5B RACE: U.S. Rep. and GOP darling Chip Cravaack will host a fundraiser for House 5B GOP candidate Paul Jacobson today in downtown Hibbing.
DFLERS IN DASSEL: DFLers will meet Saturday morning at Cokato Dassel High School to select a new leadership slate. The two top slots are unopposed, with Ken Martin running for chair and Marge Hoffa for associate chair. Candidates with opponents include the party secretary candidates (Vanessa Blomgren and Jacob Griffen), treasurer candidates (Tom Hamilton and Lil Ortendahl), and Affirmative Action Officer candidates (Frank Brown and Eric Margolis).
WHAT HAPPENED YESTERDAY
PHASE ONE: After two-and-a-half hours of heated debate that, as Majority Leader Amy Koch (pictured right) put it afterward, resembled the more raucous debates typical of the House, the Legislature’s upper chamber passed the Republican “Phase One” budget bill on a party line 37-27 vote.
The House bill (HF 130) and Senate bill (SF 60) now head to conference committee with significant differences. The House measure includes a state employee wage freeze, $200 million in agency budget reductions this biennium, and temporary LGA cuts. The Senate’s, meanwhile, has no wage freeze, $125 million in agency savings and permanent LGA cuts.
House conferees will be: Mary Liz Holberg, Bud Nornes, Bob Gunther, Jim Abeler and Greg Davids. For the Senate, Claire Robling, Mike Parry, David Hann, Julianne Ortman and Michelle Fischbach will handle negotiations.
Holberg has maintained that $200 million in agency savings can be found, and she’s pledged to file records requests with agencies to find out where state employees are “hiding” or spending money. Robling, meanwhile, has called her $125 million cut a “goal” and said Thursday she doesn’t think $200 million in savings can be found.
“WILL NOT YIELD”: One of the tenser moments of the debate came when former DFL Finance Chair Dick Cohen (pictured left) asked two high-ranking Republicans — Bill Ingebrigtsen and Mike Parry — to yield to questions about budget-cutting measures in the bill. They refused, which seemed to shock Cohen. “If this were a courtroom, I’d object,” he said on the floor. After the budget vote, Ingebrigtsen said he thought Cohen was simply looking for an argument. Meanwhile, no one we spoke to could recall the last time a senator had refused to yield in floor debate.
NOTABLE AYE: We noticed GOP Sen. Julie Rosen waited until the last minute to cast her vote on Sen. Linda Berglin’s budget bill amendment that would have removed cuts to child protection grants. We spotted Rosen casting a keen eye to the vote board, and as it became clear the amendment would fail (eventually by a 28-36 vote), she voted for the changes.
ALT-LICENSURE: The Senate also passed its alternative teacher licensure bill (SF 40) by a 40-23 vote, with three DFLers voting green on the measure. The House version (HF 63) is almost to the floor, where it’s expected to enjoy easy passage. Now, though, attention turns to Gov. Mark Dayton, — who, while signaling some openness to the idea, has remained largely noncommittal. He and Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius will hold a news conference on education reform this morning.
WORD IN THE HALLS: Sen. Ann Rest might be in the running to head the Dayton administration’s Department of Administration. One caveat: Though Rest won re-election with 58 percent of the vote in November, there are people in both parties who think it could be up for grabs in a special election.
LOBBYING MARY LIZ: We’re guessing that Rep. Mary Liz Holberg never aspired to a daily schedule stacked end-to-end with the pleadings of lobbyists. But that’s exactly what she’s finding as House Ways and Means chair. When we passed by Holberg’s fourth-floor office yesterday around mid-morning, there were no fewer than six veteran lobbyists packed into the SRO waiting area outside.
MEDICAID: A familiar complaint from Republicans has been the stress of working under federal maintenance-of-effort requirements that govern the state’s Medicaid spending. On Thursday, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius sent a letter to governors outlining some flexibility — such as it is — they may have when it comes to spending. Notably absent? Any openness to allowing states to scale back eligibility and trim enrollment, which is among the surest ways to reduce spending.
VOTER ID BILL PACKS THE ROOM: It was standing room only for Thursday’s House Gov Ops and Elections hearing on two different photo ID bills, one authored by former SOS Mary Kiffmeyer, the other by Rep. Mike Benson. There was no shortage of testimony on all sides of the issue, but no vote was taken.
TINKERING WITH TECHNOLOGY: Kiffmeyer brought along a 10-minute video to tout the benefits that new technology brings to the election process. One problem: She couldn’t get the video to play. Stay tuned – she’ll try again at Tuesday’s Gov Ops and Elections Committee hearing.
NEW BILLS: Fairly light activity in both chambers on Thursday. Most notably, freshmen House Republicans Bob Barrett and Mike Benson introduced an immigration bill, HF 358, that would outlaw so-called “sanctuary city” ordinances that direct local officials not to cooperate with immigration inquiries. And Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer, along with eight GOP co-sponsors, introduced HF 355, a bill to reduce home-schooling mandates. DFL Rep. Ann Lenczewski introduced a bill to make former legislators wait a year before returning to the Capitol as lobbyists (HF 363). Here are listings of Thursday’s House and Senate bill intros.
COMMISH MEETS COMMITTEES: New Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius made her debut before two House committees. Appearing before the House Education Finance Committee, she outlined an agenda for her department, and delivered a plea for preservation of education funding: “If we don’t fund education now,” she warned, “we will pay for it in the future.”
GAROFALO’S PLEDGE: Telling fellow House Education Finance members that his committee has been more candid than other committees about the challenges they face, Rep. Pat Garofalo pledged that he would not be offering “any negative or critical comments about Gov. Dayton’s budget.”
LEGISLATIVE DIGS: When asked if a lot of legislators were living at downtown’s Kellogg Square Apartments, one state rep chuckled, “My guess is if you have a meeting there, you’d have a quorum — in the House and maybe in the Senate.”
BILLS HEARD IN COMMITTEE THURSDAY:
H.F. 1: Changes to environmental permitting and review. Passed Government Operations and Elections Committee. Sent to House floor.
H.F. 57: A bill criminalizing the sale or possession of synthetic marijuana. Passed by Judiciary Policy and Finance Committee. Sent to House floor.
H.F. 63: Alternative teacher licensure. Passed Ways and Means Committee. Sent to House floor.
H.F. 110: Increasing membership of the Legislative Commission on Pensions and Retirement. Passed by State Government Finance Committee. Re-referred to Ways and Means.
H.F. 152:Making possession or sale of identification documents without authorization or possession a crime. Passed Public Safety and Crime Prevention Policy and Finance Committee. Re-referred to Judiciary.
S.F. 33: Freedom of Choice in Health Care. Passed by Judiciary and Public Safety Committee. Sent to Senate Finance.
S.F. 42: Changes to DNR permitting and review. Passed by Judiciary and Public Safety Committee. Sent to Senate Finance.
S.F. 158: Outdoor heritage fund appropriations and modifications. Passed by Environment and Natural Resources Committee for possible inclusion in an omnibus bill.