," said Zellers. "So, it's alive in the Senate, and that may be the best first step."
Gov. Mark Dayton had what might be the single nugget of news from the meeting. He said the NFL says it has started working its way down its relocation checklist.
"They said again that they'd like to have a team in Los Angeles," Dayton said. "They'd like to have it be not the Vikings. There are other franchises, that are likely, possible to go. There are other places beyond Los Angeles, he didn't elaborate, that are interested in a team. So whether the Vikings are going to get sold, or somebody's going to move them, or they're going to get moved, they didn't address that."
There were reports yesterday that the League might tell Minnesota that it was waiving its Feb. 15 relocation deadline. That could potentially put the debate into sudden-death overtime by letting the Vikings announce a move after this year's deadline. But Goodell denied that the League had suggested any changes to the relocation policy in today's meeting.
The Senate is scheduled to take up its three Vikings stadium bills 30 minutes after its session today, which will be the first test of whether the NFL visit may have moved the ball at all at the Capitol.1 Comments)
DFL Gov. Mark Dayton pulled out his veto pen again today, rejecting two Republican-backed bills.
Dayton vetoed one measure to modify child care assistance payments. Supporters of the bill wanted to make sure funds for state subsidized child care programs would not end up up paying the union dues of any child care providers. The bill was inspired by Dayton's failed attempt to allow a unionization vote among some in-home providers. A judge blocked the vote.
"This legislation is completely unnecessary because no union representation of child care providers exists in the State of Minnesota," Dayton wrote. "I will not support such a misguided and unnecessary effort."
Dayton also rejected a bill to prohibit the commissioner of education from enforcing unadopted rules. The governor said the measure tried to strip away powers granted to the executive branch.
Senate Republicans issued a news release on the veto of the child care fuding bill.
Sen.Ted Lillie, R-Lake Elmo, said he was surprised and disappointed by the governor's action.
"Our priority is to act as faithful stewards of taxpayer dollars and also to protect private businesses from government overreach," Lillie said. "With his veto today, the Governor does nothing to prevent unions from capturing tax payer dollars intended for the care of our children,"
Republican Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem said today the Senate is paying an outside attorney $200 - $300 an hour to prepare for a lawsuit by a fired Senate staffer.
It's the first glimpse at what the Senate is paying in legal fees in a scandal involving former Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch. Senjem and other Senate officials have refused to release details of their agreement with employment law attorney Dayle Nolan. Senjem called the amount of taxpayer dollars being paid to the lawyer "privileged information."
"There's no specific reason," Senjem said. "I'm not sure we've gotten a bill yet to be honest with you. That's perhaps part of it. You can start to count the hours maybe. A couple of hearings here and incidental consultation time with the Senate representatives."
Several Democrats have said the agreement with the attorney should be public. Sen. Ann Rest, DFL-New Hope, says Senjem should disclose how much the Senate is paying Nolan. She said the Senate Secretary should release the Senate's agreement with the lawyer.
"I can't imagine why they wouldn't," Rest said. "It's a simple answer. Does an agreement exist or not? If the secretary signed it then it's a public document."
Minnesota Senate Secretary Cal Ludeman told reporters on Friday that a document exists that contains details of Nolan's hourly rate, but he refused to release it.
Former Senate staffer Michael Brodkorb is preparing to sue the Senate for gender discrimination, defamation and invasion of privacy. He said he was fired because he had an affair with Koch. Senate officials say he was legally dismissed.
Posted at 5:30 PM on April 20, 2012
by Tim Pugmire
Filed under: MN Legislature
House Republicans are trying a new approach to passing a bonding bill.
They are proposing a new $434 million bonding bill that would include the State Capitol renovations that lawmakers narrowly rejected in a separate bill on Thursday.
A amendment unveiled today in the House Ways and Means Committee would again provide $221 million for the Capitol. But the rest of the bill is smaller than a previous version, with just $213 million for other projects, including $60 million for higher education projects and $30 million for flood mitigation.
GOP leaders had originally pushed for two separate bonding bills this session. One for $280 million, and the $221 million Capitol renovation bill that failed Thursday when only 80 legislators voted for it. Bonding bills need a super majority of 81 votes to pass in the House.
Republicans in the Senate are proposing a $496 million bonding bill. Governor Dayton's proposal is for $775 million.
Posted at 7:47 PM on April 20, 2012
by Tom Scheck
The Minnesota Senate has revealed how much it is paying a lawyer to represent it in any legal action involving former Senate staffer Michael Brodkorb. Brodkorb is preparing to sue the Senate for gender discrimination, defamation and invasion of privacy. According to a letter dated January 23 from lawyer Dayle Nolan, the Senate agreed to pay her $330 an hour. Nolan's letter says additional fees may be charged. Senate leaders were criticized for months for not releasing details about the expenditure of public funds in the lawsuit.
Here's the letter:1 Comments)
The Minnesota Senate's Local Government committee passed the plan to build a new $975 million Vikings stadium in downtown Minneapolis tonight. (See vote below)
The vote came after a more than a month of controversy: the same committee tabled the stadium bill in March.
"It's been an up and down week. Touch and go," said Vikings vice president Lester Bagley. "We'll get busy and go after the bill in the Jobs committee in the Senate and at the same time try to shake it loose in the House. I would rather not get into guessing what happens next, but we're encouraged."
He did have one caveat -- a 10 percent suite tax put on in an amendment offered by Ken Kelash, DFL-Minneapolis.
"We're not supportive of that," Bagley said.
But Kelash won over the committee with a populist argument: "The poor sucker from some part out state, doing pull tabs that will never be able to afford a seat in this stadium, he's subsidizing the guy sitting in the box. And those guys are not only not paying any taxes to help pay for the bonding on this stadium, but they're also able to write off the receipts as part of their corporate expenses."
The committee also stripped out a provision in the existing agreement with Minneapolis, the state and the Vikings that would allow the city of Minneapolis to use sales tax money to rehab Target Center.
Sen. John Harrington, DFL-St. Paul, had proposed deleting the Target Center part of the deal. He said it gave Minneapolis an unfair advantage over St. Paul.
Minneapolis mayor R.T. Rybak said it won't work that way. "The only way we can pass this [at the City Council] is the package that we brought forward."
The Minneapolis city council has scheduled a hearing on the deal next Tuesday, and Target Center is the carrot that the state has offered to win over doubters on the council.
"This is a very critical part to Minneapolis' deal," bill author Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, told the committee.
A majority of Republicans in the committee actually voted against the measure. They were led by Roger Chamberlain, R-Lino Lakes, who said the state was giving too good a deal to the Vikings.
He offered a competing bill that would give the Vikings only a loan for the stadium.
"They have the financial wherewithal," Chamberlain said of the Vikings. "They're smart enough. We can come up with a deal that is more equitable for this market. We're not asking them to pay for everything. We're asking them to include the business community, which has $430 billion in gross revenue. And we're asking for the fans to pay a little bit. So we want a deal done. We just want something other than the first offer."
Rosen said the bill will go to the Rules committee on Monday, and the Jobs committee Monday night. It's likely to have to pass the Taxes and Finance committees as well before it can make it to the Senate floor.
The roll call:
Mary Jo McGuire