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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

Transparency Forecast Is Overcast And Gloomy

Category: Legislation
Posted: 05/14/15 15:57

by Dave Mindeman

Whatever happened to transparency?

For all the political rhetoric that goes on about the public's right to know, we sure have the seeming necessity for a lot of secrets.

We have a legislative session that starts in January. We have several months of partisan barbs and a lot of posturing and then when the session is about to expire, we put three guys in a room to decide the budget for all of us.

And how can the two sides be this far apart, this late? What was the point of holding all those hearings and all those sessions, only to end up with stances that could have been predicted 2 years ago?

All of this secrecy extends to the press. It always happens. As they start the "behind closed doors" sessions, they tell us that dueling press conferences are not productive. We just can't talk to the press anymore. Well, here's a suggestion - talk substance and not political talking points. Decide that your purpose for coming in front of a microphone is for information, not bashing the other side.

Divided government? Its a joke. Republicans and Democrats use each other to delay and divide....to use government for political purposes. They say that we, the people, are involved...but its a lie. They use polling data only when it fits their current agenda. They ignore us when we don't agree with them. They cloud the question to get the result they really want.

And don't forget special interests. For all of that closed door secrecy, it is amazing how the groups that matter get the first trial balloons that move toward agreements.

I know I should be used to all of this by now. It hasn't changed in years and gets worse after each election. But it is irritating to watch government working behind locked doors - in the hands of fewer and fewer people as government workings grind on.

The sun doesn't shine on these proceedings....and the forecast is overcast and gloomy for the foreseeable future.
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Rep. Roz Peterson: New Heights Of Hypocrisy

Category: Legislation
Posted: 02/14/15 18:07, Edited: 02/14/15 18:09

by Dave Mindeman

Rep. Roz Peterson has an interesting hypocritical streak.

During the Commissioner salary kerfuffle, she has been an outspoken critic of Governor Dayton's decision to bring Commissioner salaries in line with the private sector. This meant some hefty one time raises - but considering that there had been an effective wage freeze for 12 years, the salary increases seem reasonable compared to the importance of the position.

Roz Peterson wants to take away the Governor's authority to set those salaries. An authority granted him by the legislature....which intended for him to find a way to get and keep good people for these positions.

Roz Peterson is also a hypocrite. As chair of the Lakeville School Board, she approved an raise for that district's superintendent to $187,000 plus a bonus. That would give the Lakeville superintendent, in charge of one school district, a salary that is significantly higher than the Commissioner of Education - even after the raise.

Yesterday, Peterson was quoted:

"At a time when take-home pay for families remains flat and some Minnesotans are still struggling to make ends meet, it's outrageous that the governor would approve enormous salary increases for commissioners and political appointees already making six-figure salaries."

Well, I guess the same could be said about the Lakeville superintendent, but apparently Roz Peterson is able to compartmentalize all of that.

Then their is the matter of "open meetings".

A "secret vote" by the Lakeville school board has called into question whether the board violated Minnesota's open-meeting law and has some residents demanding greater transparency. The six-member board took an anonymous vote earlier this month on which of them should be the next chairperson, vice chair, treasurer and clerk. Each member cast a ballot and outgoing chairwoman Roz Peterson tallied them. The vote was done during an open session, but who voted for whom wasn't shared since they didn't sign the ballots.

Now the excuse was that this was not an "official" vote because final action could not be taken until the January meeting. And the board thought it would avoid "animosity" going forward.

But, it also gave Roz Peterson, the outgoing chair, a chance to weigh in on her successor - and an ability to lobby for her personal choice if the vote leaned toward someone else.

The anonymous ballot was Peterson's idea, Volk said she believes. It was a way to "smooth things over with the board because it gets pretty personal."

Peterson pulled this secret/public thing again as the new legislator from her district....

Freshman Republican Representative Roz Peterson held a property tax listening session in Burnsville earlier this week. She advertised the public event through her official legislative email, her official Facebook page, and in the local paper. But then, at the event, they kicked a person affiliated with ABM out of the event.

I guess it was a "public" event in a sorta kinda way.

Roz Peterson advertised her listening session as a public event, but then at the door, Rep. Steve Drazkowski treated it like a private event, deciding who could and could not enter.

Roz Peterson seems to have standards regarding public service. There is the "Roz Peterson" standard and then there is the standard for the rest of us.

Peterson was the only Republican legislator that managed to defeat an incumbent DFLer in the suburbs during the last election. Because of that, the majority GOP House caucus is trying to give her a high profile.

But when you look at her record, that profile is pretty hypocritical and suspect. Every criticism she makes seems to reflect a flaw in her own record.

Roz Peterson is giving us a new standard in hypocrisy.
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The Advantages of Moving On Medical Marijuana

Category: Legislation
Posted: 03/06/14 20:54

by Dave Mindeman

The subject of marijuana has a lot of baggage that follows it. Especially with law enforcement.

The efforts to alleviate law enforcement fears in order to move on medical marijuana have become more tortured than they are worth.

Law enforcement will never be mollified because their attitude is entrenched in decades long cannabis drug policy that has been wrong from the beginning.

Marijuana is NOT a gateway drug. It is only involved with harder drugs because it has the same illegal status and is trafficked in the same way. Remove marijuana from the seedy methods of selling and it will cease to be identified with heroin or cocaine.

Marijuana does need to be regulated...and if we can find acceptable regulations that can make alcohol socially acceptable, then we can do the same for marijuana.

My view is that marijuana shouldn't be limited to just medicinal use. However, its use for nausea and pain are relevant enough that if we can get a restricted use for medical purposes, then we should accept that vehicle for its legalization.

The regulation and restriction that will be needed to specify it for that purpose alone will be cumbersome and lead to more needless penalties and legal ramifications - as well as more prosecutorial time that could better be served on more serious problems. But, if that is all that can be done right now, then so be it.

Governor Dayton has abdicated his decision making on this subject by deferring to law enforcement. But law enforcement has never moved beyond marijuana as a street drug. They cannot separate the drug from the criminal avenues from which it has to be sold under its current status. They have never accepted the ongoing medical evidence - they only see current legal issues.

The other factor that begs to be debated is the incarceration numbers on illegal marijuana....

....marijuana arrests now comprise more than one-half (approximately 52 percent) of all drug arrests reported in the United States. A decade ago, marijuana arrests comprised just 44 percent of all drug arrests.

Using this magnitude of law enforcement resources to fight against a drug that is hardly more dangerous than alcohol, makes little sense. How much money could we save by eliminating marijuana arrests, convictions, and incarcerations? I think the dollar figure would be staggering.

And that doesn't even account for the potential for jobs that would be available for the growth, manufacture, and sale of marijuana. As well as the tax revenue available to the states that allow legalization.

Colorado expects to take in about $184 million in tax revenue from marijuana in the first 18 months after legislation.

Minnesota needs to seriously debate this issue and hopefully find a way to move, at the very least, a medical marijuana statute.

This has too many medical, legal, and economic advantages to ignore.
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