Minnesota's Legislature set to convene: What's on the agenda? Who are the players?by Matt Sepic, Minnesota Public Radio,
Hart Van Denburg, Minnesota Public Radio
Today on the MPR News Update, Minnesota legislators are getting ready for the start of the 2013 session this week, and an MPR news analysis finds the public is unable to find out a lot about their possible conflicts of interest. Bar and restaurant owners in downtown St. Paul await the return of the Minnesota Wild. And last year's drought has dried out the soil so much that some homes in southeastern Minnesota are sinking.
PRIORITIES: A new legislative session gets underway Tuesday with Democrats running the whole show for the first time in 25 years. That means DFL Gov. Mark Dayton gets to work with a DFL-controlled House and Senate that should be more receptive to his tax and spending proposals. The state budget, which shows a projected $1.1 billion deficit, will be the top priority for the session. But several other policy issues are also expected to get attention.
TRANSPARENCY: All state lawmakers who take office Tuesday are required to file an economic disclosure statement outlining the sources of their income outside of the Legislature. But an MPR News analysis of the disclosures by current and incoming lawmakers finds that the forms provide little information that could alert the public to potential conflicts of interest.
MORE TRANSPARENCY: The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal from The Real Truth About Abortion, Inc., which was formerly called The Real Truth About Obama, Inc. The group wanted to stop the Federal Election Commission and the Justice Department from enforcing fundraising and advertising regulations against it.
BREAKING THE ICE: The contract impasse between owners and players in the National Hockey League appears to be at an end. Over the weekend the two sides reached a tentative agreement on a deal that, if ratified, will end this season's lockout. Many businesses near the Xcel Energy Center in downtown St. Paul are anxiously watching the labor talks.
BROKEN BY DROUGHT: We tend not to think of droughts as a wintertime problem. But in southern Minnesota the dry conditions are causing big problems for some homeowners. Dried out soil is causing foundations to crack and homes to sink deeper into the ground. A lack of snow in many areas this winter has "locked in" the drought that started last summer.
WHAT AN OFFENDER MIGHT DO: The Minnesota Court of Appeals today provided a graphic account of why Minnesota locks up people after they've served their prison time under the theory that they might offend again. The court ruled today that a man who has raped several women in the past, can be committed under the state's program just for taking steps that, while not sexually violent under the state's definition, mirror his pattern of behavior that preceded his previous violent behavior.
SCHOOL SCARE: Sleepy Eye and New Ulm schools have added extra security as students head back to classes following the arrest of a juvenile accused of making threats of a shooting.
TRANSIT CONTRACT: In the Twin Cities, Metro Transit workers are wrapping up voting on a new three-year contract. The Amalgamated Transit Union is still working under a contract that expired July 31. Union leaders say proposed contract gives workers a 2 percent raise in each of the next three years. it raised enough money to resume productions this spring. Due to an income shortfall in August, Penumbra cut six full-time staff positions and suspended all programming.
IMMIGRATION SPENDING: The Obama administration spent more money on immigration enforcement in the last fiscal year than all other federal law enforcement agencies combined, according to the Migration Policy Institute, a non-partisan group focused on global immigration issues.
HAGEL FOR PENTAGON: President Barack Obama on Monday will nominate Chuck Hagel as his next defense secretary and counterterrorism adviser John Brennan to lead the Central Intelligence Agency, two potentially controversial picks for his second-term national security team.
Matt Sepic is a newscaster and general assignment reporter for MPR News.