Archive for the ‘Tom Bakk’ Category

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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Laurel Beager’s interview with Sen. Bakk highlights Sen. Bakk’s disconnect with reality. Nothing demonstrates that better than this paragraph:

Some of the disappointment of the session may stem from high expectations going into the session, he said. “We came off a tremendously successful biennium in 2013-14 with a Democratic House, a Democratic Senate and Democratic governor. We did things that were historic.”

After the all-DFL government, voters threw out the DFL House majority. They didn’t see it as “a tremendously successful biennium,” which is the only opinion that matters. Further, Speaker Daudt is viewed as the most popular legislator in the state from either party. It isn’t really close.

That’s especially true considering the fact that DFL senators tried throwing Bakk out as Senate Majority Leader during Friday night’s special session. Add into that equation the fact that some progressive bloggers started a petition to remove Sen. Bakk as Majority Leader. That petition had 584 signatures 24 hours later.

Sen. Bakk survived the hostile takeover but that’s hardly proof that he’s heading into a calm 2016 session. The same bloggers that wanted Bakk gone as Senate Majority Leader were upset with the news that he’d negotiated a tax relief package with Sen. David Hann, the Senate Minority Leader. After sessions like that, it isn’t surprising that Sen. Bakk got out of St. Paul in a hurry:

After Sen. Majority Leader Tom Bakk traded his suit for jeans, got in his car and headed north at 6 a.m. Saturday following adjournment of the special session, he said he became incredibly emotional.

“You’ve been so wrapped up in everything for five and half months you can’t help but reflect on what happened, what didn’t happen and the things you could have done differently to get maybe a little better outcome. Because it can always be better,” he said. Three and a half hours later, when he arrives at his home in Cook, he’s emotionally exhausted. The leader of the Minnesota Senate must be deep in the trenches of the session and he said he’s emotionally and physically exhausted.

He then heads for some time at the lake cabin. “I can get away from the phones, the mail, and just watch a bobber for a couple days,” he said.

For someone who’s been ambushed and who’s done some ambushing, I can imagine him wanting nothing to do with St. Paul for a while.

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.

I will be on Ox in the Afternoon today at 3:10 to talk about the attempted ousting of Sen. Bakk as Senate Majority Leader. Follow this link to listen to KNSI’s livestream if you live outside KNSI’s usual broadcasting range.

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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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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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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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.

Now that the Special Session is history, it’s time to reflect on what happened. The best way I know how to do that is by identifying the Sessions winners and losers. This post will deal with the winners.

  1. Kurt Daudt — He was simply masterful throughout. He proved to be a master negotiator, which nobody predicted going against Sen. Bakk. Late in last night’s special session, after the Senate had stripped out the House Republicans’ reforms and the DFL passed the amended bill, the decision was made in Caucus to restore the original bill, pass it and send it back to the Senate. House Environment Chairman Denny MacNamara offered an amendment to essentially restore the bill. After that, the outcome of the session was virtually sealed. Speaker Daudt gets credit for having the spine to insist on the bill’s original language.
  2. David Hann — Sen. Hann played a key role in getting the Ag/Environment bill passed. After the bill was originally defeated, Sen. Hann spoke with Sen. Bakk about winning some GOP votes this session by promising to pass tax relief. That was the right elixir. The first time the Senate voted on the Ag/Environment Bill, it failed by a 33-32 margin. When it returned from the House, several procedural votes happened first. Sen. Marty made a motion to not concur with the bill. Had that passed, the bill would’ve gone into conference committee. It was defeated 38-29. Next, Sen. Tomassoni, a DFL senator from the Range, made a motion to concur. That passed 40-26. That passed with 7 more votes than it got the first time. Sen. Hann got those extra votes by negotiating a tax relief bill for the 2016 session. After that, it was all over except the special interests’ whining. The vote on final passage was 38-29. The whining went into full whine at that point.
  3. Denny MacNamara — his amendment on the Ag/Environment Bill was the straw that broke the environmental activists’ back. I was following the session through Twitter. The minute the bill got to the Senate, environmental activist organizations like the Minnesota Environmental Partnership and the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, aka MEP and MCEA respectively, started whining. The bloggers at MNPact started whining, too.
  4. Jennifer Loon — She shepherded the K-12 bill throughout and brought it home without a hitch.

The entire GOP Caucus, both in the House and Senate, deserve an honorable mention. They didn’t back down. They fought for reforms that took power out of the hands of special interests and won. They even won on education spending and policy. When’s the last time that could be said?

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Prior to the start of Friday’s special session, Speaker Daudt, Rep. Thissen, Sen. Hann and Sen. Bakk signed an agreement with Gov. Dayton to pass the bills that they agreed to. Part of that agreement was that neither body would amend the bills that were pre-written and posted on the legislative website.

When Sen. Bakk couldn’t deliver enough votes to pass the Ag/Environment bill, the environmental activists pushed him to amend the bill to strip out 2 important reforms from the bill. The biggest reform was eliminating the Citizens Board, which can overturn decisions that the MPCA has made. When Sen. Bakk caved to the environmental activists demands, the bill went to the Senate floor, where it passed without Republican votes.

What happened next was that the House amended the amended Ag/Environment bill, putting the agreed-upon language back into the bill. The MacNamara Amendment passed by a 73-52 vote:

After the amendment passed, the House passed the bill by a 78-47 margin. Shortly thereafter, Speaker Daudt issued this statement:

“This is a responsible bill that meets the needs of our state agencies such as the Department of Natural Resources and the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources,” said State Representative Denny McNamara (R-Hastings), who chairs the Minnesota House Environment and Natural Resources Policy and Finance Committee. “The bill also includes a number of policy reforms and initiatives that have bipartisan support.”

After the Senate changed the agreed-upon language of the legislation, the House moved to restore the original language. “By passing this legislation, we are honoring the commitment we made to Minnesotans with the four legislative leaders and the governor. Now the Senate has the opportunity to do the right thing and send this bill to the governor,” said House Speaker Kurt Daudt (R-Crown).

“When this bill becomes law, Minnesota will be able to continue to protect and preserve its food supply, make needed investments in research, and have the funds necessary to respond to the avian flu outbreak.” said State Representative Rod Hamilton (R-Mountain Lake), chair of the Minnesota House Agriculture Finance Committee.

The legislation funds state agencies such as the Department of Agriculture, the Agriculture Utilization Research Institute, the Board of Animal Health, Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), Minnesota Zoo, Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Metropolitan Council – Regional Parks, Minnesota Conservation Corps, Board of Soil and Water Resources (BWSR), and the Science Museum of Minnesota for the 2016-17 budget cycle.

Highlights of the omnibus agriculture, environment and natural resources finance bill include:

  1. Providing nearly $23 million to state agencies in order to better prevent and respond to the avian influenza outbreak that has devastated Minnesota turkey flocks
  2. Creating a new grant program for cities with a population of less than 45,000 in Greater Minnesota to incentivize single stream and other recycling programs.
  3. Increasing funding for Soil and Water Conservation districts to fund more “on the ground” projects.
  4. Providing much-needed reforms to the Wetland Conservation Act, which were developed over the past year and are a consensus of interested parties (such as groups representing farmers and environmentalists).
  5. Approving an initiative that builds on the successful example of counties and landowners that have used a voluntary and locally based process to install buffers to enhance water and soil protection.
  6. Repealing the current ‘Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) Trailer Sticker/Decal’ law, and replacing it with a requirement that the boat owner sign an affirmation stating they will abide by AIS laws.

This has been a ‘session from hell’ for Sen. Bakk. In February, he ambushed Gov. Dayton over the commissioners pay raise bill that he voted for. That caused Gov. Dayton to accuse him of stabbing Gov. Dayton in the back, which is an accurate accusation. After that outburst (by Dayton), Kurt Daudt became the only man who Sen. Bakk and Gov. Dayton trusted.

Thanks to this Ag/Environment bill, the DFL special interest groups have put Sen. Bakk at the top of their hit list. They’re even calling for Sen. Bakk’s ouster as Senate Majority Leader. If this thing isn’t wrapped up soon, Bakk won’t have a friend left in St. Paul.

UPDATE: The Ag/Environment bill finally passed as originally drafted. After it passed the House 78-47, it went to the Senate. Sen. Marty made a motion not to concur with the House bill. That motion failed on a 39-28 vote. Sen. Tomassoni made a motion to concur with the House bill as amended. Sen. Tomassoni’s motion to concur passed 40-26. On final passage, the bill passed 38-29. The bill now heads to Gov. Dayton’s desk for his signature.

All of the bills that fund government have now passed. They await Gov. Dayton’s signature.

UPDATE II: This is what put it over the top:

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