Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Garofalo proposes super strength state No Child Left Behind law

Just when it seemed that the lunacy of the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law was about to pass in Minnesota, Rep. Pat Garofalo has proposed a bill that would reinstitute and heighten the very worst features of the law.

Governor Mark Dayton and Education Commissioner Brenda Casselius pursued and received a federal waiver from NCLB earlier this month. From the very beginning, it was obvious to anyone with a brain that it would be impossible for every student to be judged "proficient" at any point, let alone by 2014. As NCLB's requirements ramped up, the "Adequate Yearly Progress" (AYP) measure caused a higher and higher number of schools to be considered "failing" schools. In 2012, without action, 82% of U.S. schools would fail to meet AYP. In 2011, 1,056 out of 2,255 Minnesota schools failed to meet AYP. That number would have continued to inexorably increase, not because our schools are getting worse, but because of NCLB's escalator effect. In 2011, 34 Minnesota schools were required to restructure because of NCLB.

Garofalo opposed the NCLB waiver, and even sent a letter to Education Secretary Arne Duncan opposing Minnesota's application. In an MPR story about it, Garofalo said:
"The bureaucracy doesn't like state law, so they're going to the federal government to invalidate that, and they can't do that." 
So, having failed in preventing the waiver, Garofalo decided to put NCLB into state law. If Rep. Garofalo succeeds in passing HF 2180, the number of schools that would be closed, converted into charter schools, or restructured would roughly triple. It requires that the Education commissioner rank all schools in Minnesota according to AYP, and then require that the lowest 5% schools be restructured or closed. That's roughly 100 schools. Under the NCLB waiver system approved by the federal Department of Education, those 5% of schools are considered "priority schools" that get additional individualized attention from the state. Garofalo would rather gut them like trout.

I think my favorite part of this bill is that of the six things required in a school turnaround plan, number one on the list is that the Commissioner should establish the "terms and conditions of employment." Above anything related to student learning, or student readiness, or professional development, Garofalo's first priority is to void collective bargaining.

There is bipartisan sentiment that No Child Left Behind has failed, that it represented an overreach on the part of the federal government, and that it imposed unmeetable standards on schools and students. But Garofalo would double down on NCLB by requiring that 1 in 20 Minnesota schools be considered "failing."

HF 2180 had been scheduled for a hearing in the House Education Finance committee on Thursday, but the meeting was cancelled. Public education advocates should keep their eyes open for when it reappears.

Follow me on Twitter @aaronklemz

(Image credit: T.W. Budig, ECM)

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Ag Gag comes to Iowa
The Des Moines Register reports that the Iowa Legislature (which, while I was in college there, after a debate about whether permanent press sheets could be used in hotels and motels, compromised and said the sheets could be used, but they had to be ironed, anyway) has enacted a so called "ag gag" bill that would prohibit the entering a of facility (by getting a job or whatever) for the purpose of reporting on, or photographing or videoing of, animal cruelty and unsanitary conditions in Iowa meat processing facilities.

Swell. The bill is on its way to governor, but since the governor is Tim Pawlenty's little brother, there is little doubt that he will sign it.

The bill attempts to skirt the serious First Amendment problems in a bill like the one authored by Minnesota's pork princess, Sen. Julie Rosen, last session. Here's what is prohibited by the law headed for the Iowa governor's desk:
A person who obtained access to a facility by false pretenses or lies on a job application with the intent to commit an act not authorized by the owner could be found guilty and face serious or aggravated misdemeanor charges. [probably similar to gross misdemeanor charges in Minnesota, which can get you a fine of several thousand dollars and up to a year in the clink].
But this clunker will almost certainly fail the Near v. Minnesota prior restraint test, just as Julie Rosen's bill would have. (Rosen did have the good sense to remove herself as a chief author from her bill when it was pointed out that the bill was a constitutional dud.)

In the meantime, however, one would do well to consider these words:
Critics such as Dem. Herman Quirmbach, D-Ames, said the new version is less onerous but still a mistake. 
“Passing this bill will put a big red question mark stamped on every pork chop, every, chicken wing, every steak, and every egg produced in this state because it will raise the question of what do you got to hide,” Quirmbach said.
You should, in fact, ask the butcher where the chops come from, and pass regretfully on the stuff from Iowa.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Does this map look familiar?

Much of the talk about the new Congressional district map has centered around the idea that it is a "least change" map. What you may not realize is that it really hasn't changed that much in over a century.

Here's the new map:

And here's an 1899 map from the Legislative Coordinating Commission's GIS page:

There are obvious differences (including the fact that there were only seven districts,) but the basic shape of these districts look very familiar. The current CD8 is almost identical, and the 1899 map preserves the longstanding division in the Red River valley community of interest and northeastern Minnesota. The bizarre CD4 would be right at home with the tortured present day CD6.

It's all academic now that the maps have been drawn, but I find it fascinating that our current map looks so  similar.

Follow me on Twitter @aaronklemz

Not Almanac 2/27 is all redistricting all the time

The new episode of Not Almanac is ready for you to listen and download. In it we talk about redistricting, including the drama-free congressional map, the Alsace-Lorraine region of Edina, and talk of a lawsuit over minority representation in the legislature.

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You can download the episode and subscribe to Not Almanac through iTunes via this link.

Thanks to you, we've had over 3,500 listens to our first five episodes! We appreciate every listener, and we'd love it if you'd share Not Almanac with someone you think would be interested.

Follow us on Twitter @TonyAngelo, @stevetimmer and @aaronklemz

Water, water everywhere...

...and plenty left to sell, apparently.

Quietly, two separate bills that would weaken conservation of Minnesota drinking water are percolating at the Capitol. One would permit the Minnesota Legislature to approve the sale of water across state lines, the other would repeal a 2008 requirement that cities adopt conservation pricing for water use.

Introduced last week, SF 2004/ HF 2434 would allow the Legislature to approve the sale of Minnesota water across state lines. All three of the sponsors (Sen. Gretchen Hoffman, Rep. Bud Nornes and Rep. Mark Murdock) represent the same territory in northwestern Minnesota. Of course, just days before this bill was introduced, Hoffman announced that she would challenge US Rep. Collin Peterson instead of running for re-election to her state Senate seat.

There are many curious things about this bill.

It would strike a provision that discourages diversion of water from Minnesota to another state or Canada, and allow the sale of water across state lines. This would be a first step toward privatizing Minnesota's water resources.

Who would be buying our water? One potential customer could be North Dakota, whose burgeoning oil patch consumes massive quantities of water for hydraulic fracturing. A University of Minnesota study estimates that each well requires 1 million gallons of water, and notes that groundwater in the region is insufficient to handle demand. With 1,000 new wells being drilled annually, the amount of water needed is tremendous. Existing ground and surface water sources are insufficient, according to an analysis by the University of North Dakota. Oil and gas companies are already looking to Minnesota for frac sand, will they also turn to Minnesota for the water they need?

While there's been no specific proposal to divert or sell Minnesota water (to my knowledge), this only adds to the intrigue. Why sell Minnesota water? To whom? Does North Dakota fracking have anything to do with this bill? Does Senator Hoffman's financial interest in her family's North Dakota PVC pipe business GPK Products have anything to do with this bill?

The water conservation pricing provision has been inserted into SF 1567, the Senate's version of a Chamber of Commerce supported environmental permitting bill. It repeals a section of Minnesota statute that mandate that water systems charge rates that increase depending on the amount of water used. Under this approach to pricing, the largest users of water pay higher rates, which provides an incentive for the biggest users to adopt conservation strategies. Metro-area water systems were required to adopt conservation pricing by the end of 2010, and water systems in greater Minnesota have until the end of 2013 to change their pricing.

These provisions work. Rochester has adopted conservation pricing and estimates that the reduced cost for new wells and other infrastructure will exceed the drop in revenue from reduced use. There is a robust economic literature on the question of water pricing, but the bottom line is that higher prices for large users generates the largest savings as they cut their usage. The largest water users in Minnesota are industrial users, and that's where the greatest potential for water conservation lies. These large users have had five years of lead time to change their water use practices since the passage of this provision.

Both of these bills are terrible. Minnesota's water is our greatest natural resource. We should be conserving our drinking water, not selling it to other states.

Follow me on Twitter @aaronklemz

Sunday, February 26, 2012

A new Congressman for Edina

Melisa Lopez Franzen & Keith Ellison
Part of it anyway. The Fifth Congressional District now includes what might be called the "Alsace Lorraine" region of Edina. In the eighties, the northeast corner of Edina was in the Third, and in the 90s it was in the Fifth. In the 00s (pronounced "aughts"?) it was back to the Third. Now it's the Fifth again.

Erik Paulsen is still sending campaign mail to his former constituents, however; we got a nice four color piece just the other day. They'll figure it out sooner or later!

In the meantime, somebody who figured it out sooner was Keith Ellison, who held a meet and greet with his new constituents at a restaurant in the 50th and France area yesterday, February 25th. On short notice the Congressman drew a crowd; every chair in a room advertised for 75 was filled, and a couple of dozen people stood along the walls.

One of the other persons in attendance was Melisa Lopez Fanzen, who is running for the DFL endorsement for the state senate seat in SD 49, essentially the old SD 41 with a little real estate added. That's Melisa in the photo with Keith.

Friday, February 24, 2012

And that's the Pacific Ocean!

I don't know why this photo:

Getty Images
Made me think of this painting:

Painter unknown
But it did. The woman pointing is Sacajawea; I think the man standing next to her is supposed to be Lewis or Clark. Perhaps a reader will know the provenance of the painting better than me.

I got the painting here.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Exhibit A against the "regulations are killing jobs" argument

In 2010, the Minnesota Legislature allocated money to commission a study of the impact that regulations have on business start ups in Minnesota. In December 2011, the Southwest Minnesota State University Marketing Advisory Center completed the report of the first comprehensive study to explore the impact of business regulations on business startups. The impetus for the study was testimony from 3M executive Alex Cirillo, who testified that he had heard from business owners that it was more difficult to start a small business in Minnesota than other states, but that this was all anecdotal. Well, the results are in and they do not match the Republican story about Minnesota's regulatory climate strangling business, nor do they support the Republican approach to growing jobs.

First, the bottom line of the study is regulations are not strangling business startups. To the contrary, Minnesota leads the region:
Regardless, it appears that regulations and requirements in Minnesota are not detrimental to it being the leader in the five-state area for new business start-ups. Between 2004 and 2008, Minnesota experienced the largest increase in number of total small businesses (less than 500 employees). 
Or, as the study concludes:
It would appear from this study that regulations; neither the quantity, difficulty surrounding securing information or the volume of licenses, permits or inspections required; are detrimental to Minnesota in being a leader in the five-state area for the start-up or existence of business entities. Business start-ups continue to be relatively strong in Minnesota when compared to surrounding states. 
Second, costs to start a business are low in Minnesota:
Costs associated for starting a business in Minnesota compared favorably with the adjacent states. When comparing the costs, Minnesota and North Dakota had the lowest percentage of start-ups requiring $5,001 or more. Those businesses able to start-up with $0 to $500 initial investment found Minnesota to be comparable to the other states in the study. 
Third, tax breaks are not a significant factor in business location decisions:
None of the [five] states seem to be gaining a strategic advantage in attracting small start-up businesses by offering tax incentives. South Dakota had 11% of their respondents indicating they received some form of tax break for locating their business within the state. All of the other states were in the single digits for percentage of start-ups receiving any form of tax break. 
Not only that, only 2% of small business survey respondents listed lower regulatory burdens as the reason why they located in a state.

Remember, this is the only study that actually examined the connection between regulations and business formation in Minnesota, it was commissioned by the Legislature, and conducted by Southwest Minnesota State University. It should be Exhibit A in any debate about the supposedly onerous impact of regulations on Minnesota small businesses. Please go and read the whole thing.

EDIT: The initial version of the above paragraph said "job creation" instead of "business formation." I think both are accurate, but wanted to be careful in my phrasing. The study begins its "Discussion" section with the following:
Previous studies, often commissioned by various states, have had mixed results in determining characteristics that attract new businesses with no one state in the upper Midwest scoring a decisive victory in all categories generally considered as benchmark factors. These previous studies have concluded with various ranking strategies depending on the measure incorporated in the study. Some of these studies were previously discussed in this report; none were based on the number or intensity of regulations to determine their effect in either encouraging or rejecting that state from consideration in establishing a business. This study appears to be the first to explore this variable and its effects on business formation.
Follow me on Twitter @aaronklemz

O, Lard, my Lard, why hassst Thou forshaken me!

From the G.R. Anderson
City Pages article from 2006
O, Lard, my Lard, why hassst Thou forshaken me!

What is it now, Michele? Say, have you been drinking?




It's okay. What's the problem?

My beautiful housh!

What about your housh; I mean house?

My housh is no long in my Housh District. I mustch choose between my housh and the Housh. My job or my housh.

Boy, you really are sloshed. But you know, Michele, a lot of people have lost both their job and their housh, as you say, recently.

But Lard, this is meeee, Michele, the anointed one. These tinks don't happen to meeee; they aren't suppostched to, anyway. Where were You, anywaaay?

I beg your pardon?

Why dint you protec meee from the librul judges on Toosday?

You mean the two Republican appointees, the two Independent appointees, and the one DFL appointee? If you must know, I was trying to keep some gay kids from getting beat up in your old hometown. They're mine too, not that you ever noticed.

Well, I never ---

That's what I said; you never noticed they're mine, too. Although we've discussed it before.


Really. And losing your house, and your job, well, we discussed that, too.

No we dint.

Yes, we did.

Don't you remember I told you that Beelzebub wanted to go double or nothing on that Job bet he lost with me, and betting against you this time? I decided to toss the House and the "housh" in as goodies for good measure, just to make it interesting before we drop the hammer.

Let's see how you do. Any you never told me, do you have any cattle?

And a coon hound on every porch

If ever you are looking for easily mock-able material to write about, there is no finer oeuvre that Rep. Steve Drazkowski's chief author's bill page at the Legislature's website. I recommend it for anyone with writer's block.

There's one that isn't in the bin yet, however, that deserves your closest attention. As Aaron noted last evening, the "Draz" (a rep. from Mazeppa) as he is affectionately (derisively perhaps; I thought somebody said the "drag" the first time I heard it) by his fellow Republican legislators, has proposed a sales tax holiday for guns and ammunition.

If you read the Strib account, the Draz is actually talking about guns, ammunition, and "hunting gear." Here's the quote from the Draz:
My preference is for an outdoors, guns and ammo [sales tax] holiday.
But why stop with guns and ammunition (perhaps too long a word for the Draz to comfortably use)?

Imagine a new "Coon Hound Checkoff." You use them outdoors don't you?

If the Draz wants to be ecumenical about it, and bring fishermen in on the largess, why not a "Rapala Rebate?" I mean, really, have you seen what has happened to the price of buzz baits and Rapalas lately?

The Draz could even go green here and help people buy canoes and kayaks, which are mostly cheaper than a fine fowling piece.

Yes, Draz, this is a great idea; you just have to think bigger.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Gun tax holiday? We're already setting sales records!

In yet another moment of utter tone deafness, on Tuesday Rep. Steve Drazkowski proposed that any money that might be gained by taxing online retailers be used for a sales tax holiday on guns and ammunition.

What intrigues me is how Rep. Drazkowski arrived at the conclusion that of all things that are taxed, guns and ammunition are the items that he believes are most in need of sales tax relief. Gun retailers certainly don't need the additional boost. Minnesota gun sales have skyrocketed in the past few years.

The National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) is a useful (though imperfect) proxy for gun sales. The Minnesota NICS data reveals a state that's having no trouble paying for guns and ammo. In fact, we've been setting records for NICS checks every year since 2007.

The 337,000 Minnesota NICS checks in 2011 represented a 75% increase over 2001. And Minnesota's increase in gun and ammunition sales is not an isolated phenomenon. President Obama may well be "the greatest gun salesman" ever, in spite of proposing nothing whatsoever that would limit gun or ammunition sales.

Despite this, Rep. Drazkowski's first thought about which industry needs a little boost is the guns and ammunition industry. Late today, we might have discovered why.
Well, in that case, it all makes sense.

Follow me on Twitter @aaronklemz

Minnesota for-profit college students shoulder massive student loan debt

New data from the Minnesota Office of Higher Education show that Minnesota for-profit college students take on crippling amounts of loan debt. Minnesota for-profit college students took out $408 million in student loans in the 2008-2009 school year, the highest of students in any category of Minnesota higher education institutions. On a per-student basis, for-profit college students took out over five times the amount in loans as students of public two-year colleges did in 2008-2009.

"Minnesota Measures 2011," January 2012, p. 55-56 
Therefore, on a per-student basis in 2008 - 2009, the average student loan amounts were:
State College students $2992
State University students $5202
U of M Students $5504
Private non-profit $7825
Private for-profit $15385 
The per-student calculation isn't a perfect measure, since it doesn't account for total credit load. Since a larger proportion of public two-year college students are part-time students, this reduces the average loan load. Despite this, the average still illustrates a stark difference in significance of student loan debt to for-profit college students. 96% of for-profit college students took out loans in 2008-2009, compared to 38% of public two-year college students.

Even worse, for-profit college students were far more likely to take out private loans than public college and university students. According to the Minnesota Measures report, 43% of Minnesota for-profit college students took out private loans. According to the Project on Student Debt:
Private student loans are one of the riskiest ways to pay for college.The majority of these non-federal loans are made to students by private banks and lenders. No more a form of financial aid than a credit card, private student loans typically have uncapped variable interest rates that are highest for those who can least afford them. Even when fixed rates are offered, private loans lack the basic consumer protections and flexible repayment options of federal student loans, such as unemployment deferment, income-based repayment, and loan forgiveness programs.
High student loan debt is a tremendous burden for graduates. It's even worse for students who take on debt but do not complete a degree. It is impossible to discharge in bankruptcy, which as the Wall Street Journal put it, gives this type of debt a "unique type of hopelessness."

Nevertheless, new Office of Higher Education Director Larry Pogemiller, was confirmed promising to look to for-profit colleges for innovations that can be imported to public colleges. Even worse, he expressed willingness to discuss eliminating state funding for public higher education and creating a voucher program that would direct even more state money to for-profit colleges.

Let's hope that one of these "innovations" isn't the student debt load imposed on for-profit college students.

Follow me on Twitter @aaronklemz

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The House or your house?

Which is it going to be, Michele?

Michele is now in the Fourth, but wants to run in the Sixth, without moving back there.

Even for Bachmann, this is zany.

Edina hewn in two

Into two congressional districts, that is: the Third and the Fifth. By the looks of it, the northeast part of the City, which was in the Fifth in the 90s, is back there again. It looks as though Edina and St. Paul Park are the only two cities split into two congressional districts.

The new senate district is 49, and its boundaries are, again, by the looks of it, pretty close to the current ones; it got a little bigger here and there than the current 41.

Update: On Saturday the 25th of February, Keith Ellison will be at Mozza Mia in "downtown" Edina to meet his new Edina constituents. He'll be there at 1:15 PM for a little over an hour.

Reprise: Mike Dean on redistricting

I thought this might be a good time to bring the video of Mike's Dean's interview on redistricting. Here it is.

Steve Morse on environmental regulation reauthorization

On February 20, 2012, Steve Morse, the Executive Director of the Minnesota Environmental Partnership, testified before a Minnesota Senate Committee in opposition to a bill that would, among other things, abolish all environmental regulation and require that each be reauthorized by the Legislature.

After the hearing, Aaron Klemz and I did a brief interview with Mr. -- and former Minnesota Senator and Assistant DNR Commissioner -- Morse. Aaron's the interviewer; I ran the camera.

Aaron -- and maybe me, too -- will have more on this in coming days.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Ridiculous Republican bill of the day

In a further attempt to turn back the calendar to the 1950's, four Minnesota Senate Republicans introduced a bill to require a two-year waiting period for divorces if the couple has minor children.

This would be the longest divorce waiting period in the country. By the way, Nevada, with the nation's highest divorce rate has one of the longest waiting periods for divorce. Minnesota has a low divorce rate, with no waiting period for divorce.

Honestly, this bill would probably decrease marriage in Minnesota, and would do nothing to keep marriages together. It's insulting to think that a couple (especially one with children) would make a decision to divorce rashly, and that a two-year waiting period would prevent divorce.

Ladies and gentleman, this is the party of less government intervention into your lives. I am slightly heartened that it was Rep. John Kriesel (R - Cottage Grove) who brought this to the attention of folks on Twitter.

Follow me on Twitter @aaronklemz

Two images

Hat tip to Chris Stinson, who first put these two images together.

From Minnesota Majority's "We Want Voter ID" website

Star Tribune editorial cartoon by Steve Sack

Not Almanac 2-20-2012

The new episode of Not Almanac is available for your listening pleasure! It includes some more bullshit from Sen. Parry, Anthony Hernandez and Rep. Drazkowski, whether legislators need a basic skills test, and legislatively self-imposed judicial activism.

If you see a moment that you think deserves to be enshrined as a bullshit moment, let us know; we'd love to include it! You can contact any of us through the Twitter accounts below.

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You can download the episode or subscribe via iTunes using this link.

Follow us on Twitter @aaronklemz, @TonyAngelo, @blogspotdog

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Your Twin Cities Drinking Liberally calendar for this week

On Monday, February 20th, Drinking Liberally in Hopkins will host Greta Bergstrom as its guest speaker. Greta is the Communications Director for Take Action Minnesota, a liberal advocacy group. One of the issues before the Legislature on which Take Action is especially active is the photo voter ID amendment bill, and Greta is a great person to talk about it.

If you want to know what photo voter ID is really about and how it will potentially disenfranchise thousands and thousands of people, this would be a great meeting to attend.

Drinking Liberally Hopkins meets the third Monday of each month at 6:30 PM at the VFW Hall at 100 Shady Oak Road in, well, Hopkins. That just about half block north of Excelsior on Shady Oak, on the west side of the street. You can't miss it.

On Thursday the 23rd of February, the Minneapolis chapter of Drinking Liberally will host as our guest the newest member of the Minnesota House, Rep. Susan Allen of District 61B in south Minneapolis. Rep. Allen was elected in a special election in December. Rep. Allen is the first Native American women elected to the Minnesota House. She is a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe.

Rep. Allen is not a stranger to the Capitol, but it will be fun to hear about her experiences there as a new legislator.

Drinking Liberally Minneapolis meets every Thursday at 6:00 PM at the 331 Club in northeast Minneapolis, 331 - 13th Avenue N.E., or one block north of Broadway on University Avenue N.E. You can't miss it, either.

The programs with Ms. Berstrom and Rep. Allen are expected to start around 7:00 PM.

Enter the pawnbroker

Fridley Pawn America, photo by author
In their ongoing celebration of the wonders of the free market, Presidents Day will be ticket scalper and pawn broker day at the Minnesota House. On the calendar for the day are two bills, one would allow pawnbrokers to charge fees for storing pawned collateral, the other would prohibit practices that frustrate ticket scalping. It's a free market double-header - what could be more American than that?

Minority Leader Paul Thissen calls SF 1268 the "Pawn America bill" for good reason. As Ron Elwood from Legal Aid pointed out in his May 2011 testimony, this bill is written to satisfy the desires of a single company, Pawn America.

The ubiquitous Pawn America commercials that show CEO Brad Rixmann as a ventriloquist conversing with "Eggmo" could be recast with the Republican legislative leadership as the dummy. Rixmann has built his legislative influence the old-fashioned way, with lots and lots of campaign contributions. In 2011, Rixmann gave $50,200 to the Republican Party of Minnesota, $22,000 to the Republican Senate Victory Fund, and $37,500 to the House Republican Campaign Committee. His 2010 and 2011 contributions to these three entities are just shy of $200,000 combined. This makes Rixmann one of the biggest contributors to the Minnesota Republican Party, almost in the same category as Stanley Hubbard and Bill Cooper.

If SF 1268 passes, pawnbrokers would be allowed to charge fees for the storage and maintenance of pawned collateral. There is no statutory limit to these fees, other than they be "reasonable." Similar to the broader banking industry, fees represent a source of new revenue even if new regulations from the Consumer Financial Protection Agency limit the exorbitant interest rates that they charge.

In addition to defending the right of pawnbrokers to charge more fees for a pawn transaction, the Republican majority will defend the inalienable right of ticket scalpers to resell tickets. Technology, such as e-tickets, could make it more difficult for ticket resellers to mark up their products. Annette Meeks, CEO of the Freedom Foundation of Minnesota, defends the right to scalp tickets as a "personal right" to sell what you own. That's a quaint notion in a world where ticket scalpers are a $4.5 billion industry that uses computer technology to scoop up large quantities of tickets, and then turn around and resell tickets at a much higher price online. Hey, that's the free market at work!

There's no time for job creation at the Capitol, but the Republican party has plenty of time to carry water for their big campaign contributors. If this isn't what's meant by "crony capitalism," what does it mean?

Follow me on Twitter @aaronklemz

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The enemies of civilization

This bill is their wanted poster

End of the Roman Empire
On January 30th, some of the most bilious and choleric enemies of a civil society -- including two District 41 representatives, Keith Downey (A) and Pat Mazorol (B),  Mary Liz Holberg, Steve Drazkowski, and King Banaian -- dropped this turd into the punchbowl. It is similar to a bill offered last session by Downey and the (former) Deputy, on the Senate side, Geoff Michel. (Oh, and this bulletin just in: Glencoe's Glenn Gruenhagen was added as an author; that will really seal the deal for a lot of people.)

Photo credit unknown
Essentially, this is how the proposed bill would work. Let's say you wanted to pull a few teeth --  just for the neighbors and a few friends; nothing big -- and some bureaucrat comes in and says, "You can't do that; it's practicing dentistry."

Whereupon, you say, "Ha! That seems burdensome to me. I'm really good with a pliers; I practiced on the dog; prove to me this 'practice of dentistry' stuff is really necessary."

And believe it or not, under the statute the state would have to prove it each and every time that some yahoo decided to become a shade tree dentist. It would be true of any profession or occupation licensed by the state -- or any political subdivision thereof.

The practice of medicine (I'm really good with a penknife and my old woodburning set; I ought to be able to remove warts and small skin cancers); the practice of law (I go an "A" in debate); accounting, building contractors, electricians, plumbers, cosmetologists, barbers, and any other licensed activity would be subject to the same rule of "least restrictiveness."

Anybody wishing to challenge a licensing requirement -- even if not the object of an enforcement action -- would be able to do so, and each and every time, it would be the licensor's burden to prove the health and safety necessity of the requirement. No matter how many times the licensor won, a litigant could still make the licensor prove the necessity of the rule the next case.

This bill turns the law on its head. The simple cost alone of defending every licensing regulation in each case staggers the imagination. And of course, that's the idea. Regulators will run out of money and will just give up.

And it is not as though you can't presently challenge a license or any other regulation, for that matter. But you bear the burden of proving why the rule is unconstitutional or is contrary to statute, or that the statute or ordinance itself was beyond the power of the body to enact or adopt. And if you win, it binds the governing body against everybody else.

Under the bill, merely because the governing body won once, that doesn't mean each and every person coming before it can't make the same argument (because the new person was not a litigant to the earlier decision and is not bound by it), requiring that the same experts come in to court and explain the same thing, over and over.

There's one other serious -- nay, fatal -- defect in the bill I haven't even mentioned yet: it violates the separation of powers under the Minnesota Constitution. If legislation is made within the scope of authority of the Legislature, you can't have a law that subsequently derogates that authority to a court. It is a denial of the democratic process.

It is astonishing that a group of legislators would hate the body they sit in so much that they would cheerfully give their legislative authority away, to a bunch of judges, and turning them into activist judges, to boot. Pitiful.

And you'll never guess who thinks this is a great idea.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Get outta my limelight, effer!

Brian Lambert, writing on the blog The Same Rowdy Crowd, mused about how the MSM was not exactly where you would go to get the scoop on Michele Bachmann during her run for president:
The striking thing to me, as I surfed hither and yon, was how little of Bachmann’s manifest recklessness with the truth made its way in to the print (or on-air) version of any of our three primary serious news entities.
Then Lambert assigns a little credit for the places where you could go to get coverage about Le Cirque du Bachmann:
Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker wrote the definitive Bachmann profile, Karl Bremer at “Ripple in Stillwater”, Bill Prendergast and the rest at The Minnesota Progressive Project delivered the best day-to-day coverage and Rolling Stone laid out the most complete portrait of the pernicious effects of her rhetoric and influence.
Then, in an act of myopia and gracelessness, Bill Prendergast writes this:
I spotted one error in Lambert's article. Lambert tells his readers that local blogger Karl Bremer is one of group of locals "who delivered the best day-to-day coverage" of the Bachmann story at his Ripple in Stillwater blog. 
That is a factual error. I looked at Karl Bremer's Ripple in Stillwater blog yesterday--I looked back at past posts and found no "day-to-day coverage" of the Bachmann story there. 
I have no problem with Lambert recognizing Karl for something he has actually done. [Well, that's debatable, Bill.] But I do have a problem with Lambert reporting something that simply didn't happen, something that Karl simply didn't do.
Of course, Karl is also a contributor at Dump Bachmann, has made at least one appearance on Democracy Now that I am aware of, and has written extensively about people who circle in orbits around Michele Bachmann: Bradlee Dean -- whose real name I learned from Karl is really Bradley Dean Smith -- the Petters Ponzi schemers, including Frank Vennes, Jr., and Bobby Thompson, the Bachmann supporter and fake military charity huckster.

It was kind -- well not really; it was churlish and vindictive -- of Prendergast to do post count on what he thought were Bachmann stories at Ripple in Sillwater.

The whole exercise seemed like a kind of functional autism.

You would also think that, in the name of accuracy after all, that Prendergast would also have gone through Minnesota Progressive Project to check on the "day-to-day" coverage of Bachmann by all of the other writers there.

Because after all, Lambert credits them, too.

Report back to us, Bill.

White Earth casino proposal could be Vikings stadium timebomb

Thursday, White Earth tribal leader Erma Vizenor led a delegation to the Capitol to push for a joint state-tribal casino that would fund, in part, the state share of a Vikings stadium. The White Earth proposal is not new, and has been floated repeatedly since 2005. Initial reports about the Minnesota Wins proposal focused on its political shelf life (which might be very short.) But even if approved by the Legislature, any revenue sharing agreement might not pass muster with the federal government.

A related conflict between the city of Duluth and the Fond du Lac band of Chippewa over a 1994 revenue sharing agreement for the Fond-du-Luth Casino is instructive. In 2009, the tribal government ceased revenue sharing payments with the city, arguing that the agreement signed by previous leaders was unfair and illegal.

In July 2011, the tribe's position was upheld by the National Indian Gaming Council (NIGC), a federal board that enforces the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). Duluth has subsequently sued to enforce the 1994 agreement, which dictated that 19% of the gross revenue (about 30% of net revenue, or approximately $6 million per year) from the casino would be paid to the city each year. Duluth is in a difficult negotiating position. While they hold the lease to the building and could conceivably evict the casino, that would mean losing 300 jobs and a major draw downtown. And since the Fond du Lac band has since built the much larger Black Bear Casino on I-35, the threat of closing Fond-du-Luth is more bark than bite.

The NIGC's decision in the Fond-du-Luth case should give pause to anybody who would rely on a constant stream of revenue from a White Earth/State of Minnesota joint venture casino.

First, under the IGRA, a tribe must "maintain a sole proprietary interest and responsibility for the conduct of any gaming activity." Long term agreements that transfer a significant portion of the gaming revenue to another entity violate the Act.
Accordingly, final agency actions by NIGC and OGC legal opinions have found an improper proprietary interest in agreements under which a party, other than a tribe, receives a high level of compensation, for a long period of time. and possesses some aspect of control. The compensation in these instances was typically based on a significant percentage of net gaming revenue and often had terms beyond 5 years.
The bill proposed for the joint state-tribal casino would last for 30 years, the proposal unveiled today would divide net revenue 50/50 with the State of Minnesota, and the State of Minnesota would have significant control of the operation. It is a joint venture, not a sole proprietorship.

Second, the NIGC held that the $75 million paid in rent over the life of the agreement had no "rational relationship" to actual services provided. In order to be legitimate, payments to another governmental entity need to be of "tangible economic benefit justifying a share of gaming revenue." In other words, for another government to receive payments from a tribal casino, those payments need to be in fair exchange for actual services rendered.

It's hard to see how the Minnesota Wins proposal could be approved at the federal level, even if it were to get through the Legislature. Even worse, imagine if the revenue dried up in the middle of repaying bonds on a Vikings stadium. What the Fond-du-Luth case should tell you is that a tribal-state revenue sharing agreement isn't necessarily durable, even if everybody seems happy at first. Thirty years is a long time.

Follow me on Twitter @aaronklemz
(Photo credit: Flickr user tbone_sandwich)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Talking with Dan from "Minnesota Majority"

This conversation is imagined, but it isn't so hard to imagine, really. Dan McGrath is the mouthpiece for Minnesota Majority, Ray Vanderveer's darling. The issue, of course, is the proposed Minnesota constitutional amendment to require a photo voter ID when showing up at the polls.

- o O o -

So Dan, you have to be a property owner to vote, right?

Why, yes, of course.

Well, no, not really. But surely you have to have an apartment or permanent place to live?


Sorry, another leading question, but wrong again. You can be homeless and you are still a citizen with a constitutional right to vote.

[mutters under breath]

I'm sorry?

Never mind.

We'll come back to residence later, but for now, here's the next question. You have to be a citizen to vote. How do you prove your citizenship?

With your driver's license of course.

I'm sorry to ask such hard questions, Dan. But the driver's license in your pocket does not prove you're a U.S. citizen.

Really? I mean, no, I guess not.

Don't feel bad, Dan; mine doesn't either. But I just got mine renewed for four years, if we adopt a requirement for a photo ID that would include a driver's license as a permitted identification document, wouldn't I and everyone with years to go on a license have to get a new one after proving to the AAA or some other licensing station that I was a citizen?

Gosh, I hadn't thought of that. Well, we could phase it in, so you just had to come up with proof of citizenship when you renewed.

That would mean, at least for the transition period, that some citizens would have to prove citizenship with documentation, and some wouldn't. [You swear or affirm your citizenship every time you vote, though, and you can be prosecuted, if you lie, under current law.]


Sorry, Dave, I mean Dan, we can't do that.


Because it would violate the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution, the Voting Rights of 1965, and the terms of the proposed photo voter ID amendment itself, probably among other things.

So we'll just make everybody get a new driver's license or whatever.

Don't you think it'll get a little crowded down at the courthouse or at AAA? And who's going to pay for it?

The people applying, of course.

If that's required, it will be an unconstitutional poll tax, and it would violate the provisions of the proposed amendment, too. Do you suppose AAA and the counties will want to do all this processing free?

Well, they should.

I can tell you're getting tired, Dan. We'll pick this up another time.

Republicans work with Chamber to outsource environmental permits

Wednesday morning, the Minnesota House Environment and Natural Resources Committee approved a bill that would outsource decisions on environmental permits to private firms hired by the corporation seeking the permit. In a related action, Republicans introduced another bill that would outsource Minnesota hen house security to a firm named FoxCorp.

Rep. Fabian (L) & MCC Lobbyist Kwilas (R)
As an observer at the Capitol, I'm always floored at the influence of lobbyists from the Chamber of Commerce, who seem to do most of the heavy lifting in crafting, presenting, and answering questions about bills nominally authored by Republicans. Today, Chamber lobbyist Tony Kwilas was plastered to the side of freshman Rep. Dan Fabian (R - Roseau) directing traffic. It's one of those things you just don't notice unless you're there to watch the delicate dance between lobbyists, agency representatives, and legislators.

Governor Dayton stole the thunder of Minnesota Republicans last year by issuing an executive order that preemptively adopted another environmental permitting bill. But when someone steals your legislative thunder, well, you make more thunder. Where the first bill set goals for timely permit approvals, HF 2095 would fundamentally change the nature of environmental permits, who writes them, and how they would be evaluated.

Here are some of the lowlights of HF 2095:

1) Corporations are people: '"Person" means an individual; as association or partnership; or a cooperative, municipal, public, or private corporation...'
2) Outsourcing the permit decision: Corporations (whoops, I meant people) can hire their own "permit application professionals" that have the power to submit a draft permit that is "deemed complete and approved" unless the agency denies it within 30 days. The Senate version of this bill would require the agency to find that the application was "clearly erroneous" to deny the permit. Who would the permit application professional serve? Not the people of Minnesota, but the corporation that hired them. This represents a colossal conflict of interest. The agency would then be on the clock to review a permit that they didn't write in a month.
3) Rewarding incomplete work: If an incomplete application for a permit is received, agencies would have 30 days to enumerate exactly how it is deficient. Fair enough, but the submission of an incomplete permit would also start a 150 day time window where a decision would have to be made about the application. In other words, you can submit an incomplete application and as soon as you push it across the desk, the state is on the clock to get you an answer. This provides a perverse incentive to submit incomplete applications.
4) Ten year feedlot permits: Under a provision added through an amendment today, feedlot permits would be issued for a decade.

DFL'ers on the committee offered amendments to remedy some of these problems in the bill but all were defeated on party line votes. Ultimately, HF 2095 was approved as amended, and is now heading to the House Jobs Committee.

The most telling moment of the hearing was when Chair Denny McNamara (R - Hastings) declared that there's nothing that the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency does that private contractors don't have the ability to do, and that we shouldn't be naive about the ability of private contractors to process these permit applications. Rep. John Persell (DFL - Bemidji) said he appreciated that comment, and said "I agree, let's not be naive."

Yes, let's not be naive. Ability has nothing to do with it, it's about whose interests are being served. Minnesota's environmental laws protect our air, water, and the property rights of those who live near the operations requiring a permit. Allowing corporations to hire their own regulators is hiring the fox to guard the chicken coop.

Follow me on Twitter @aaronklemz

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Voting for Jim Crow

According to a Hot Dish Politics post by Jim Ragsdale, the Senate Local Government and Elections Committee is poised to vote on Scott Newman's photo voter ID bill tomorrow, Wednesday, February 15th; the committee is set to meet at 1:00 PM.

Aaron and I were at the initial hearing on the bill before the committee; we posted brief interviews about the effect of the amendment on immigrant citizens and the homeless. We also wrote about it, here and here. Many people, the elderly, minorities, the poor, the disabled, immigrant citizens, former military people, the Minnesota Secretary of State's Office, all testified against the amendment.

But it will all come for naught, because you see, the preening, sarcastic and dismissive chair of the committee, Ray Vanderveer and the Republicans on the committee don't give the tiniest rat's ass about all the people it will disenfranchise. In fact, disenfranchisement is the whole point of the exercise.

If you have the smallest doubt about that, you just had to watch Vanderveer hold the initial session open two hours so that Dan McGrath of Minnesota Majority -- a self-description, by the way -- could sweep in and insult everybody who showed up on time by saying that he could only make it later because he had a job; the implication being that everyone else there was a mere layabout. And to witness the warm reception that Vanderveer gave McGrath.

This is the same Dan McGrath, by the way, who has been urging his slavering dogs to go to the League of Women Voters' programs about the disenfranchisement that will be wrought by the amendment, such as the one that will happen in Edina tomorrow (Wednesday) night, and to "confront and counter" the "propaganda" of the League. And the dogs obey.

Whatever shred of lingering doubt about the outcome you may still harbor will surely be erased by considering the remarks of Republican senators such as Carla Nelson from Rochester, so thoughtless or craven as to say, well, you need a photo ID to cash a check or get a library card. Let us hope she is merely ignorant of the fact that the right to vote is guaranteed as a constitutional right, as both a federal and a state matter; the right to cash a check or check books out of the library is not.

Or by considering the story that Nelson told about her dear old dad, who, on the outset of dementia, lost his driver's license; Nelson was told by dad's doctor to be sure to get an ID for him in case he wandered off. This, according to the choked-up Nelson, was the perfect metaphor for poor people; why, we'd be doing them a favor by making them get an ID!

It would be much easier to keep track of them, after all.

And so it will go, my friends, as this amendment winds its way through bilious Republican-controlled committee after committee, until it comes to rest as a blot on the entire Legislature -- and perhaps even our dear old Minnesota.

Sviggum finds yet another ethical gray area

“In 34 and a half years of public service, my ethics has [sic] never, ever, ever been questioned,” Sviggum said. “Nor will it be.”
Sviggum with gray background
New GOP Senate Caucus Communication Director Steve Sviggum has a long record of public service, but a short memory.

Today, Sviggum attempted to throw himself under the bus to protect the rest of the GOP Senate Caucus from the consequences of using Senate staff time and Senate copiers to run off 4800 copies of a "constituent piece" that included a link to a Minnesota Senate Republican Caucus fundraising site. On Monday, his boss Dave Senjem brushed off concerns about the piece. It had been vetted by the Senate's attorney, and everything was kosher. Late in the day on Tuesday, just minutes after a campaign finance complaint was filed, Sviggum changed his tune:
"While yesterday we had vetted the language of the piece as being within constituent service and being within appropriate legal and ethical outreach, the link to the website was wrong," Sviggum said. "That is my fault and my problem."
Something about this whole "but it was thoroughly vetted by the lawyers" thing seems familiar. I wonder why?

In regard to serving as a University of Minnesota Regent and working for the Republican Senate Caucus
"I vetted the policy up front. I clarified the policy with the [general counsel]. I clarified with the chair," Sviggum said.
Which drew the following rebuke by U of M General Counsel Mark Rotenberg, who supposedly "vetted" the policy:
"Regent Sviggum did not discuss the job or consult about it with either the chair or vice chair of the Board of Regents prior to taking the position. Nor did Regent Sviggum discuss taking this position with the university general counsel or seek his advice about doing so."
Sviggum's status as a Regent is still up in the air. So much for vetting.

Of course, this is on the heels of yet another conflict of interest that forced Sviggum to resign his position as a U of M Humphrey Institute fellow. Guess what? That was vetted too! The only problem was that the committee that reviewed his candidacy for Regent didn't know about his new job:
Sviggum was recruited to apply for a seat on the board, and maintains he was always open about his position at the U. The Regent Candidate Advisory Council sorts through names of potential regents and sends them on to lawmakers to make the final choice. Jane Belau, who chairs the group, said they knew Sviggum taught occasionally at the U. But he said Sviggum was identified as a candidate in January, and his role at the U was expanded a month later. "The council sent its names over before the contract was signed between Regent Sviggum and the University of Minnesota," Belau said.
Eventually, Regent Sviggum resigned his Humphrey job after being asked to step down. But Sviggum still insists that his dual role was proper:
“I think it was wrong. I think if you would have pressed it, there was no prohibition to being a legislative fellow. There was no prohibition to being a university employee. I had already been elected regent. I think if I’d pressed it through a court of law or a process … I think the rulings would have come my direction."
And since Sviggum brought it up, this recent string of actions in the gray areas of ethics and conflict of interest rules isn't just a recent thing. Back in 2003, then Speaker Sviggum was asked by three DFL legislators to recuse himself from decisions about ethanol since a farm he jointly owned with his brothers benefited from ethanol subsidies. Once again, Sviggum recognized the perception of a conflict but refused to recuse himself. His supervisor-to-be at his ill-fated Humphrey job came to his defense (as he would again 8 years later):
University of Minnesota political science professor Larry Jacobs says he doesn't think Sviggum is violating any ethics rules. He says Sviggum's case falls into a "gray area." 
There's that phrase again. But let's remember:
“In 34 and a half years of public service, my ethics has [sic] never, ever, ever been questioned,” Sviggum said. “Nor will it be.” 
 Follow me on Twitter @aaronklemz

Monday, February 13, 2012

Bachmann and Cain on Dancing with the Stars?

In the "too bizarre to be real" category, KSTP is reporting that Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain are being considered for the next season of Dancing with the Stars.

This is a bad decision by the show. Everyone knows that Marcus is the best dancer in the family.

Marcus Bachmann in "Believe" from city pages on Vimeo.

Follow me on Twitter @aaronklemz

Who's doing the energy lobbying?

"Traditional Sources of Energy" circa 1939 | Credit: LOC
The Freedom Foundation of Minnesota released a "report" today that purports to document a shadowy conspiracy of clean energy lobbyists attempting to "rewrite Minnesota environmental policy."
A Freedom Foundation of Minnesota (FFM) investigation reveals that nine national foundations have steered $48 million in funding to more than 40 non-profits and local governments since 2003 in an aggressive campaign to radically rewrite Minnesota environmental policy.
Ooh, that sounds like a travesty. But wait, it gets even more dangerous:
In Minnesota, RE-AMP-supported nonprofits have registered dozens of lobbyists to become a major force at the Minnesota Capitol, according to state records. The group’s legislative muscle helped pass a series of far-reaching environmental laws capped by the 2007 Minnesota Next Generation Act, which included the Midwest’s most stringent mandates on carbon emissions, renewable energy and efficiency.
Oh no, "dozens of lobbyists?" "Major force" at the Capitol? If only someone would defend utility companies and coal and oil interests from this onslaught of green!

Let's look a little closer at some real numbers about energy lobbying in St. Paul. If you take all of the nonprofits in the Freedom Foundation report (excluding Minnesota Public Radio, who lobbies for a lot of things, but clean energy's not really one of them) and add up all of their lobbying spending from 2005-2010, it totals $3.9 million. Compared to a combined $23.9 million spent by utilities and fossil fuel companies over the same period, it's clear that the greens are obliterating the defenseless energy companies.

The largest lobbying presence at the Capitol in 2010 was Xcel Energy, and that's been true for a long time. In fact, over the same 2005-2010 period, Xcel alone spent over $10.6 million lobbying in Minnesota. When you combine that with another $9.36 million spent on lobbying the U.S. Congress (search for Registrant = Xcel) over the same period, you get $20 million.

I'm glad that the Freedom Foundation of Minnesota is reminding people that energy lobbying happens at the Capitol. But the idea that it's a shadowy network of nonprofits and green activists who have the upper hand is one of the most laughable ideas I've heard in a long time.

Follow me on Twitter @aaronklemz

Not Almanac 2/13/12

The next episode of Not Almanac is cooked and ready! This week we talk about bullshit (specifically Republican bullshit), that ALEC fellow (whoever he is), Governor Dayton's increasingly sharp elbows, and design in politics with our guest Jesse Ross.

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Sunday, February 12, 2012

The contradictions of Cravaack Country

If you haven't already read the excellent New York Times piece about the cognitive dissonance of Chisago County residents when it comes to government spending, you ought to. This article and the interviews that built it are a Rosetta Stone for understanding Tea Party conservatives who believe in cutting government spending.

Lindstrom Teapot Water Tower | Credit: J. Stephen Conn
Interviewing residents of North Branch, Lindstrom, Harris and Taylors Falls, the authors of this piece encounter a contradiction. The same people who profess to be for deep cuts in government spending are personally benefitting from that spending. A Lindstrom screenprinter who made t-shirts for Cravaack's campaign receives the Earned Income Tax Credit and free lunches for his school-aged children. A Harris tattoo artist complains about people on disability buying tattoos at his shop, saying "I can't afford new shoes like they have." His sister, disabled after suffering from a brain tumor, lives in an assisted-living facility at taxpayer expense. All of these folks are aware of the tension between their desire to cut government spending and the benefits that they and their loved ones receive from government health care programs, Social Security, and income support.

How they resolve this tension is the interesting part. There are several responses:
1) I earned it.
2) I'll never ask for government help, even if I need it.
3) I didn't ask for these programs, but since they exist I'll use them, even though I disagree with them. I could get by without them if I needed to.
4) I and/or my family benefit from these programs, but other people abuse the system. We need to cut the wrong people off from government spending so that we can save it for the right people. 
All of these seem like distinct reasons, but they have a common root; the belief that "others" are abusing the system. Not me! I earned it, but "others" didn't. I didn't ask for it, and "others" are taking advantage of the system. Even the apparently consistent #2 fundamentally misunderstands the nature of a social safety net. If push comes to shove and you have to make a choice between your sick child and your abhorrence of government, you'll probably turn to #4 as your justification.

The brilliance of this article is that it forces the realization that the "others" are all around the Tea Party rugged individualists. They are the people you know and care about, your mentally disabled sister, your school-aged children, your elderly parents.

The belief that "others" abuse the system (while you use it for the right reasons) is one linchpin belief that allows Tea Partiers to manage the cognitive dissonance created by the inconsistency of their belief in the need for spending cuts and their actions that rely on government spending. Another defense mechanism is a highly distorted version of what the government actually spends on a variety of programs.

How does one fight this dissonance? How can you force the realization that it's spending on us, not spending on others? And how do you correct the misperceptions about the nature of government spending and the causes of the deficit? That's the subject for my next post, which will summarize some of the social science research into cognitive dissonance and how it might provide a blueprint for reaching these voters.

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Friday, February 10, 2012

Either David Senjem

Clueless Dave
Either David Senjem is lying, or he is the most clueless chump to ever be the Majority Leader of the Minnesota Senate. It's a horse apiece, I guess.

Doug Grow reports at MinnPost that Senjem claims he didn't know that any Senators were members of ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council. Just off the top of my head: Roger Chamberlain, Gen Olson (President Pro Tem of the Senate), John Howe, Gretchen Hoffman, and Chris Gerlach (former whip who sat with Senjem in the presser condemning Amy Koch) are all members of ALEC. There are undoubtedly more.

Okay, I had to look up Olson.

Senjem's protestation of ignorance innocence about senators in ALEC was made in response to the veto of four "tort reform" bills that Governor Dayton vetoed and issued a sharp rebuke to the Legislature in doing so. These were ALEC favorites, and Dayton pointed that out in a briefing to announce the vetoes. To the claim these were "jobs" bills, Grow reports:
"These were laughably characterized as jobs bills," Dayton said. "Calling a crow a swan doesn’t make it one."
Speaker Kurt "Voting is a Privilege" Zellers said that 62,000 business owners requested the law changed in the bills. A list, Mr. Speaker?

Sen. Juliane Ortman claimed that the bills were based on her courtroom experiences. Perhaps new Deputy Ortman would be so good as to jot off the case names so we can look them up. Seriously.

It is clear that Republican bullshit proceeded apace this week.

The cherry on top of this bullshit split, though, was Dave Senjem's plea to the governor to "put down the spears."

You first, Dave.

Homeless citizens and photo voter ID

At the hearing on the proposed constitutional amendment to require a photo voter ID in Minnesota, held on February 1st before the Senate Elections Committee, Kenza Hadj-Moussa, Communications & Development Director for the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless, was one of the witnesses.

Aaron Klemz and I did an interview of Kenza before the hearing.

You can find out more about the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless here.

The music clip from the opening credits is from Ibrahim Ferrer of the Buena Vista Social Club, "Candela."

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Not Almanac Episode 3

In Episode 3 of Not Almanac, Tony Petrangelo and I discuss the Voter ID hearings at the Capitol last week, money and rumors in the DFL CD3 and CD8 races, the need for a GOP "On Notice" board, and speculate who might be next on the confirmation watch list.

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Thanks to all of the listeners to the first two episodes, we're over a thousand hits already! If you like what you hear, please share it with others. 

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