Bill introductions Wednesday set the tone and direction for the Minnesota Legislature's DFL majority. Expect more today as the sessions cranks up.
Bill would boost checks on vulnerable adult caregivers (Pioneer Press)
Law enforcement and lawmakers are backing a bill that would expand background checks on those who care for vulnerable adults.
GOP leader criticizes proposed history standards (Star Tribune)
Sen. David Hann says the would-be state school standards play down "the contributions of the United States and our economic and political ideals."
The smiling senior citizen walking by your house and looking intently at your political lawn sign may be out for more than just a stroll. She may be a political operative.
ProPublica, a national investigative journalism group, features a fascinating story on Minnesota's "Grandma Brigade."
These are women middle-aged and older who, as DFL volunteers, "scour their local newspapers each morning for letters to the editor with a political slant ... pay attention to the names of callers on radio shows" and "drive through their neighborhoods and jot down the addresses of campaign lawn signs."
The info, the story notes, finds its way eventually into a DFL database "that includes nearly every voter in Minnesota."
Few places have data volunteers as dedicated as the ones in Minnesota, which has been held up as a model for other state Democratic parties.
Both Democrats and Republicans have centralized databases that, among other things, track opinions you share with local campaign volunteers.
Each piece of information the parties have stored about you might not be too interesting on its own. But taken together, they're incredibly powerful. Political campaigns are using this voter data to predict voters' behavior in increasingly sophisticated ways.
Click on the play button below to hear Lois Beckett, reporter for ProPublica, talk about the story.(2 Comments)
The bill introductions began today in the Minnesota House, and the new DFL majority is showing which issues will be priorities this session.
There are noteworthy difference between the first batch of House bills and the first batch of Senate bills, which were unveiled yesterday.
House File 1 is aimed at paying back money owed to schools as part of previous budget deals.
House File 2 provides property tax refunds.
House File 3 allocates new money for the Minnesota Investment Fund.
House File 4 allocates new money for the Minnesota Trade Office.
House File 5 is the Minnesota Insurance Marketplace Act, which establishes the online exchange for consumers to shop for policies.
Like the Senate, the House will also consider an increase in the state's minimum wage (HF 10).
Senate Republicans are criticizing their DFL counterparts for cutting staff salaries and jobs in the Senate Republican Caucus.
The Senate Rules Committee approved the staff roster for the 2013 legislative session this morning. It includes salary reductions of up to 40 percent for some Republican staffers - a cut GOP Senate Minority David Hann said is unreasonable.
"What happened today was extremely mean spirited and disingenuous," Hann said.
Complaints over staff layoffs and salary reductions are common whenever power in the Legislature shifts from one party to another. Democrats won both the House and Senate in November and have been replacing committee administrators and other staff with their own employees. But Republicans complained the cuts are unfairly falling on the GOP and would create a bad working relationship between Democrats and Republicans.
"This is poisoning the well," Sen. Sean Nienow, R-Cambridge, said.
DFL Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk says the Senate was forced to make cuts because the Senate budget will start running a deficit at the end of June. Bakk said some of the salary reductions are a result of paying some staffers too much two years ago.
Bakk also said former GOP staffer Michael Brodkorb's lawsuit against the Senate is playing a role in the current budget. Brodkorb is suing the Senate for wrongful dismissal. He was fired after it was revealed that he was having an affair with then-Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch.
"There's a gorilla in the room," Bakk said on the Senate floor. "And it's the lawsuit against this state Senate that was brought on by behavior of members of your caucus and employees that your caucus hired."
Bakk said the Senate has authorized nearly $200,000 in legal fees to defend itself in the suit.
The Rules Committee approved the staffing measure on a party line vote. Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, complained that Bakk should not have voted on the measure because his wife works for the Senate and is slated to earn $68,561. Bakk said his wife worked for the Senate before he became a member.