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The MPCA’s Special Interests’ Citizens Board held its final meeting Tuesday. It was a bittersweet day, depending on your political persuasion. For environmental activists, it was a bitter ending. For people that believe in holding government accountable, it was a beautiful sight. First, let’s listen to the special interests’ whining:

“Dissolving the Citizens’ Board is bad for rural and metro Minnesota,” said Kathy DeBuhr at a protest before the board’s final meeting Tuesday morning. “This legislature has taken away the voice of the common person. The little guy.”

DeBuhr was among those who protested a proposed 9,000-cow “mega-dairy feedlot” in western Minnesota in 2014. In a controversial move, the Citizens’ Board ordered the dairy operation to seek an expensive and time-consuming environmental impact statement even though MPCA staff had not ordered one. The dairy ultimately decided not to go forward with the project.

Ms. DeBuhr’s whining is annoying at best. This wasn’t a panel of ordinary citizens. It was an activist board. The fact that they ran off a major dairy operation after the operation had gotten its permits from the MPCA speaks to their activism.

Further, what type of citizens panel reserves a spot for a union member? The Board had a member of Duluth’s Transit Authority and an “agriculture representative”, too. I still haven’t heard anyone explain why there’s a need for a citizens panel. Isn’t the MPCA doing its job properly? If it isn’t, shouldn’t the MPCA be overhauled or outright abolished?

The Citizens’ Board was established to guard against undue political influence of the agency and to create a public and transparent decision making process on controversial issues. Supporters of the board say its abolishment will remove the final public process for environmental review and permitting actions for industry and factory farms.

The notion that the Citizens Board was impartial is absurd. It wasn’t. It was filled with activists. As for the statement that this removes “the final public process for environmental review and permitting,” that’s a bit melodramatic. Why is it necessary for limitless environmental reviews?

If anyone needed confirmation that the Iron Range thinks that they’re being treated like second class citizens by Metrocrats like John Marty, this week’s Onions ‘N Orchids might provide some of that proof:

Orchids: To the DFL Iron Range Delegation. You all did an exceptionally good job representing corporate mining and corporate agricultural interests during the recently ended legislative session. You pulled the rug out from beneath the feet of Democratic Gov. Dayton. Being Democrats in name only, it would be appropriate now for you folks, led by Sen. Bakk, to either retire or switch to the Republican Party. That would at least give us voters a choice in the 2016 elections. Let’s get some Democrats back in office from the Iron Range.

Orchids: To Tom Bakk for standing up to and beating John Marty and the green metro liberals; so-called allies and friends of the Iron Range, but they are nothing but a bunch of back stabbers. Jerry Janezich sold his Iron Range heritage and bent his knees to the Green Liberals, even traveled to Seattle, Wash. to march and protest against industry with them. Where did it get him? Nowhere!

I get it that that first ‘orchid’ is sarcastic. Calling Bakk a “Democrat in name only” is proof that the Metro DFL has lost its mind. Apparently with them, it’s their way 100% of the time or they’ll excommunicate the heretics from the DFL.

Let’s get something straight. John Marty is upset because the MPCA’s Citizens Board soon won’t exist. That’s a great thing. Lots of businesses have followed the law and gotten their MPCA permits, only to have the Citizens Board reject the approved permit. Contrary to Sen. Marty’s contention that they were just a bunch of citizens reviewing the MPCA’s work, they were environmental saboteurs.

They’re most famous for sabotaging 2 major dairy farm projects. Thanks to the anything-but-Citizens-Board, those farms are now located outside of Minnesota. Though these were the highest profile cases of environmental sabotage, they weren’t the only cases.

The question now confronting suburban voters is whether they’ll support DFL politicians that support the DFL’s radical environmental agenda. Do they really think that’s in their best interest?

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Rep. Jennifer Schultz’s op-ed is yet another op-ed that discounts Gov. Dayton’s disastrous decisions:

On Friday, the Minnesota Legislature held a special session that concluded a disappointing year. Like most Minnesotans, I was not pleased the Legislature was unable to conclude its business on time or with the content of the resulting compromise bills.

Let’s modify Rep. Schultz’s statement to fit with reality. Here’s what it would say if it was accurate:

On Friday, the Minnesota Legislature held a special session that concluded a disappointing year. Like most Minnesotans, I was not pleased that Gov. Dayton wasted the last week of the regular session negotiating 2 budget bills. When Speaker Daudt and Sen. Bakk booted Gov. Dayton from the room that Friday afternoon, they negotiated and finalized the other 4 budget bills in less than 2 hours. That says everything about who’s to blame for the special session.

Let’s be blunt. There were rumors swirling around the Capitol the last 2 weeks of the session that the DFL thought that they could win the government shutdown if it happened. Gov. Dayton spent an entire week fighting for bills that went nowhere. When Gov. Dayton left the room, Speaker Daudt and Sen. Bakk finished the budget in what was left of that Friday afternoon.

Most disappointing was the ongoing failure to address the issue of transportation infrastructure. In greater Minnesota, we are used to living at the end of a very long road to anywhere, but we would like that road to be safe and efficient for our businesses and people. A bipartisan commission worked hard to develop a plan to solve the problems that a decade of neglect of transportation infrastructure left us and to create the new infrastructure we need to prosper in the 21st century. This is critical for the economic growth of the state and especially of our area but has been derailed by shortsighted demands for a free lunch and refusals to create the revenue streams needed.

The DFL’s insistence that another tax increase was required stopped transportation dead in its tracks. The Republicans’ plan showed that a tax increase wasn’t required. There isn’t a compromise position on this issue. There will either be a tax increase or there won’t. When a tax increase isn’t needed, taxes shouldn’t be increased.

Further, Gov. Dayton, Sen. Bakk, Sen. Dibble and Move MN pushed a plan that didn’t prioritize fixing Minnesota’s potholed roads. I won’t shed a tear that the DFL coalition’s plan didn’t pass. Gov. Dayton and the DFL should’ve listened to the people, not the lobbyists.

If Rep. Schultz wants to blame someone for this session, she should blame Gov. Dayton.

In a session that saw tons of weird things happen, finding out that Sen. John Marty and other Twin Cities DFL senators tried ousting Sen. Bakk as majority leader ranks right up there:

ST. PAUL — How successful of a job did Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk of Cook do for the Iron Range while also being a key player in making split government in Minnesota work? Well, some disgruntled DFL liberal legislators from the Twin Cities area tried to unseat him in caucus as leader of the majority party in the Senate.

Their attempted DFL coup in the early morning hours of the Saturday finale of the 2015 legislative special session fizzled like a bad fuse on an unexploded firecracker. Bakk’s support within the caucus was unwavering.

The Senate majority leader told the Mesabi Daily News Saturday afternoon that while he preferred not to comment directly about the caucus dust-up, he was pleased with the intra-Senate DFL backing he received and also his role in a session that relied for success on bipartisan partnerships with the GOP House majority.

By now, saying that the DFL is fractured isn’t news. That’s been established for at least a month. In fact, we’ve known that the split is essentially a geographic split.

It isn’t hyperbole to say that the Metro DFL, in their minds, have put up with Range DFLers on environmental views because they needed the Range delegation’s votes on their economic policies. This feud was obvious during the DFL’s 2014 State Convention. That’s when the Twin Cities activists, led by DFL State Chairman Ken Martin, fought off a resolution saying that the DFL supports mining. When that was deemed too controversial, it was clear that a fight was brewing.

It looks like the special session was when the fuse reached the explosive.

This should make for an interesting session in 2016. Sen. Bakk doesn’t strike me as someone who forgets these things quickly.

UPDATE: Briana Bierschbach’s post says that the DFL caucus discussion about whether Sen. Bakk should continue happened after the special session had adjourned:

ST. PAUL — The Minnesota House and Senate had adjourned their one-day special session to finish passing the state budget and most lawmakers had gone home, but at 3 a.m. Saturday Senate Democrats were just getting started.

I was originally told that it happened after the Agriculture/Environment Bill had been defeated. This explanation makes more sense. Consider this my correction to my original post.

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This morning, the St. Cloud Times’ Our View editorial couldn’t get it more wrong:

Seriously, short of breaking the two-party stranglehold on state government, this session stands as Minnesota’s poster child for reforming a budget-building process that’s come to rely on procrastination as a feeble excuse for letting a handful of 202 elected officials (201 legislators and one governor) make closed-door budget deals as time expires. Or, this year, afterward.

More transparency is the best solution.

This isn’t an argument against transparency. It’s an argument that ideology, not transparency, drove the special session. Time after time, Gov. Dayton pushed items from the DFL’s special interest wish list. While neither party is immune to pushing things too far, it’s indisputable that the DFL pushed it too hard this session. In fact, I’d argue that the DFL got used to pushing things too far in 2013-14, then didn’t adjust to divided government this year.

Gov. Dayton insisted on a trifecta of bad ideas. First, Gov. Dayton insisted on a major gas tax increase that Minnesotans vehemently opposed. Next, Gov. Dayton insisted on universal pre-k. Even after experts said that wasn’t sustainable, Gov. Dayton didn’t relent until a week later. Finally, Gov. Dayton insisted that the legislature repeal the partial privatization of the Auditor’s office a week after Gov. Dayton signed the bill.

The gas tax increase was a disaster waiting to happen. Three-fourths of Minnesotans opposed the tax increase. That didn’t stop Gov. Dayton from harshly criticizing people opposed to his gas tax increase. When he dug in his heels, Gov. Dayton poisoned the well.

Later, Gov. Dayton insisted on universal pre-K. Even after Art Rolnick showed how expensive it was and how many hidden property tax increases and unfunded mandates were hidden in the bill, Gov. Dayton still pushed the bill in his attempt to pay off his allies at Education Minnesota.

Third, Gov. Dayton pushed that the legislature repeal the statute that gave counties the option of hiring a private CPA to audit their county. That was an especially tricky position to defend since 28 counties already have that option.

Ideology, not a lack of transparency, pushed events in the Legislature.

It’s been years since the regular session of the Minnesota Legislature was this ‘colorful’. It didn’t take long for the fireworks to start, which leads into the regular session’s losers list:

  1. Mark Dayton — Dayton announced that he was unbound now that he’d run his last campaign. It didn’t take long before we learned that that meant he’d start lobbing grenades at whoever got him upset. Tom Bakk ambushed him on the commissioners pay raises. Sen. Bakk, here’s your grenade. Republicans proposed a new way to fund fixing Minnesota’s potholed roads. Here’s your grenade. Gov. Dayton also misread the Republicans and Kurt Daudt. He thought he could bully them into compliance. Though his bullying was ever-present, it didn’t move Republicans because their agenda was popular with Minnesotans. Gov. Dayton never figured that out. He’s still whining about it after the special session.
  2. Tom Bakk — Sen. Bakk ambushed Gov. Dayton on the commissioners pay raises but he didn’t do it until they became unpopular with Minnesotans. Sen. Bakk’s ambush smacked more of political opportunism than voicing displeasure with a bad policy. That was especially true when a reporter actually pointed out that Sen. Bakk voted for the pay raises. Sen. Bakk got stung hard when Gov. Dayton accused him of stabbing him in the back. Later, Gov. Dayton said that he trusted Speaker Daudt more than he trusted Sen. Bakk. FYI- That wound never healed. I don’t know that it ever will.
  3. Metrocrats — They came in with high expectations. Tina Flint-Smith was the new Lt. Governor. They had a bold progressive spending agenda. By the time the session was over, Rep. Thissen’s face was more likely to be seen on milk cartons than at negotiating sessions.
  4. Move MN — They fought for a gas tax increase. They lobbied both caucuses hard, sometimes sneakily. In the end, they got their lunch handed to them.
  5. Brian McDaniel — Brian McDaniel isn’t a household name to most Minnesotans but he’s known by political nerds like me. McDaniel is Republican lobbyist who lobbied for the aforementioned gas tax increase. What’s worst is that he didn’t disclose that he was lobbying for Move MN when he went on Almanac or At Issue. That’s definitely unethical.
  6. Keith Downey — His ‘Send it all back’ tax refund campaign was a disaster. He knew that a $2,000,000,000 tax cut didn’t have a chance of passing. Period. When he appeared in the ad himself, he made himself the face of opposition to the House Republicans’ agenda. The Twin Cities media had a field day playing up that dispute.

I’m sure there were other losers during the regular session but that’s my list. If you want to add to this list or if you want to disagree with me, knock yourself out.

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There was just so much to Prof. David Schultz’s post that it required a Part II. Let’s pick up where Part I left off:

But if Bill Clinton’s presidency did not kill off this type of progressive politics, surely Barack Obama has. If Obama did not do it directly, he did so indirectly with the 2010 and 2014 backlashes against him that has done more to kill progressive politics than can be imagined. With less than two years to go Obama is liberated and you would think he would be more bold, but he is not. Why? He never was the liberal folks wanted to believe. In 2008 his liberalism was far distant to the right compared to Dennis Kucinich and even John Edwards.

President Obama’s agenda was the farthest left agenda in presidential history. Further, President Obama’s utter disdain for the legislative process and the Constitution’s Separation of Powers clause aren’t ideological matters as much as they are a matter of President Obama’s lawlessness. It isn’t difficult to make a powerful case that President Obama is both the most incompetent president in the last century and the most lawless president in recent history. Yes, that’s including Richard Nixon.

There’s a difference between Bill Clinton and President Obama that’s worth noting. Bill Clinton was a policy wonk. The economy grew during his administration. President Obama was a community organizer. His economic record is spotty at best. FYI for Prof. Schultz- Hillary isn’t a policy wonk nor is she a community organizer. She’s a machine politician. Check Baltimore and Detroit for how well machine politicians do.

Mark Dayton gets nothing his first year in office then supports corporate welfare for the billionaire Vikings owner. Now again in 2014 he gives in and Tom Bakk is complicit. Progressives are on the run everywhere. It is not just on matters of public policy such as with taxes, government regulation, and health care, but also in the rhetorical battle for the hearts and minds of the people. You can’t even call yourself a liberal anymore without being red baited. Thus the reason for switching to the term progressive. Conservatives have successfully labeled as left or socialist anyone who does not agree with them.

A little paranoia and a ton of frustration goes a long way. Wow. People are growing tired of the left’s dishonest attacks and failed policies.

People see the smoldering refuse that is Baltimore. They’ve noticed that Detroit is an eyesore, too. Cities across the country from California to Illinois to the East Coast are getting noticed for their pension problems. Collectivism is failing all across the nation. It’s difficult to defend failure when those failures are showing up on the nightly news 2-3 times a week. Good policies make for good politics. Lately, progressive policies have stunk.

This is frightening:

Fourth, conservatives understand how to make structural reforms and policy changes that both benefit their supporters and enhance their power. Tax cuts and cuts in regulation are simple ways to benefit supporters, but there is more. Voter ID disempowers their opposition, attacking union rights undercuts labor support for Democrats and opposition to business in the workplace, and gutting regulations on money in politics strengthens corporations and rich individuals. Obama’s biggest mistake in his first two years was his failure to act accordingly. Instead of health care reform he should have used his sizable majorities in Congress to support the Employee Free Choice Act to strengthen unions, adopt national legislation banning voter ID and permitting day of election registration in federal elections, and adopting real Wall Street and bank reforms that would have limited their power, including reauthorizing Glass-Steagall.

President Obama’s regulatory overreach was designed to cripple miners. That’s because President Obama’s hostility towards blue collar America has been evident throughout his political career. As for federal legislation banning Photo ID, that’s frightening coming from a college professor with a law degree. On April 28, 2008, the Supreme Court ruled (in Crawford v. the Marion County Board of Elections) that photo ID wasn’t a poll tax, which meant it was legal. Justice John Paul Stevens wrote in his majority opinion that “Under Harper, even rational restrictions on the right to vote are invidious if they are unrelated to voter qualifications. However,
‘even handed restrictions’ protecting the ‘integrity and reliability of the electoral process itself’ satisfy Harper’s standard.”

Justice Stevens highlighted the fact that protecting election integrity is a compelling reason for implementing photo ID. That refutes Prof. Schultz’s ill-informed statement that “Voter ID disempowers [the Republicans’] opposition.” If Prof. Schultz wants to argue that Justice Stevens is a hard right ideologue, I’ll just wish him good luck with that project. He’ll need it.

If there’s a central theme to David Schultz’s post, it’s that liberalism has died. If he would’ve called me, I could’ve told him that. Liberalism is dead in the Democratic Party. It’s been replaced by collectivism and progressivism. In the late 1970s, the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan declared that the Democratic had stopped being the party of ideas. He was right. Prof. Schultz apparently is just noticing:

What the hell ever happened to progressive politics and liberalism in the Democratic Party?

When I first moved out here DFLers bowed to the memory of Humphrey, McCarthy, Freeman, and Mondale. Later they added to that Wellstone. But such homage is living in past, shallow in the sense that the DFL today lacks the courage of the convictions it once had. The same is true for Democrats at the national level.

It’s clear that Prof. Schultz is extremely agitated. Look at the number of punctuation mistakes that are contained in those 71 words. But I digress.

If Prof. Schultz hasn’t noticed that the DFL locally and the Democratic Party nationally have become political machines only, then I question whether he has the expertise to be a college professor. While there’s no question that Prof. Schultz is a lefty, there’s a question about whether he’s thought things through. In case he hadn’t noticed, machine politics has failed. Detroit and Baltimore are prime examples of machine politics failing nationally. Duluth and the Iron Range are perfect examples of how progressive machine politics has failed in Minnesota.

In Minnesota a governor who just a few months was heralded in the national media as the most liberal one in America who got the job done, just folded to the Republicans on almost any measure. The giveaways on the environment, gun silencers, gutting the State Auditor’s office, and retreating on universal pre-K send signals that Republicans can win if they hold long enough. And then there is Senate majority Leader Tom Bakk- why he is a Democrat is anyone’s guess. His leadership was deplorable, his messaging horrific, and his negotiating skills next to none. If he thinks that his capitulation will defend and protect Senate seats in 2016 he is simply wrong. His gaffes and missteps only make suburban DFLers more vulnerable and he has done nothing to convince rural voters to support Democrats. He made the classic mistake Democrats have made for so long, believing that by acting like Republicans they are more electable. The reality is that the more the Democrat brand is muddled and undistinguished the harder it is to win an election.

Actually, Gov. Dayton giving up on universal pre-K was mostly a matter of Republicans having the superior argument. (Apparently, public policy isn’t Prof. Schultz’s strong suit.) Ditto with the MPCA’s Citizens Board. There simply wasn’t a justification for what is essentially a patronage board with real life implications. The Citizens Board didn’t serve a useful function.

Prof. Schultz, when you fight for bad policies, don’t be surprised if you lose. This year, the DFL fought for one terrible idea after another. The DFL came into this session thinking that they could just force House Republicans into capitulating. That was a big mistake.

The politics that looks dead is good old-fashioned economic liberalism. The progressive politics that appears dead is that of Lyndon Johnson, John Kennedy, Franklin Roosevelt, and even Teddy Roosevelt. It is about the Great Society and the New Deal. It is about redistributive politics that sought to raise those at the economic bottom, narrow the gap between the rich and poor, and wrestle control of political power in the United States from corporations and plutocrats. It was a commitment to believing that the government had an important role in make sure we had a nation that was not one-third ill-fed, ill-clothed, and ill-housed, that kids should not go off to school hungry, and that corporations should not have the same rights as people.

That’s stunning. The Democrats sold their soul to the corporations. Think Christopher Dodd, Bill and Hillary Clinton, not to mention Barack Obama. They’re frequently feeding at the corporate trough.

That Prof. Schultz is just noticing these developments now says that he should’ve taken off his rose-colored glasses a generation ago.

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I’ve written quite a few things about the Agriculture/Environment Bill today. Specifically, I’ve written quite a bit about the MPCA’s Citizens Board. Since I didn’t do this before, let’s start with a little background on the Citizens Board. First, there’s this:

One member of the Citizens Board must be a representative of organized labor.”

That’s from the MPCA’s website. This isn’t speculation. If this is an oversight board, what does a union representative bring to the equation? That sounds more like a political payoff than anything else. Kathryn Draeger is the ‘agriculture representative’ while Dennis Jensen is the GM of the Duluth Transit Authority. Other than that, they don’t look like they bring any expertise to the situation. I’d bet a dollar on doughnuts that most of the rest of the board are environmental activists that lack the expertise required to handle complex environmental issues.

I certainly don’t want unskilled activists overruling the professionals at the MPCA. I don’t trust the MPCA but I definitely don’t trust amateur activists.

Getting rid of these activists means that environmental organizations can’t change the MPCA’s rulings. It’s just wrong that an agency that deals with complex issues can be overridden by anyone, much less by a panel of amateur activists.

Any opportunity that we have to streamline government and eliminate the opportunity for progressive obstructionists to cause trouble, it’s worth jumping on. Last night, Republicans made the most of their opportunity. They should be congratulated for this accomplishment.

When the final curtain fell on this year’s special session, the politicians and activists who lost the most were easy to identify. By the way, I’m applying a liberal definition to the term Special Session. In this instance alone, I’m talking anything after the end of the regular session. Let’s get started:

  1. Tom Bakk — The day started with environmental activists pretty much hating him. Things didn’t get better for him. After that, he lost credibility when he broke the agreement he signed before the session. Nobody trusts him now. Progressive bloggers started a petition calling for his resignation as Majority Leader…before the session. By the end of the Special Session, that petition had 584 signatures on it.
  2. Gov. Dayton — Prior to the session, he fought for removing the Citizen Board language from the Ag/Environment bill. He lost on that. He fought for universal pre-K. He lost on that. He fought for restoring the State Auditor’s responsibilities. He lost there, too.
  3. John Marty — After they defeated the Ag/Environment bill, he was gloating. When the House restored the bill’s original language and returned it to the Senate, the gloating was over.
  4. Environmental activists — see description from Sen. Marty.
  5. Tina Smith — Her negotiations yielded nothing. Whether she has a prominent role going forward or not, she took a hit this session. Whether she recovers remains to be seen.
  6. Senate DFL — Though they were the majority, they didn’t deliver on many of their priorities. They certainly lost on raising the gas tax in the regular session. Then they couldn’t hold onto the one victory they won yesterday.

I’d recommend Sen. Bakk hire a food taster for the summer. Saying that he isn’t popular with the base is understatement. Couple that with the fact that Rangers aren’t popular with the Metrocrats and you’ve got a recipe for a relationship on the rocks.

Finally, I’d note that “Dayton unbound” was an unmitigated disaster for the DFL. He poisoned the relationship with the Senate just as much as Sen. Bakk burned the bridge between the Senate and Gov. Dayton. He lost his likability by being unbound. Then he lost credibility when he kept moving the goalposts. The shifting goalposts, it should be noted, were at least partially caused by Lt. Gov. Smith.