Posted at 7:39 AM on July 18, 2011
by Michael Olson
Details continue to be hammered out over a budget agreement between DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and GOP legislative leaders. The governor hasn't called a special session that would allow finalized agreements to become law of the land.
As the bill work continues, many news organizations have focused on the challenges of "restarting" the government.
An AP wire story making the rounds around the state reports that "restarting the machinery of the state will probably take a few days."
If rank-and-file lawmakers sign off on the deal, it will end a shutdown that's the longest in recent U.S. history. But for residents whose lives have been disrupted, the relief won't be immediate.
"It's not like we can just flip a switch," said Doug Neuville, a spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety, which has halted renewal of driver's licenses and vehicle tabs during the shutdown. The computer systems used to issue renewals take time to bring back online, and the services won't be immediately available, he said.
Same goes for closed rest stops and state parks. State budget office spokesman Jonathan Pollard said those must be cleaned and thoroughly checked before people can use them again. Road construction projects idled by the shutdown are likely to require safety checks before work can resume.
The Pioneer Press reports that once state workers are notified that government is reopening they will have 3 days to return to work.
Some workers continue their jobs without pay, reports the Star Tribune.
As the shutdown grinds on, a more clear picture of the unintended consequences become clear. Trade and construction association officials estimate as many as 15,000 private sector workers have lost their jobs as a result of the shutdown. MPR's Dan Olson profiles one private contractor and the struggle the shutdown has caused his family.
Once the switch is flipped, lobbyists and advocates are concerned that what they've fought for over the legislative session will be forgotten. "It's been so many weeks since the Legislature adjourned, will anyone remember what our concerns were?" says Sue Abderholden, NAMI Minnesota (MPR).
Posted at 10:07 AM on July 18, 2011
by Paul Tosto
Simplicity is a beautiful thing.
For all the complexity of state budget dealing, my MPR News colleagues Molly Bloom and Curtis Gilbert always find ways to cut through the noise. A few weeks ago they produced a great short video that helped us navigate the budget mess.
Today, they're helping us understand the borrowing gimmicks lawmakers plan to use to close the budget deal.
Check out their latest video below. In two minutes and 40 seconds you will get the debt deal.
BONUS: Here's the video Curtis and Molly produced a few weeks ago on the overall budget mess and how we got to this point.
Posted at 11:50 AM on July 18, 2011
by Paul Tosto
Much of state government remains closed as lawmakers continue to work out the details of a budget agreement.
Regardless, on Thursday we will get a look at Minnesota's state jobless numbers for June.
The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development says the data will be released Thursday as planned. Staff still working in the department during the shutdown are getting help from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics office in Chicago to process the data.
May data showed Minnesota's unemployment rate tick up to 6.6 percent.
Posted at 1:00 PM on July 18, 2011
by Paul Tosto
Bars and other businesses unable to buy beer and other alcoholic beverages because of the state government shutdown better hope lawmakers finish a budget deal this week because they won't be getting any immediate help from the courts.
Among the state shutdown rulings posted this morning, Ramsey County Judge Kathleen Gearin turned aside a plea from the Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association to waive the requirement for a "buyer's card" if a retailer is licensed and in good standing or else allow funding of a state clerical worker to process permit renewals.
The Department of Public Safety estimates around 300 establishments out of 10,000 in the state did not renew their state-issued cards by the end of June.
By the end of July, approximately 425 establishments will lack the required permit, MPR News reported earlier.
Those businesses can continue to sell alcohol, but cannot replenish their inventory.
The group had asked the "special master" refereeing shutdown issues to intervene.
Gearin, though said the question involves "complex interpretations of Minnesota's constitution" beyond the special master process.
If the state government shutdown doesn't end this week, Gearin said a court date should be scheduled to hear the case.
State lawmakers have agreed on the framework of a budget deal that would render the issue moot but they're still working on it.
Gearin urged the beverage association to make sure lawmakers understand the "compelling arguments" about the shutdown's effects on the state's bars.
UPDATE: MPR's Baxter reports:
Frank Ball of the Beverage Association says some venues are really struggling.
"I would venture to say we've got a dozen that are just literally closing up the doors because they don't have any product to sell. They're smaller ones in outstate Minnesota," he said.
It's day eighteen of the state shutdown, and providers of crisis mental health services are still waiting for a response to their request to rehire state mental health workers.
The delay has come at a price, said Jim Riebe, who manages a crisis response team in St. Cloud.
"People are starting to crack, fall apart," he said today.
Over the weekend, three clients with severe mental illness had to be transported to an area crisis facility. In at least one of those cases, Riebe said, the crisis would've been avoided if state mental health workers were on the job.
"These people don't realize that we're running a 24-hour operation," he said, "And each day makes a difference in people's lives."
Providers in St. Cloud and Duluth rely on state workers to provide about half of the staff for crisis response teams and intensive in-home services. The employees respond to calls from people who are suicidal or experiencing a mental health crisis. Others work on teams with psychiatrists, nurses and case managers to provide intensive in-home services.
The goal is to be "a hospital without walls," one provider told me. The teams serve 78 clients, and they see many of their clients every day, sometimes twice a day - at least they did before the shutdown.
"Every morning, we're trying to figure out who's having the most difficulty," Riebe told me last week. "But sometimes the people you worry about the most are the people you don't hear from."
The shutdown also forced the closure of Bridge House, a mental health crisis facility in Duluth.
Providers petitioned Special Master Kathleen Blatz on July 7 to request that the 135 state mental health workers be deemed essential and allowed to return to work immediately.
Gov. Mark Dayton included the funding request in a long list of recommendations sent to Blatz on July 13.
Any recommendation would also need to be approved by Ramsey County District Court Judge Kathleen Gearin. The judge issued orders today regarding liquor licenses, administrative judges, training of peace officers, and birth certificates.
Court spokesman Christopher Channing says Special Master Blatz submitted her recommendation regarding the state mental health workers last week. But he wouldn't say what Blatz recommended or when Judge Gearin might take up the matter.
Posted at 2:39 PM on July 18, 2011
by Paul Tosto
We still don't know yet exactly when Gov. Mark Dayton will lawmakers into special session to pass spending and revenue bills for the next two year budget and end the state shutdown. But there are at least signs of progress.
The House this afternoon posted text and numbers for two of the spending bills:
UPDATE: MPR News reporter Tom Scheck writes:
Dayton and GOP legislative leaders have signed off on two budget bills - the transportation funding bill and the public safety and judiciary finance bill. The two bills make some cuts and rely on one-time money.
The Metropolitan Council faces a $51 million cut for transit programs - less than half of what Republicans were proposing. There is also a 5 percent cut to the Department of Human Rights, cuts to civil legal services and the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. There is an increase in funding for the state's public defenders.
The public safety budget bill also takes money from special accounts, like training for police officers and fire fighters, to balance the state's budget.
Bad news for weeds. A judge's ruling has restored funding for controlling invasive aquatic vegetation in public lakes.
Ramsey County District Court Judge Kathleen Gearin issued two rulings on the matter today.
First, she said a company, Midwest Weed Harvesting, should get paid for services to "manage and control aquatic vegetation through the use of mechanical lawn weed harvesting for the purpose of maintaining and preserving public property."
And then she approved funding for several other companies "to manage and control invasive and exotic (non-native) aquatic vegetation, swimmers' itch parasites, and algae through the use of EPA-approved herbicides and algaecides for the purpose of maintaining and preserving public property."
In other shutdown news:
Judge Gearin denied funding for the Minnesota Community Action grant. The money provides help for low-income families.
She also denied a licensing request from Halfway Jam, an annual music festival in Royalton, Minn. The festival was supposed to start Wednesday, but it can't get a camping license due to the shutdown.
Posted at 4:13 PM on July 18, 2011
by Paul Tosto
I'm willing to bet that when the whole shutdown thing is over and you ask people: Quick! What's the first thing you remember, it will be the Great Minnesota Potential Beer Crisis.
This, of course, was the dispute over whether Beer giant MillerCoors had the proper licensing before the shutdown.
Much beer and many tears were spilled after that with various parties agonizing about the possible loss of Miller beer, Coors and the other three dozen or so brands under the corporation's control.
The reality was the beer kept flowing.
Anyway, this afternoon, MPR's Annie Baxter this afternoon reports:
MillerCoors says it likely will not take legal action against the state in a dispute about whether the company has a valid license to sell beer.
MillerCoors spokesman Julian Green says with a budget deal possibly in sight, the company is confident the matter will be cleared up.
Green says the company has not withdrawn its products from the state and doesn't plan to.
"We're still in discussions with the state but we don't foresee any issues now that it looks like the shutdown is coming to an end," he said.
The State Capitol reopens tomorrow morning. The lobbyists will be there. Will you?
Here's what Gov. Dayton's office said, in a statement released tonight:
Governor Mark Dayton today ordered the State Capitol and State Office Building to re-open to the public, beginning at 9:00am Tuesday, July 19, 2011. The Governor ordered the doors opened to allow public access and transparency as the Legislature prepares to reconvene to pass a budget.