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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

The Bakk Problem Has Not Improved

Category: Minnesota Politics
Posted: 07/29/15 11:49

by Dave Mindeman

I don't mean to belabor the point, but I think this is still going to be a problem going into the next legislative session. And this needs to be addressed.

Sen. Tom Bakk announced some Senate staffer pay raises to the media yesterday and that is a good thing. Everybody in Minnesota government is really underpaid.

But that is not what bothers me about Senator Bakk.

Bakk, in a wide-ranging news conference after the committee meeting, said he had a call scheduled Tuesday with Gov. Mark Dayton to talk about disaster relief in the Brainerd lakes region -- their first conversation since the Legislature finished business June 13.

Again, nothing wrong with the substance of the announcement. The problem lies in the last sentence..."first conversation." Bakk and Dayton have not had any conversation since the session ended. You would think there would still be plenty to talk about. That session ended on a not so positive note.

OK...but to me, this gets worse.

He (Bakk) said he has already talked to Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, about moving quickly next year on bills to address transportation funding and provide tax cuts.

Already talked to Daudt. He talked to Daudt before he talked to Dayton. He never bothered to get the Governor's take, or have a discussion with him, on the next session before he starts discussing things with the Republican Speaker of the House.

Did Bakk not learn anything from 2015? Are we, again, going to have a divided message from the Senate and the Executive Office?

It doesn't seem to occur to Bakk that we have a party leader which should be the focal point of Democratic messaging...namely Gov.Dayton.

The Governor's office, a Democratic office, is not something that a Democratic Majority Leader is allowed to ignore or to consult after the fact.

Dayton made it pretty clear once more that he wants more pre-school funding if there is a discussion of tax cuts in 2016. Bakk has not said anything about supporting that -- and he seems to already have talked to Daudt about the 2016 agenda. Talks that obviously have not been run through Dayton's office.

I'm sorry. We have a serious problem here and it is centered squarely in the Office of the Senate Majority Leader.

This needs to be fixed....sooner rather than later.
comments (1) permalink

If Recruiters Get Armed-Then Include Tougher Background Checks

Category: Guns
Posted: 07/27/15 16:52

by Dave Mindeman

Minnesota Republicans in the legislature want to propose another gun law....

Some Republicans in the Legislature say they want to allow active military personnel in the state to carry firearms. The move would allow people in uniform to protect themselves if there is an attack on a military base or recruiting station, said Sen. Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa.

I will probably get myself into trouble with my liberal friends on this, but I tend to think of this proposal as a "reasonable" type gun law. After all, it has been made pretty clear that when these ISIS sympathizers strike out on their own, it is men and women in uniform that will be their primary targets.

But I would want more.

If the objective is to make everyone safer, then in addition to this proposal it is time to make every gun purchase or carrier subject to a full and complete background check. All military bases...all recruiting stations...would have personnel go through a rigorous check. All purchases - retail, private, or gun show - would all be subject to the same type of background check.

If Republicans want to pursue this step, then Democrats will want to lock those background checks into the legislation. If gun safety is the ultimate goal, then how could such a combination of legislation be a bad thing?

Heather Martens of Protect Minnesota, a gun regulation group, will probably fight this legislation...

The director of a gun control group says the proposal would allow military personnel to escape background checks aimed at screening for past domestic abuse cases. Improving the background check system, not arming more people, is a better answer, said Heather Martens of the group Protect Minnesota.

She makes a legitimate point, but if we alleviate her objection with full and complete background checks in combination with the proposal, couldn't everyone come around to a support of the tighter legislation?

These gun debates get long and very arduous. Often, what one side proposes becomes what the other side disposes. In the meantime, no one is being made safer and the deaths mount.

It's time for sensible solutions and forget the political talking points.

Let's all step back and find that third way.
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The Staggering Failure Of The House GOP On Rural Broadband

Category: GOP House Republicans
Posted: 07/26/15 20:56

by Dave Mindeman

After the MN GOP House Republicans won back the House majority with a stunning turnover in rural Minnesota districts, the House leadership boasted about how this change would produce a new rural emphasis in the legislature.

So how is it that this new leadership failed so miserably in moving forward on the #1 issue for rural households and businesses in the state?

Broadband.

In 2014, the state of Minnesota handed out $20 million in grants for the spread of broadband access across the state.....So popular was the program that advocates returned to the Legislature in 2015, asking for $100 million for more broadband expansion.

It wasn't that rural advocates were unclear about this. It was prominently listed as one of their absolute priorities.

But the House GOP failed them on this. While all sides failed to fully fund the $100 million request, Gov. Dayton asked for $30 million. The Senate only came up with $17 million. But the original House bill, the rural emphasis House, put in only $8 million for broadband.

Gov. Mark Dayton ended up signing a bill that included just $10 million in broadband money, an amount that (Richard Baker, Mille Lacs County's community development coordinator), pausing and carefully choosing his words, called "disappointing."

In April of 2015, it looked like the House GOP was going to leave broadband out of the budget entirely.

Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, (chairman of the House Job Growth and Energy Affordability Committee said that wired broadband, which provides high-speed Internet connections, is too costly in sparsely populated areas. He said wireless and satellite technologies are more financially effective.

That set off a firestorm of rural Minnesota criticism.

"We are astonished as to why the House would ignore one of the state's biggest economic development needs," said Willmar City Council member Audrey Nelsen, a member of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities' board. "The lack of high-quality broadband affects communities and regions all across the state. Eliminating state funding for the broadband program will have a grave effect on greater Minnesota."

In the end, the House agreed to that final $10 million figure. This House that has a majority that assured everyone rural Minnesota's priorities would get a new hearing. A new priority.

Yet, it was Democrats who were willing to establish more broadband funding....the Democrats that the House GOP accused of not caring about those same rural areas.

And this is not over. A commission that Governor Dayton requested said that there was a definite need for at least $200 million in rural broadband infrastructure funding. We are not close to that.

The opportunity was on the table in 2015 and the House GOP failed to deliver....they failed miserably. Whether or not this subject comes up again in 2016 with a budget surplus still sitting on the table, remains to be seen.

The House GOP is talking tax cuts again.

Will rural Minnesota get neglected again? Promises made - promises NOT kept.
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