The Minnesota Campaign Finance Board meets today to outline their legislative agenda. MPR says the board may ask may ask for more power over political ads.
AP says the Minnesota Senate's legal bill in the case involving fired staffer Michael Brodkorb is nearly $200,000.
MMB finalized a report on an audit that determined dependent eligibility for state workers. The final savings is $4 million in 2012.
The DNR says moose should be on the "species of concern" list.
A new report found that Minnesota students are tops in math and science scores.
The state is not on track with their goal to reach broadband for all.
Incoming DFL Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk raised more than $100,000 for northeastern Minnesota food shelves. Bakk's annual fundraiser received additional attention this year because he became the most powerful person in the Minnesota Senate.
The IRRRB is set to vote on $8 million in public works projects.
The Star Tribune reports that DNR wants the new Vikings stadium to be friendly to birds.
The Washington Post says President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner traded fiscal cliff proposals but appear no closer to a deal.
CNN says President Obama believes he's confident the GOP will relent on tax increases.
The New York Times wonders whether Boehner has the backing of Republicans in his caucus.
The Washington Post takes a look at some of the biggest tax deductions and exemptions.
The Star Tribune says some of the state's CEOs are pushing for a deal on the fiscal cliff.
President Obama is going to recognize Syrian rebels as a representative of the Syrian people.
A Texas judge has halted work on the Keystone XL Pipeline.
Michigan passed a law that removes requirements for employees to pay union dues. The law passed relatively quickly.
Politico says Attorney General Eric Holder is attacking efforts that he believes restricts the vote.
The Air Force sent a mystery mini-shuttle back into space.
The Washington Post says North Korea fired a long-range rocket.
The Pi Press says GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann is renewing her claims that Muslims have infiltrated the U.S. government.
Gov. Dayton today appointed Charlie Zelle to be state transportation commissioner.
Zelle, of Minneapolis, is president and CEO of Jefferson Bus Lines - a company founded in 1919 and is still family-owned and operated. Zelle rescued the company from collapse in the 80s and made it profitable.
"Charlie Zelle's outstanding record of innovation in the private sector will serve Minnesota well, as we build a transportation system, which will serve our needs and support our future growth and prosperity," Dayton said in a written statement. "I know that Mr. Zelle's very successful business career and his strong commitment to public service will make him an outstanding Commissioner of MnDOT at this important time."
Zelle is inheriting a department that gets plenty of attention. He'll be in charge of ensuring the state's roads and bridges are safe and will help set the agenda for future transportation construction.
He'll also have to do it as groups call for increased funding for transportation projects. A task force appointed by Gov. Dayton has called for higher gas taxes, license tab fees and sales taxes to meet the growing transportation needs of the state.
"It is a great honor to join the Dayton Administration in an area that is critically important to all Minnesotans," said Zelle. "MnDOT has a strong reputation for innovation and I look forward to helping lead the agency as it plays an increasingly important role in advancing the state's future prosperity through key investments in infrastructure."
The other finalist Dayton interviewed was acting commissioner Bernie Arseneau, an engineer who's been with MnDOT for 29 years in a variety of positions.
Zelle is well connected to the business community. He currently serves as the chair of the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce. He's also a well known donor to DFL candidates.
He and his wife gave $1,750 to Gov. Dayton's campaign for governor in 2010. Zelle also served as chair of R.T. Rybak's gubernatorial committee in 2010. Rybak dropped out of the race for governor after he lost the DFL endorsement. Zelle was also one of the state's first business leaders to speak out against a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.
Zelle will start his job on Jan. 15.
He replaces Tom Sorel, who resigned on Dec. 1 to become the CEO of AAA Minneapolis.(0 Comments)
WASHINGTON - Thirty-six days ago, the country voted. With a year and 11 months remaining before the next election, national Democrats and Republicans are already firing potshots at Minnesota members they consider to be potentially vulnerable in 2014 using the current fiscal cliff talks as a starting point.
The latest salvo comes in the form of a series of press releases from the campaign arm of U.S. House Republicans, the National Republican Congressional Committee. They ask if U.S. Reps. Tim Walz and Collin Peterson, along with Rep.-elect Rick Nolan "support Obama's blank check proposal" to include a large debt ceiling increase and a mechanism for preventing future increases from harming the nation's credit rating.
Last week the group's Democratic equivalent, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, created an online petition for three dozen GOP House members, including U.S. Reps. John Kline and Erik Paulsen, asking them to prevent a middle class tax increase by supporting President Obama's call for an increase on taxes for the wealthy.
While the new Congress hasn't yet been sworn in (that happens on Jan. 3), both parties are eager to begin defining members early in their term. President Obama won narrow victories in Kline, Paulsen and Walz's district, leading each party to see potential pick up opportunities in those districts.(0 Comments)
Dozens of state-subsidized personal care assistants announced their effort today at an event in St. Paul. They were joined by officials from the Service Employees International Union. Karen Urman of Mounds View, who cares for her adult son, said the profession needs a strong voice at the state Capitol.
"As home care workers, we deserve to be heard," Urman said. "We deserve to be respected as workers, and our work deserves to be recognized as real work. Most importantly, we deserve the same right as all other workers to form a union."
Organizers said they have not yet talked to any legislators about a bill. SEIU was involved last year in the failed unionization effort among state-subsidized child care providers. Gov. Mark Dayton tried to authorize that vote via executive order, but a judge blocked the effort in response to a lawsuit from union opponents.
Jamie Gulley, president of SEIU Health Care Minnesota, stressed that this a very different campaign.
"There is no reluctance within SEIU," Gulley said. "This has been done in other states. We're very, very confident."
WASHINGTON - After more than a month of keeping a low profile following her extremely close re-election, Michele Bachmann is back in the spotlight, this time for comments accusing the Obama Administration of seeking to limit freedom of speech in order to help radical Islamic groups.
Bachmann made her remarks in a lengthy interview with "Understanding the Times," a Maple Grove, MN-based Christian radio show that emphasizes biblical prophecies around the end of the world.
Her accusations are mostly a re-hash of ones she made in a speech this past fall, particularly about a United Nations caucus of Islamic states known as the Organization of the Islamic Conference that Bachmann believes is trying to prevent other states from allowing their citizens to criticize Islam.
Citing an OIC document, Bachmann told interviewer Jan Markell, "Everyone else would lose their right of speech and expression," were the group's plans to succeed. She compared the paper to Adolf Hitler's pre-Holocaust manifesto "Mein Kampf."
For the record, the document she's referring to describes Islam as "a religion of moderation and tolerance" that encourages peaceful dialogue between nations.
Bachmann criticized the Obama Administration for "aiding and abetting" the OIC's goal of promoting universal Islamic law and cited the FBI's decision this year to withdraw training manuals about the religion from counter-terrorism training courses.
Those manuals were discarded after a reporter discovered that they characterized all American Muslims as likely terrorist sympathizers and described the Prophet Muhammed as a "cult leader."
Criticizing Islam is well-trod territory for Bachmann, who earlier this year was denounced by Republicans and Democrats alike for suggesting that members of the Muslim Brotherhood were infiltrating the U.S. government.
Bachmann sits on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and makes frequent reference to her membership on that panel in speeches.(4 Comments)
Minnesotans may soon know more about who is giving and spending money on state campaigns, and state candidates may be able to collect larger contributions and spend more, too.
The Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board, which oversees fundraising and spending by candidates, political parties and outside groups, adopted legislative recommendations Wednesday that would bring the state up to speed with federal rules regarding campaign finance disclosure, and potentially ease the influence of outside political spending.
Now it's up to state lawmakers to approve the changes.
Campaign contribution and spending limits for statewide candidates haven't been updated for years. The proposal would allow state Senate candidates to collect at least $2,500 per donor, state House candidates to collect at least $1,500 per donor and candidates for governor to collect at least $5,250 per donor. The caps apply to candidates who limit their spending to get a public subsidy from the state.
Board members say the current limits don't reflect the fiscal reality of running a campaign. Some believe the low limits have shifted large donations away from the candidates to outside political groups that have increasing influence over elections.
And others believe the limits take candidates away from campaigning.
"The amount of time people have to spend seeking these lower contributions is really incredible," said board vice chair Andy Lugar. "One of the problems with our current system of limits, is you spend more time trying to find the next person at $100 or $200 and less time out in the public talking to voters."
The proposal also reflects the board's concerns over the influx of outside money in this year's state elections. There are several loopholes in state law that allow political groups to influence elections through advertisements, mailers, and other communications without saying how they've spent that cash or who their donors are.
If lawmakers adopt the recommendations, it would be "significant," said board executive director Gary Goldsmith.
"It will bring us much more in line with the current thinking of the Supreme Court," he said, specifically on issues having to do with which campaign ads require disclosure and which don't.
For instance, political groups that pay for mailers asking voters to "vote for" a particular candidate must disclose their fundraising and spending to the board. Groups that issue mailers that don't use words associated with so-called express advocacy are not required to report anything.
The board wants to loosen that definition.
It also wants the Legislature to give it broader authority to require nonprofit corporations that spend on behalf of candidates or that give money to political groups or ballot question funds to say more about their donors and how much those donors are giving.
Both of Minnesota's ballot question funds received large amounts of cash from nonprofits located outside the state, for instance, but little is known about who gave to those nonprofits. The board's proposed changes would shed more light on those donors.
The board decided not to include stricter rules about lawmaker economic interest disclosure in their proposal because they want more time to study the issue.
Nevertheless, how lawmakers make their money - and the potential conflicts of interest that come along with those payments - is of concern to the board, in part due to recent reporting by Minnesota Public Radio that highlighted the business relationship between two Republican legislators who wrote a bill that created an alternative low-income health insurance program and a company that pushed for the legislation.
Other states have stricter requirements.
"I think it is an important piece, especially when you look at how you rate among other states," said board member Deanna Wiener.
But Lugar said asking a lawmaker's spouse to say more about their financial interests, for instance, would be "a bit of an imposition."
There appears to be an appetite at the Capitol to adopt some of these changes.
State DFL Rep. Steve Simon, who will chair the House Government Operations and Elections committee next session, thinks increasing contribution limits is a good idea. And he's also concerned that candidates and voters don't know enough about who is paying for political ads.
"People have a right to know where these large sums of money are coming from that are meant to, and some cases do influence public opinion on very important issues," Simon said. "There are loopholes that a lot of these groups use to get around such disclosure and they are legal loopholes. The question is whether we should close those loopholes so that people have a better idea of who is giving and how much."(1 Comments)