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This AP article all-but-officially says that U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer will pick Al Franken’s replacement. If Gov. Dayton’s pick is approved by Sen. Schumer, then it’s a safe bet that candidate will be Sen. Schumer’s shill for the duration of their Senate career.

The article states that “Dayton’s initial inclination was to pick Smith, a longtime aide and his second-in-command since 2015, to serve as a placeholder until next year’s election, a Democratic official told The Associated Press. The official requested anonymity because the official was not authorized to discuss private deliberations surrounding the appointment before Dayton’s announcement. The official said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has reached out to Dayton and pressured him to instead appoint someone who can use the opportunity as a running start for a 2018 campaign.”

Suddenly, Lt. Gov. Smith is interested in running for re-election if appointed. It essentially cuts Minnesotans out of the process. Shouldn’t Minnesotans, not a partisan New Yorker, pick Sen. Franken’s replacement? The people should have a say. Franken’s replacement shouldn’t be picked by Minnesota’s royal family, then rubberstamped by the people. Picking Lt. Gov. Flint-Smith, or anyone that will run for re-election, hints that we’re just rubberstamps.

This Strib article contains this wishful thinking:

Joe Davis, the executive director of the DFL-aligned Alliance for a Better Minnesota, said a second Senate race will further nationalize the Minnesota election, which can only help the DFL chain Republican candidates to a historically unpopular president. “It’s a chance to put not just one but two checks on Trump’s Washington,” Davis said, referring to the special election as well as DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s re-election. DFLers hope that anti-Trump fervor will trickle down the ballot to the governor’s race and legislative contests.

There’s a better chance that blue collar voters will get out to vote to nullify Gov. Dayton’s rubberstamp appointment. Then there’s this:

State Sen. Karin Housley, R-St. Mary’s Point, said she is mulling the race and will make a decision early this week. Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Vernon Center, said she remains focused on a potential run for governor and has no interest in the U.S. Senate. State Sen. Michelle Benson, R-Ham Lake, said she is talking it over with family this weekend.

This isn’t a statement of preference. It’s just a statement that Karin Housley would be a fantastic candidate. She’s a skilled legislator. It doesn’t hurt that she’s married to NHL Hall of Famer Phil Housley. Her fundraising ability would be a positive, too. Michelle Benson would be an attractive candidate, too. She knows health care inside and out. She’s a reliable conservative, as is Sen. Housley.

We deserve better than Franken, who is described by Salena Zito as being prominent because “of his previous life.” Ms. Zito added that “there was a lot of noise, but according to research done by the Twin Cities Pioneer Press, his home state newspaper, his legislative career was weak. Of Franken’s 141 pieces of legislation (85 bills, 47 amendments, and nine resolutions) none became law.” Finally, there’s this truth:

Americans don’t just want members of Congress to be decent people, they also want them to actually do things that benefit them, their communities, and the country; what they don’t want is someone who solely uses their elected offices as a springboard to more power (it was the worst kept secret in Democratic circles that Franken was considering a run for president in 2020).

Parting question: is Tina Flint-Smith another reliable vote and political nobody? I remember when Minnesota’s senators were difference-makers.

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Anders Koskinen’s article on Gov. Dayton’s tax ‘relief’ bill is enlightening in that it proves that Gov. Dayton still hasn’t learned that sending money to cities and counties doesn’t shrink families’ tax burdens. It just adds to those cities’ and counties’ spending.

The key part of Koskinen’s article is where he writes “the proposal ends up seeing the state spending $1.60 in subsidies for every dollar of direct tax relief. Dayton’s proposal includes $21 million in middle class tax cuts, $61 million of child care tax credits, and $34 million of property tax credits for farmers. A further $186 million, however, is a series of subsidies.”

Lt. Gov. Tina Flint-Smith adds “Our tax bill would provide significant relief to farmers by buying down the cost of local school district levies. I urge the Legislature to provide this needed tax relief for Minnesota farm families this session. In 2013, the DFL majorities in the House and Senate passed a bill with the same promises. It failed miserably. I wrote about those failures in this post and this post.

Despite all the DFL’s claims, property taxes skyrocketed anyway. While it isn’t shocking, it’s more than a little disgusting.

The DFL theory is that sending money to cities and counties should reduce the need for raising taxes. The reality is that it increases cities’ and counties’ spending. That’s been proven repeatedly. That’s why I called the DFL’s tax relief proposal a theory. It certainly isn’t verifiable fact.

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According to this article, Paul Thissen was encouraged to run for another term as the DFL leader in the Minnesota House of Representatives. In the end, though, he declined, saying in part “I am grateful to my colleagues and Minnesotans for giving me the chance to lead the caucus for the last six years. It has been one of the greatest privileges of my life to lead our caucus and to build a better future for our state. Many of my colleagues have encouraged me to seek re-election as our caucus leader. I thank them for the confidence they have placed in me. However, six years is a long time – the longest period a DFL leader has served since my great political hero, Martin Olav Sabo. And after six years, I’ve decided that I will not be seeking to continue in my role as caucus leader when we reconvene in January. It is time for new voices in leadership to emerge.”

Instead of being led by Rep. Thissen, the leader of the House DFL Caucus will be led by Melissa Hortman.

Rep. Thissen’s decision will undoubtedly start speculation over whether he’s intending to run for governor again. His profile fits perfectly into what the DFL is these days. He’s a Metrocrat, which is essential these days in the DFL. Thissen’s fidelity to the truth is virtually nonexistent. In a party that’s led at the state level by the Alliance for a Better Minnesota and by Corruptocrats like Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and Dishonest Donna Brazile at the DNC level, Thissen is a good, though not great, fit. Most likely, the DFL will endorse Lt. Gov. Tina Flint-Smith as their gubernatorial candidate in 2018.

What’s interesting about the DFL’s pick for their House leader is that they picked a climate-change fanatic from the Twin Cities to be their leader. That isn’t surprising, is it?

According to this Fox-9 article, Gov. Dayton and Speaker Daudt will meet Tuesday morning “at the Governor’s Residence, to discuss the possibility of addressing rising health insurance premiums.”

Sam Fettig, Gov. Dayton’s press secretary, also said “Earlier today, Dayton Administration officials met with Senate Minority Leader David Hann. The Governor spoke last night with Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, who indicated he has been in communication with Speaker Daudt as well. Since announcing his proposal last Thursday, the Governor has also been in communication with House Minority Leader Paul Thissen.”

Gov. Dayton is attempting to paint the MNsure/ACA crisis as being all about high health insurance premiums. Speaker Daudt rightly is highlighting the fact that it’s about unaffordable deductibles, microscopic-sized networks and difficulties finding insurance carriers. This article highlights the difficulties people will have in buying health insurance.

According to the article, “Blue Cross Blue Shield will offer its Blue Plus health maintenance organization policy to anyone who wants it in all but five counties, but it is more expensive, has high deductibles and does not always allow patients to use their own doctors.” It won’t be people’s first choice when open enrollment opens. Blue Plus is most likely the option of last resort. Expectations should be low for this meeting. Gov. Dayton wants to pretend that he’s trying to look nonpartisan. Let’s hope Minnesotans know that he’s acting.

Gov. Dayton is praying that he gets an all-DFL legislature so he can implement single-payer health care. Speaker Daudt hopes that Republicans flip the Minnesota Senate so they can push their main street agenda. That agenda will include pushing popular health care reforms that have worked when they’ve been implemented in the past.

The key to these negotiations is Rep. Thissen. He isn’t officially in a position of power but don’t let that fool anyone. Other than Tina Flint-Smith, Thissen is the person Gov. Dayton is closest to ideologically. They’re birds of a feather. If Flint-Smith and Thissen object to what Speaker Daudt proposes, expect Gov. Dayton to hold a press conference immediately after the meeting. Gov. Dayton’s message will be simple. It’ll essentially be ‘I tried working with those evil Republicans but they weren’t willing to compromise.’

It won’t be true but that’s what Gov. Dayton’s message will be. Further, expect the Twin Cities media to buy Gov. Dayton’s story without hesitation. The good news for Republicans is that outstate Minnesota voters aren’t fooled by Gov. Dayton’s dishonest statements.

The thing that will hurt DFL incumbents and DFL challengers is the fact that southern Minnesota and western Minnesota have lots of farmers who have to buy their health insurance through MNsure. We keep hearing that it’s ‘only’ 5% of the population that buys their insurance through the individual market. Statistically, that’s true. It’s also incomplete because it doesn’t tell people that a large percentage of the people who buy their health insurance are clustered in southern and western legislative districts.

Don’t expect the DFL to do well in those districts. Those districts will help Republicans hold onto their majority in the House and give the GOP their best opportunity to flip the Minnesota Senate.

This morning, I paid a quick visit to Zach Dorholt’s priorities page to see what Tina Flint-Smith Alida Messenger told him he believes. Earlier this week, at the St. Cloud Times-sponsored candidate forum, Dorholt said that he’d support a single-payer health care system. That was startling news to most of his constituents.

It’s startling because Dorholt avoided talking about the subject on his priorities page. On Dorholt’s priorities page, he said “As someone who works in the healthcare field I regularly see issues that if reformed, could make healthcare more efficient and affordable. Too many policies are made in St. Paul without the guidance of those who actually work with patients on a day to day basis. When elected, I will work to make sure that healthcare remains accessible and affordable to all of our citizens and that we get our fair share of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act from Washington.”

First, it’s noteworthy that Dorholt is an ideologue first. It’s incidental that he works “in the health care field.” Further, it’s noteworthy that working in the health care field doesn’t automatically make you an expert on health care policy. That isn’t to say we shouldn’t have health care professionals on the MNsure board. I’m just arguing that we shouldn’t just pick someone for the board because they work in the health care industry.

Next and most importantly, Dorholt’s a little late in saying he’d “make sure that healthcare remains accessible and affordable to all our citizens.” The premiums in the individual market aren’t affordable. That isn’t just my opinion. It’s also Gov. Dayton’s opinion (sometimes) and Bill Clinton’s opinion:

It’s worth noting that Gov. Dayton initially said that the Affordable Care Act wasn’t affordable 2 weeks ago. This week, he’s written an op-ed saying things aren’t so bad. I’m betting that Hillary’s campaign called him and lectured him on saying something like that.

Finally, Dorholt can’t admit that the system Minnesota had prior to Obamacare/MNsure, complete with its high-risk pool, did a fantastic job insuring people with pre-existing conditions while keeping health insurance premiums for healthy people relatively stable. I’ve said this before and I’ll repeat it here: the federal government should’ve modeled their plan after Minnesota’s system. Unfortunately for Minnesota, our senators crumpled like spineless wimps and voted to destroy Minnesota’s system.

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It’s difficult to take Gov. Dayton’s statements about law enforcement seriously these days. Hours after Philando Castile was shot and killed by a St. Anthony police officer and while the investigation was just getting started, Gov. Dayton threw white gas on the fire by saying he thought Castile wouldn’t have gotten shot if he’d been white.

Law enforcement officials across the nation and in the Twin Cities took Gov. Dayton to task for making such a reckless statement. They were justified in extracting the proverbial pound of political flesh from Gov. Dayton’s hide.

I can’t take Gov. Dayton’s statement about the Baton Rouge assassinations seriously after Gov. Dayton’s statements about Philando Castile. In his statement about Baton Rouge, Gov. Dayton said “The terrible murder of three law enforcement officers in Baton Rouge shocks the conscience of every decent-minded American. I renew my plea for all Minnesotans to engage only in peaceful and lawful ways to exercise their First Amendment rights. This is our opportunity to help lead the nation away from this wanton, mass violence and toward a reconciliation and healing.”

Lt. Gov. Smith issued this statement:

I join all Minnesotans in mourning the tragic shooting deaths of two Baton Rouge police officers and an East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office deputy. Our prayers are with their families, friends, and communities. Law enforcement officers in Baton Rouge and across our country bravely serve to keep us safe with little consideration for their own well-being. This makes their murders particularly horrifying. We must stop this terrible violence.

Notice what’s missing from their statements. Notice that they didn’t criticize Black Lives Matter. Neither criticized Al Sharpton or President Obama for the outright lie that is “Hands up, don’t shoot.” That would require them to exhibit courage, something that neither has.

If we want healing, which is desperately needed, we need politicians who will call out race pimps like Sharpton and gutless civic ‘leaders’ like Marilyn Mosby and Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. Right now, the Democratic Party doesn’t have anyone that fits that description.

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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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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 Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, aka PUC, has issued a certificate of need for the Sandpiper Pipeline project, it’s time to ask an important question. First, here’s what happened:

ST. PAUL – The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission has approved a certificate of need for the proposed Sandpiper pipeline from North Dakota’s Bakken oil fields to Superior, Wisconsin. While the PUC agreed 5-0 Friday that the $2.6 billion, 610-mile pipeline is necessary, they didn’t foreclose the possibility of rerouting it away from environmentally sensitive lakes, streams and wetlands in northern Minnesota. Enbridge Energy will still have to go through a lengthy review of its proposed route and a proposed alternative.

It’s great that they approved the project but I’m just a little worried about why they’re involved. Their primary responsibility is monitoring public utilities. There’s no doubt that politicians create ‘innovative’ definitions for words but that doesn’t mean a pipeline is a public utility.

There’s no justification for adding the PUC into the regulatory process — except if the goal is to create another hoop for companies to jump through. Then it makes perfect sense. If creating multiple hoops is the goal, then having the PUC review pipeline projects is imperative.

There are multiple agencies that review these types of proposals. Why? Shouldn’t Minnesota create a one-stop shopping center for reviews? Shouldn’t there be a time limit placed on both parties to speed up the review process? That way, companies can’t run out the clock by withholding important information and regulators can’t string companies along with endless amounts of questions.

Streamlining the review process gets important projects approved quickly while still asking the important questions.

There’s a throng of anti-corporation organizations filled with environmental activists attempting to kill the Sandpiper Pipeline project. They thrive off of multiple bites at the apple during the regulatory process. They’re assisted by politicians like Sen. Klobuchar and Sen. Franken, not to mention Gov. Dayton, Lt. Gov. Smith and legislators like Rep. Thissen and Sen. Marty.

These environmentalists will stand in the way of this type of reform. They’ll insist that the process isn’t broken and that it doesn’t need fixing. That’s a fantasy. Any system that requires years to get a project approved isn’t just fractured. It’s broken. Companies should be held accountable but they shouldn’t be required to spend tens of millions of dollars on each step of the regulatory process.

A strong national economy relies on cheap energy. If that’s our goal, which it should be, then it’s time we stepped into the 21st Century.

In this Times Our View editorial, the Times is upset because there might be 6 bills voted on during the special session:

Plus, with the indication the session will last only one day, it’s clear their deal-making will be done behind closed doors. How else are you going to get a divided Legislature to approve what could be six bills in less than 24 hours?

Yes, we said six bills — which raises another unsettling development about this special session. Shouldn’t its agenda be limited to the three bills Dayton vetoed?

Apparently that’s not what key leaders are thinking. As of Wednesday, reports indicated a bonding bill, a legacy bill and a tax bill could be taken up, along with the three bills the governor vetoed: the education bill, the environment-agriculture bill and the jobs-energy bill.

There’s nothing unsettling about voting on more bills than Gov. Dayton vetoed, though I’ll admit that I wouldn’t lose a split-second of sleep if we limited most bonding bills to fixing up universities and other public buildings. No, fixing up hockey arenas, civic centers and gorilla cages shouldn’t get a dime.

The truth is that Gov. Dayton pissed an entire week of negotiations away without putting together a budget. Speaker Daudt and Sen. Bakk broke off talks the last Friday of the regular session and put a budget together in 2 hours. The result of all those wasted hours of negotiations led to the Legacy Act funding bill not appropriating money to projects because they didn’t pass the bill before midnight.

Similarly, the Tax Bill didn’t need to get finished during this session. I suspect that there won’t be a Tax Bill if Gov. Dayton and Sen. Bakk don’t cough up money for the Republicans’ middle class tax relief.

This hissy fit is befitting of the Times:

Central Minnesotans should be truly astounded by the ineptness displayed on both sides of the aisle in this 2015 session. The state’s 201 legislators, along with Dayton, not only had more than four months to craft a two-year state budget, but they had an extra $1.9 billion to help negotiate their way through any hurdles.

Instead, they followed a path that’s become all too familiar the past decade or so. First, each side staked out its political grounds. Then they all dawdled for a few months while awaiting official budget projections. Finally, a handful of elected officials spent the last few days of the regular session behind closed doors trying to create — ahem — compromises from their original positions.

First off, the Times is careless in its description. The first few weeks of the session, as with all budget sessions, start with picking off easy policy bills, which the governor usually signs. Testimony was taken as a preliminary step to getting into the budget bills. This might be news to the Times but it’s impossible to create a budget until it’s known if there’s a deficit. This time there wasn’t, which posed its own dynamics.

Once the legislature got the February budget projection, they got to work and produced a budget. The lion’s share of the blame that it wasn’t completed on time can be placed on Gov. Dayton’s and Lt. Gov. Smith’s desks. They insisted steadfastly that we fund Education Minnesota’s universal pre-K initiative. That was easily the most ideological fight of the session. The proof is that they’re still haggling over it even though Republicans and Art Rolnick have shown Minnesotans the specific flaws in the Dayton-Smith-Education Minnesota plan.