The Vikings Stadium bill has a hearing in the Senate Tax Committee this afternoon. The hearing comes after the bill stalled on Thursday.
No word on when the House will take up the bill.
Several lawmakers are wary of linking gambling to the stadium.
The Star Tribune says the public would be on the hook for Vikings stadium overruns.
The Pioneer Press says St. Paul is trying to get a piece of the stadium pie.
Under the Dome
Gov. Dayton and legislative leaders continue to negotiation a bonding bill and a tax bill. Republican leaders are mum on what's in the tax bill. House and Senate DFL leaders offered the GOP a $685 million bonding bill. That's $185 million more than what the GOP has proposed.
Despite Gov. Dayton's veto threat, the House passed a bill that would change the teacher tenure rules.
The Game and Fish Conference Committee agreed to increase fees on hunting and fishing licenses and to establish a wolf hunt in Minnesota. They decided against creating an earlier fishing opener.
The House also passed a Transportation Policy bill.
The House also quickly tabled a motion to move the Right-to-Work amendment.
Dayton vetoed a bill to require clinics that perform abortions to pay license fees and undergo special inspections.
The U of M's executive pay is scrutinized by a special Regents panel.
The U.S. will remove 9,000 Marines from Okinawa.
The Labor Department backed off a rule to limit farm work by kids.
The Senate passed a Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization.
Catholics are divided over the Ryan Budget.
A U.S. Senate panel takes up the Farm Bill.
DFL Sen. Al Franken vows to investigate Accertive Health.
Franken also wants to keep rural post offices open.
Franken also wept on the Senate floor when he spoke about Paul and Sheila Wellstone.
A just has denied a request to release Bin Laden photos.
Race for U.S. Senate
Republican Pete Hegseth takes on GOP challenge Kurt Bills and Ron Paul.
Race for President
The White House and Mitt Romney are battling over foreign policy.
President Obama is going to target colleges that prey on Veterans.
Marco Rubio, who is mentioned as a possible running mate to Mitt Romney, continues to push the DREAM Act.(1 Comments)
The Minnesota House tabled a measure that would have let voters decide if union membership and the payment of union dues should be voluntary for all workers. Rep. Mark Buesgens made a motion to send the proposal to the Rules Committee. He told reporters before he took the action that he wanted to get the bill moving again.
"It's obviously not getting a hearing where it's at," Buesgens told reporters. "It is very important to a large amount of my constituents. In fact, I heard more on this issue in the crowds that I hang around with than a stadium bill."
Buesgens also told reporters that he believed his motion would be the last chance for the House to vote on the issue this session.
"If they vote against this procedural motion, they have voted to kill Right-to-work for this session," he said.
The House voted 118-9 to table the bill.
This is the second time that a member tried to move the Right-to-Work amendment in the House. Rep. Doug Wardlow, R-Eagan, made a similar motion a few months ago. He was absent from the chamber when he was called to act on his motion.
The state's labor unions have been lobbying heavily to defeat the Right-to-Work amendment in the Legislature. The Senate successfully move the bill to the Senate Rules Committee but Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem said it doesn't have the votes to get out of committee.
Republicans in the House and Senate have signed off on a Game and Fish bill that would raise fees on hunting and fishing licenses. Rep. Dennis McNamara, R-Hastings, says the joint House/Senate Conference Committee agreed to raise the individual, annual fishing license $5. He said the fees will help the Department of Natural Resources manage hunting and fishing issues in Minnesota.
"It's a good thing to allow the DNR to continue to good stuff around fishing and hunting," McNamara said. "It's been 11 years so they're pretty stretched to their limit right now. They and we need this increase to continue the good things that they do.
The bill also establishes a wolf hunt in Minnesota that allows the Department of Natural Resources to issue 6,000 permits to kill up to 400 wolves a year. The conference committee also declined to make an earlier fishing opener for this year. The House and Senate have to vote on the bill before it heads to Governor Dayton's desk.
Senate Republicans have postponed a confirmation hearing for Health Commissioner Ed Ehlinger.
The abrupt change in plans came after a private meeting this morning between Gov. Mark Dayton and the chair of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, Sen. David Hann, R-Eden Priaire.
Dayton then released a statement thanking Hann.
"I am deeply grateful to Senator Hann for his very gracious willingness to postpone Commissioner Ehlinger's confirmation hearing," Dayton said. "It is a responsible and commendable resolution, for which he deserves full credit."
Earlier this year, Senate Republicans ousted Ellen Anderson, who was Dayton's pick to chair the Public Utilities Commission. At the time, GOP leaders said they had two other Dayton appointees, Ehlinger and PCA Commissioner Paul Aasen, on their watch list.
It's unclear if the Senate now plans to take up any confirmations before the anticipated adjournment of the session on Monday.
Posted at 11:48 AM on April 27, 2012
by Brett Neely
Filed under: U.S. House
WASHINGTON - DFL U.S. Reps. Collin Peterson and Tim Walz voted Friday for a Republican bill to keep federally-subsidized student loan interest rates low by taking money from part of President Obama's health care law.
After a week of heated debate about whether to prevent a doubling of the interest rate to 6.8 percent and how to pay for the measure's $6 billion cost, the Republican-led U.S. House approved the legislation by a narrow 215 - 195 margin. Peterson and Walz were the only two members of the delegation to vote against their party.
The bill extends the current 3.4 percent interest rates on Stafford loans for one more year. College students are eligible to borrow as much as $5,500 a year from the federal government for the program. The Republican bill pays for the bill by drawing on $6 billion from a preventative health care fund from the 2010 health care law, a non-starter for most Democrats.
Peterson has long had a reputation for bucking the Democrats and voted against the health care law when it passed in 2010. Walz has also broken ranks with Democrats on several major votes over the past few months.
The measure now heads to the Democratic-controlled Senate. Democrats there have proposed paying for the extension by ending a tax loophole for certain kinds of small business income.
Republican U.S. Rep. John Kline, who chairs the House Education Committee, said the legislation was "not a perfect solution, but it will allow us an opportunity to continue working toward a long term solution on student loan interest rates, one based on the free market instead of the whims of politicians in an election year."
Walz issued a statement after the vote:
"As a teacher and a parent, I know how critical a high-quality education is to our country's economic future, and I also know how much anxiety middle class families feel about the rising cost of tuition. The path to the American Dream runs through a college education. Piling even more debt onto the backs of our students is unacceptable. While I strongly disagree with how this bill is paid for, I will not let politics get in the way of keeping college affordable. This bill will get us to the next step towards solving the problem to ensure students and middle class families won't see their interest rates double on July 1."
Republican and DFL legislative leaders held another private meeting this morning to discuss some of the remaining business of the 2012 session, including a bonding bill and some proposed tax policy changes.
The meeting took place in DFL Gov. Mark Dayton's office, but a spokesman said the governor did not attend. Dayton was was represented in the discussion by his key advisors.
The brief meeting did not produce any breakthroughs. House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, said they planned to keep talking, but they did not set a specific time to resume negotiations.
Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, described the meeting as "trading volleys."
"We've just got to take a look at what we've got and decide whether or not there's another volley," Senjem said. "So, we'll see."
The House and Senate both have floor sessions scheduled later today. The Senate tax committee is also holding a hearing on the Vikings stadium bill.
Posted at 1:34 PM on April 27, 2012
by Catharine Richert
Filed under: State Government
The State Board of Investment unanimously agreed to support a shareholder resolution that would require 3M to say more about its lobbying activities, including its trade group memberships.
The resolution will be voted on at 3M's upcoming annual meeting.
Common Cause Executive Director Mike Dean called the decision "an important step." He urged the four-member board, which manages the state's retirement, trust and cash investments, to support the shareholder resolution.
The shareholders of at least five Minnesota companies will vote on whether companies should say more about political donations and lobbying spending.
The resolutions are being circulated by American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, a public employee union, and firms that cater to investors who want to invest in corporations that are environmentally and socially responsible.
Such requirements have become more numerous and are getting more shareholder votes in recent years, in part due to the 2010 Supreme Court ruling that allowed corporations and unions to pay for advertisements calling for the election or defeat of candidates.
However, the Board decided to abstain from voting on a separate resolution that would prohibit 3M's corporate dollars from being spent on political elections or campaigns.
3M's Board of Directors has encouraged shareholders to vote against that resolution because it would diminish 3M's ability to advocate for the company and its shareholders when it comes to new regulations and laws.
A similar concern was expressed by Deputy Secretary of State Jim Gelbmann during the meeting.
"I don't think political contributions and expenditures buy votes, but I do think they buy access," Gelbmann said. "Companies do need that access to decision makers and policy makers and the like. It's very unfortunate that we have this Citizen's United case on the books. If I could impose this restriction on every company, I'd do so. But I don't think I'm ready to single out one company."
A talking point at the heart of the debate in Washington, D.C., over whether to extend a low student loan interest rate has made its way to St. Paul.
In a recent press release issued by the DFL, party chair Ken Martin said that if Congress doesn't renew the lower rate by July, many students could see their student loan costs increase.
"If Congress does nothing, interest rates for new subsidized student loans are set to double from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent on July 1, causing at least 7 million students to be hit with an average of more than $1,000 in additional costs over the life of that loan," Martin said.
Martin and the White House, which came up with the talking point, mislead on how the change would affect students.
Congress has until July to extend the federal Stafford subsidized student loan interest rate for another year. If lawmakers don't, the rate will jump from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent for undergraduate borrowers. Extending the lower rate would cost the government $6 billion.
In an effort to woo young voters and pressure Congress to act, President Obama has made the higher interest rate an issue. The White House has even given its campaign a Twitter hashtag: #DontDoubleMyRate.
Martin's claim stems from data on the White House website. A White House spokeswoman could not provide sourcing for the first part of Martin's claim that at least 7 million students would be hit by the interest rate increase.
But data collected by the College Board supports this part of Martin's claim; roughly 7.7 million students took advantage of the loan in 2010-11 school year.
Martin also said that students will pay a rough average of $1,000 more over the life of the loan.
The White House is assuming that the average Stafford subsidized loan is $4,200 and takes an average of 12 years to pay off. With a 6.8 percent interest rate, students would pay roughly $1,000 in additional interest.
But the White House is making some unrealistic assumptions - even according to the president's own fiscal year 2013 budget, which pegs the average Stafford loan at roughly $3,400 and assumes the standard pay-off period of 10 years. Using the Department of Education's loan repayment calculator, a higher interest rate of 6.8 percent would cost students an average of $524 more.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that average Stafford loan at roughly $3,000 annually well into the future. In this case, students would pay only $384 more in interest.
Martin's talking point, which originated with the White House, is correct that "at least 7 million students" will be hit with more expensive loans if Congress fails to extend the lower interest rate.
But it wouldn't cost students an average of $1,000 more.
This claim is misleading.
The White House, Taking out Stafford Loans to help pay for college?: You could owe an extra $1,000 unless Congress takes action soon, accessed April 26, 2012
The White House, By the Numbers: $1,000, April 26, 2012
Federal Student Aid, Interest Rate Change for New Direct Subsidized Loans, April 23, 2012
The Department of Education, Fiscal Year 2013 Budget Summary, accessed April 26, 2012
The Congressional Budget Office, CBO March 2012 Baseline Projections for the Student Loan and Pell Grant Programs, March 13, 2012
National Public Radio, Student Loan Debt Exceeds One Trillion Dollars, April 24, 2012
The College Board, Trends in Student Aid
Department of Education, Standard, extended, and graduated repayment calculator, accessed April 27, 2012
Office of Management and Budget, Department of Education, accessed April 27, 2012
Office of Management and Buget, Federal Credit Supplement Budget of the U.S. Government, Fiscal Year 2012
Interview, Terry Hartle, Senior Vice President, Division of Government and Public Affairs, April 26, 2012
Interview, Jason Delisle, Jason Delisle, Director, Federal Education Budget Project, New America Foundation, April 27, 2012
E-mail exchange, Caroline Hughes, White House spokeswoman, April 26, 2012
E-mail exchange, Kate Monson, DFL spokeswoman, April 26, 2012
E-mail exchange, Johanna Diaz, spokeswoman for the Project on Student Debt, April 27, 2012(7 Comments)
Minnesota Management and Budget released a report that details how much money has yet to be spent from past bonding bills. The report says $1.5 billion has yet to be spent on projects. The report comes at a time when Gov. Dayton is negotiating the importance of a new bonding bill with legislative leaders.
The report, which was released at the request of MPR News, shows that hundreds of millions of dollars have yet to be spent on projects that are either in progress or haven't started yet.
Republicans in the House and Senate have suggested that they don't need to do a large bonding bill this session because there are plenty of unspent funds from past bonding bills. They started making the claims after Gov. Dayton and other Democrats said a bonding bill was need to boost hiring in the construction sector (MPR wrote about this issue last week).
The bonding bill is one of the key items being negotiated among legislative leadership. House and Senate Democrats have suggested the state spend $686 million on a bonding bill that includes $77 million for the State Capitol renovation. Republicans countered with a $496 milion bill that now includes projects favored by Democrats.
Here's the report from MMB:1 Comments)
There won't be any breakthrough deals on the main issues being debated between Governor Dayton and legislative leaders. The Minnesota House adjourned this afternoon after doing limited work on the floor. The House is scheduled to come back in session on Saturday at 3p.m.
GOP House Majority Leader Matt Dean said legislative leaders are continuing to negotiate with Gov. Dayton on a tax bill and a public works construction bill. He said the focus on negotiations is on getting a deal that Gov. Dayton will sign.
"It's like the last two minutes of a basketball game. It's a lot of starting and stopping and waiting," Dean said.
Legislative leaders have met privately with Gov. Dayton's staff throughout the day. A spokeswoman for Dayton said he did not attend any of those meetings. Dayton is scheduled to do a comedy sketch at MinnPost's fundraising event, known as MinnRoast, tonight.
It appears that we're at the point in the legislative session where legislative leaders are hoping that their opponent is the first to blink. Gov. Dayton and Democrats are pushing for a Vikings stadium and a bonding bill that spends more than $500 million.
Republicans are pushing for a tax bill that cuts business and residential property taxes.
The negotiations come at a time when GOP leaders are inching closer to a self-imposed deadline to adjourn. Dean said they're aiming to complete their work on Monday. But Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, says there isn't enough time to get all of their work done.
"It's pretty clear to me that we're going to be in session next week," Lanning said. "The Monday adjournment is unrealistic because we've got too much unfinished business that's going to take longer than that."
Lanning, co-author of the Vikings stadium bill, said it's clear GOP leaders want to get some sort of agreement on a bonding bill and a tax bill before they start plowing forward with the stadium bill.
"There has to be a resolution in sight," Lanning said. "Not that we have to have something passed but at least an agreement among the three major players here is required before we can keep moving."
And that means DFL House Minority Leader Paul Thissen has a bigger seat at the table. Republicans in both the House and Senate need DFL votes to pass a bonding bill. The last offer put forward by Democrats spent $686 million. Republicans countered with a $496 million bill that included more projects that could attract DFL votes. A person with knowledge of the GOP offer also said it still includes $77 million for the Capitol restoration but does not include funding for the Southwest Light Rail line or regional civic centers
Thissen said he'd like to see a bonding bill that includes funding for downtown regional centers, the Southwest LRT and more money for higher education. Thissen wouldn't commit to how much he'd like to see spent from the bonding bill.
"It depends on what projects are in there and then the size of the bill depends on what projects fit within it," Thissen said.
The debate over the Tax bill and bonding bill is being held at the same time as the Senate Tax Committee is discussing the Vikings stadium bill. If the committee approves the bill, it would be the last committee stop before the bill is considered by the full Senate.
With MPR's Tim Nelson...
The Vikings stadium bill is being targeted for a Sunday vote in the Minnesota Senate.
GOP Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem said that was the plan after the bill was narrowly approved by the Senate Tax Committee. The committee held a nearly six hour hearing on the bill. The hearing was divisive as stadium opponents made every attempt to derail the bill.
The Senate Tax Committee approved the bill by one vote after stadium supporters urged the committee to get the bill to the Senate floor.
Senjem, who voted for the bill in committee, told reporters after the hearing that the Senate will vote on the bill regardless of whether it has enough votes to pass.
"By in large, the idea of a vote on the Minnesota Vikings this year is something we talked about for a long time," Senjem said. "Up or down, whatever people decide in terms of their views, their faith in the bill, their districts, their personal convictions."
The stadium author in the Senate, Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, says she believes it has enough votes to pass.
Stadium opponents will push for changes to how the stadium is funded and aren't willing to sign off on the deal Rosen and Gov. Dayton reached with the Vikings.
Sen. John Marty, DFL-Roseville, said he believes stadium users, not gamblers, diners or drinkers, should pay for the stadium. He backed a measure to pay for the stadium's mortgage with on-site fees.
"To me, that's a lot fairer way to do it," Marty said. "Everybody who 's using the stadium would pay for it."
Marty's effort to amend the bill in the Tax Committee failed. He and several other stadium opponents are expected to work every angle to defeat the bill on Senate floor.
The House is also ready to vote on the bill. GOP House leaders, however, won't say when that vote will be held.
GOP legislative leaders in both chambers say they hope to finish their work by Monday but members of both parties say that's becoming less likely because of the amount of work that's left to do.(1 Comments)