1.) Legislative leaders from both parties and both chambers gave some insight into their priorities and strategy heading into the 2014 session at the Politics in Minnesota/Capitol Report session preview panel discussion Thursday morning, an event co-sponsored by Fredrikson & Byron. The debate saw the various caucus leaders revisiting some of the same issues that dominated the 2013 session, but also teased out a few surprising moments. Among them: Senate Minority Leader David Hann said his caucus would be “open” to a discussion about raising new revenues to fund transportation needs. House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt said he was “not necessarily” interested in that notion, and predicted that House Democrats would avoid passing a gas tax increase during an election year.
On another topic certain to surface early in the session, House Speaker Paul Thissen said it has been “hard to find a solution” to medicinal marijuana that could be endorsed by law enforcement officials, and said the topic was not a top priority for his caucus this year. On the issue of minimum wage, Sen. Jeff Hayden, DFL-Minneapolis, predicted that the Senate would be able to pass a bill that is closer to the House’s $9.50 figure than to the $7.75 mark that passed in the upper chamber last year.
2.) Gov. Mark Dayton will push for new legislation meant to curb the safety risks involved in rail transport, the Star Tribune reports, outlining an administration platform that coincides with a union protest of the Canadian Pacific rail line over the same issue. Dayton spokesman Matt Swenson said the governor met with cabinet officials yesterday to discuss the topic, and plans to craft a legislative proposal that could be introduced for the 2014 session. Possible approaches to the issue include hiring additional rail safety inspectors to supplement the lone state employee who currently fulfills that job.
3.) Today, the Minnesota Vikings and the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA) are planning to roll out terms of the personal seat licenses (PSLs) that will provide for a portion of the team’s funding toward its new stadium, according to the Associated Press. Per the agreement those two sides came to in October, the Vikings will use the high-priced “builder’s licenses” to finance up to $100 million of its contribution toward the $975 million stadium. At the time of the agreement, the Vikings said the average license would run around $2,500, while declining to give away details on price or financing options. MSFA chair Michele Kelm-Helgen and Gov. Mark Dayton had both advocated against the use exorbitant fees on fans for the team’s contribution; Kelm-Helgen later said the sides had reached a “very Minnesota-focused” deal.
COMINGS & GOINGS
- Businessman and creation science advocate Robert Frey is poised to jump into the race to replace Rep. Ernie Leidigier, R-Mayer, who announced earlier this week that he would not seek re-election in his strongly conservative district. Frey informed Carver County GOP chair Vince Beaudette of his intentions during Tuesday’s precinct caucuses; Beaudette told Politics in Minnesota he expects the race to draw a number of GOP entrants.
- U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and former U.S. President Jimmy Carter will both be on hand at the Saturday memorial service for Joan Mondale, and Carter will provide remarks during the event, the Associated Press reports. Mondale will be remembered during a 12:30 p.m. service at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Minneapolis; the memorial will also be streamed on the church’s website.
- The annual February Fest, a fundraiser for Mac-Groveland and Highland Park area Republicans, will be held at 7:00 p.m. tonight at the St. Paul home of Kurt Kastel. A number of GOP luminaries are scheduled to be on hand, including Senate Minority Leader David Hann, Republican Party of Minnesota chair Keith Downey, as well as gubernatorial candidates Jeff Johnson and Rep. Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove. Suggested contribution $50; more information here.
- Democrat Kevin Burkart has registered to run against Rep. Tony Albright, R-Prior Lake. Burkart is a well-known figure in that area, thanks to his holding the world record for one-armed skydives in a single day, a feat he undertook to raise money for the fight against Parkinson’s Disease. He will have a difficult challenge in unseating Albright, who won election to his first term with 64 percent of the vote in the conservative district.
- The family trio of Ronald, Michael and Valerie Jerich have been retained to lobby for C.S. McCrossan & Lunda, a construction company that specializes in highways, tunnels and bridges.
- The Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy added Jill Bathke to its lobbying team, bringing its count up to nine.