1.) Gov. Mark Dayton released his 2014 bonding bill proposal on Wednesday, issuing a plan that would borrow $986 million to fund construction projects across the state. The largest single item on Dayton’s wish list is the $127 million set aside for Capitol repairs, which most consider one of the rare projects that has universal agreement of its necessity. Broken down by category, the top targets in Dayton’s sights are economic development and education, which combine to make up more than half of the overall amount. In the former category are long-sought upgrades to the downtown areas of Rochester, Mankato and St. Cloud, as well as a $20 million renovation for the Nicollet Mall in Minneapolis.
Dayton’s announcement was praised by key Democrats, including Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, who chairs the House Capital Investment Committee. Hausman said the governor’s plan includes “strategic investments” for the state, though she refrained from endorsing it fully, calling the proposal an “excellent start to the conversation.” That’s a good deal more charitable than the view taken by her Republican counterpart on that committee, Rep. Matt Dean, R-Dellwood, who put out a press release calling Dayton’s announcement a “borrow and spend plan.” Dean acknowledged there are “some worthwhile projects” on Dayton’s list, but also highlighted the inclusion of “a snow-making machine and chalet for the governor’s friends.”
2.) The Senate Rules and Administration Committee voted to approve construction plans for a new $90 million complex that includes a new office building for members of the upper chamber, the Pioneer Press reports. That cost includes $27 million for a pair of new parking facilities on the Capitol grounds. Following the vote, Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk said Gov. Mark Dayton, who has been critical of the overall price tag, had requested that the Senate delay funding for a $14 million ramp next to the proposed building site.
But, as Department of Administration staffer Wayne Waslaski explained, the state is already set to lose about 600 employee parking spots that are currently available, but will soon be redeveloped by the lot owners. Senate Minority Leader David Hann continued to advise against approving the project — which still needs an affirmative vote from the House Rules Committee — with litigation still ongoing, calling it “imprudent” to sign off on it without a legal resolution.
3.) Senate committee members seemed at least tentatively supportive of sweeping changes recommended by the Sex Offender Civil Commitment Advisory Task Force, the Star Tribune reports. The Senate Health and Human Services Committee and Senate Judiciary Committee held a joint hearing to go over those recommendations on Wednesday, considering a variety of changes that are meant to amend the state program before a court hearing a class action lawsuit against the program elects to intervene.
Among the options discussed yesterday is a shift that would begin moving at least some of the 700 civilly committed Minnesotans toward time in prison, rather than in high-security facilities; already, some 3,000 offenders are housed in prison, and treatment received there has managed to lower the rate of recidivism by more than 25 percent. What’s more, prison-based treatment costs about one-third as much as treatment through the Minnesota Sex Offender Program (MSOP).
COMINGS & GOINGS
- Sen. Katie Sieben, DFL-Newport, declined to comment about whether she has been asked to join Gov. Mark Dayton as a lieutenant governor candidate, according to Minnesota Public Radio. Dayton, meanwhile, said on Wednesday that he plans to make an announcement for Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon‘s replacement “shortly.”
- Minnesota Management and Budget is hiring for a pair of research and consulting positions to work on the study of employment law, legislative bills and collective bargaining agreements with state employees, among other responsibilities. Qualified applicants should have at least five years human resources experience, and should have experience with labor relations and policy interpretation. The position is full-time, and comes with a salary range between $56,000-$83,000; applications due Jan. 21. More information at the state jobs board.
- U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) will be the featured guest at the DFL’s annual Humphrey-Mondale Dinner. The consumer advocate firebrand and first-term senator is frequently mentioned as a possible future presidential candidate. The event will be held at the Minneapolis Convention Center. Ticket/sponsorship options range from $125 for general admission, up to $2,500 for a photo opportunity with Warren before the event. More information here.
- The CD 5 Republicans are holding a candidate training event with the Leadership Institute this Saturday, at the Golden Valley Corporate Center. The all-day gathering is open to current or prospective candidates, as well as campaign managers and political organizers. Early registration $35, same-day registration $45; more information here.