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The Capitol Note: Home health care worker unionization petition to trigger historic election

Mike Mullen//July 9, 2014

The Capitol Note: Home health care worker unionization petition to trigger historic election

Mike Mullen//July 9, 2014

1) Despite a US Supreme Court ruling from last week saying that members aren’t required to pay dues, Minnesota home health care workers have provided the state with enough signatures to start a union election here, Minnesota Public Radio reports.

The measure — the 9,000 signature petition accompanying it was presented to the Bureau of Mediation Services on Tuesday —  will be a historic, advocates say.

State lawmakers passed legislation in 2013 allowing the unionization efforts for the more than 26,000 home care workers in Minnesota. Advocates say the move is necessary to improve working conditions in the high-turnover industry, and to acknowledge that the field is an important career.

Republican resistance has been staunch. “Forcing personal care attendants – those who often care for ill, elderly or disabled family members and close friends – into a government union for the sole purpose of extracting more money out of them to fill the coffers of Gov. [Mark] Dayton’s political cronies has been part of a futile effort of his that I have fought for years,” retiring state Rep. Kurt Zellers, who is running for governor against Dayton, said in a statement.

2) The Minnesota Racing Commission’s poor regulation of Running Aces Harness Park contributed to nearly $440,000 in underpayments of winnings to horse owners between 2008 and 2012, according to a report from the state Legislative Auditor released on Tuesday.

Lawmakers have long been concerned about the racing commission’s oversight of horse tracks in Minnesota. “I want to say it’s in the neighborhood of a couple of years that we have been concerned about the Racing Commission and its oversight of the tracks,” said Rep. Joe Atkins, who has scheduled a hearing for later this month, “but not having a deep enough knowledge of knowing what the specifics were.”

There has been a change-up in leadership since 2012, and a Racing Commission response from the new set of officials in charge acknowledged the previously lackluster oversight. Essentially, Running Aces had been calculating purse payouts based on a percentage of a small piece of the total pot, and Auditor Jim Nobles found that’s contrary to state law.

3) The members of the newly created Legislative Commission on Data Practices on Tuesday laid out a broad set of topics that they hope to address with tangible policy changes over the next legislative session.

Among the topics that members brought up were license plate readers, drones and a year-long exemption for health plan contract data that was sandwiched into a clarification bill to the Data Practices Act. Rep. Mary Liz Holberg, a data-privacy guru who’s retiring from the Legislature, said she hopes the make up of the commission — it contains leaders of the applicable House committee — will help ensure that real changes are made.

“My primary purpose is to develop more expertise in the Legislature on these very complex issues,” Holberg said. “I’m kind of enjoying the awakening if you will — which is, of course, a direct result of the public’s interest as well.”


  • DFL State Auditor candidate Matt Entenza has secured another labor endorsement, this time announcing that he had received the nod from the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers Local 647, which has some 900 members.
  • The state is hiring for a marketing or advertising professional to join its Explore Minnesota tourism team. Job duties would include crafting marketing campaigns to hit audiences in the United States and Canadian, and overseeing the state’s tourism message on amateur athletics. Minimum three years in travel target or service marketing or advertising. Apply here.
  • Julia Donnelly, formerly a government affairs specialist with the Minnesota Nurses Association, has taken a new job as political director at the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 49. Donnelly, who once worked as a campaign manager for DFL U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, takes over the position from Jason George, who has since moved on to join the Minneapolis-based Natural Resource Group as a consultant.
  • The Minnesota Government Relations Council (MGRC) is hosting an informational meeting on volunteer opportunities for this summer’s National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) conference in the Twin Cities. The orientation and training meeting will be held from 10:30-noon on July 22 in room 200 of the State Office Building. RSVP to Melissa Lesch at [email protected].
  • Enbridge Energy Partners, the Canadian corporation hoping to build a crude oil pipeline that would run through Minnesota, has retained the services of lobbyists Judy Cook and Jim Girard, the two named principals at the Cook Girard firm. Those additions bring Enbridge’s current count up to nine advocates.

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