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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

MNLARS and the Blame Game

Category: Mark Dayton
Posted: 05/22/18 14:43

by Dave Mindeman

I get frustrated with how information gets put out there. There are the facts, the perception of the facts, and the Republican Party use of perception. So be prepared for the long explanation.

In the Pioneer Press, today, there is an article about the MNLARS controversy. The headline is completely misleading...

Minnesota's DMV mess could get even messier. It's now in Dayton's hands.

Of course the MN GOP seized on the title to put out another attack on the governor. But if you read the article, the explanation is much different.

Let's go back to the beginning.

Gov. Dayton has been monitoring a problem at DVS.

Ever since it was launched over the summer to replace a crotchety 1980s-era mainframe system, the $93 million system had big problems. They affected almost every category of person who needed it to work, including regular folks looking to transfer personalized plates, auto dealers, insurance companies, and deputy registrars who operate the license centers where we got to get our legally required paperwork done. Lawmakers heard MNLARS horror stories.

First, this is obviously not a new problem - but the executive branch has the responsibility for making it work. Dayton has assumed the responsibility and has told everyone it is a serious problem and he wants to address it directly. But in order to actually make any progress, there needs to be an appropriation of budgetary money. Here is how that went...

Despite rancorous wrangling, lawmakers and Dayton reached an accord in March to give MN.IT $10 million in "emergency" funding to start its plans to make MNLARS fully functional. Republicans angered Dayton by barring any of that money from being spent on call centers, which were so overwhelmed that most callers got a busy signal. But to really follow through on plans to fix MNLARS, MN.IT said it needed an additional $33 million.

By the way, staffing the overwhelmed call centers so that the problems could be directly addressed, at least for now, was the most important part of the emergency funding. But, of course, the MN GOP wanted to make that as difficult as possible.

In order to make the most of political points, the Legislative Republicans have refused to appropriate the full amount of money while they search for real answers to the problem. The "search" involves public denouncements of the executive branch.

This dragged on through the entire session....then the House Republicans found another point of leverage. The local registrars. Because of the MNLARS problem these local businesses are losing money. It is a serious problem, but the House Republicans have focused on reimbursing them for their losses and ignoring the real problem - fixing MNLARS.

Once again, the MN GOP would rather HAVE the problem to exploit then work cooperatively to fix the problem.

Now we come to the end of session. Still no fix - but the Legislature goes with a band-aid bill meant strictly for the registrars.

Meanwhile, deputy registrars kept losing money -- both because of the system's failing and because of the fundamental way the system was designed: MNLARS required the license bureau workers to do more work, but for the same payment rates as before. They told lawmakers they needed $25 million to $30 million and a change to way they're paid. Lawmakers approved $10 million for them.

This came to Dayton's desk as a stand alone bill. An inadequate amount of money with no fix to the system or the way they are paid. Band-aid.

Dayton decided to make the strategic decision to veto this band-aid bill with the hope that this would spur emergency action for a more comprehensive bill. The legislature responded...

That huge Republican bill also includes some funding for MN.IT to fix MNLARS: $13 million over the next two years. It was unclear Monday if that would be enough for MN.IT to fix MNLARS within its original timetable; a Dayton spokesman said advisers were still studying the bill. But again, Dayton has already said he plans to veto it. One more thing in that bill: a provision requiring that 3.5 percent of all IT spending be dedicated toward cybersecurity -- an area where many experts agree Minnesota is vulnerable. It's unclear if that provision, should it become law, would affect MN.IT's finances.

OK - the MN GOP Legislature folded this into Omnibus Prime - the huge 990 page tax bill. All or nothing. Dayton is expected to veto it and of course, the MN GOP will blame Dayton for all the things not funded because of that veto.

Note also, that even with this paltry $13 million (over 2 years), they made sure to earmark some of it for cybersecurity - another thing they did not fund and which Sec of State Steve Simon has been begging for to protect our election system. Folding some of this into the MNLARS appropriation, as an earmark, would probably open up another avenue of needed revenue for cybersecurity problems which won't be met.

Are you confused yet?

So here's why the headline is misleading. Whether or not Dayton signs the bill, the MNLARS system will be messier either way. The MN GOP has guaranteed more mess, because they want it that way. They think they have no responsibility (wrong) for the MNLARS problem and they continued hanging this around Dayton's neck for the entire session. The immediate appropriation of the $33 million requested near the start of the session would have been the best attempt at fixing it. No guarantees, but they could have at least gotten started.

The MN GOP Legislature refuses to address this situation directly. They have used it for leverage in a number of legislative issues. And, of course, added it to the "OmnibusPrime" monster to make it impossible for Dayton to compromise. On anything.

If Dayton vetoes the tax bill, as expected, we are back to square one and the MNLARS problem continues and registrars continue to lose money.

MN GOP would rather talk about blame than fix it. They want an election year attack, instead of doing their job.

I have said it before, but it is worth repeating, the GOP cannot govern.
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Category: Guns
Posted: 05/17/18 01:58

by Dave Mindeman

The United States is the only developed country in the world that has a 2nd Amendment right to firearms. We are also the country that has the most mass shootings, most gun deaths per 100,000 population, and the most guns per capita.

I do not advocate the end of the 2nd Amendment, but I do think we need to acknowledge that the two statements above have to be related.

Our Constitution has guaranteed us the right to bear arms. That is a fact. But, like the other amendments to the Constitution, that right is not absolute. Public safety demands that we temper this guarantee with some common sense.

Gun rights advocates have fought against any kind of gun regulation put forward. Any of them. They fight background checks. They fight assault weapons bans. They fight the banning of bump stocks. They fight any piece of legislation that has gun restriction in the language.

To them, guns are more important than people. More important than the kids at Sandy Hook. More important than the 58 people killed in Las Vegas. More important than those kids and teachers at Parkland.

Like I said before, I do not want to repeal the 2nd Amendment. But I do want all the citizens of the United States to be able to live in safety, as free as possible from gun violence.

State Rep. Erin Maye Quade, DFL-Apple Valley, tried to bring gun safety to the attention of the House floor. The Democrats in the Senate tried to propose universal background checks; something that 90 percent of Minnesotans agree with and want to see. But Republicans blocked that vote and Republicans did nothing after Maye Quade ended her sit in.

These are not extreme positions, and it is time that public safety have a voice that is equal to that of the gun advocates.

Remember in November.
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Promises Made....

Category: Donald Trump
Posted: 05/14/18 12:29, Edited: 05/14/18 12:30

By Dave Mindeman

Promises made - promises kept?

Build the wall - not built; but if it is, the money will be paid by us.

Drug Prices - big Pharma is still happy.

Immigration - kept his promise to destroy families. There's one.

Infrastructure - Non-existent.

Keeping Jobs - Well, I'm not sure saving jobs at ZTE in China counts.

Iran Treaty - Oh, he kept that one - and we will pay for it.

Paris Treaty - Kept that one also - and the world will pay for it.

Drain the Swamp - The swamp got bigger instead, and it includes him.

Middle East Peace - Fixed it by ending all possibilities.

Foreign Trade Deficits - Anyone know what the hell he is doing?

Stock Market - Well, he is raising the price of oil.

Sue all the women accusers - They are suing him.

"Only I Can Fix It" - He broke it!

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