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Dayton rips GOP over health exchanges

“Piecemeal” and “ideological” you say, Governor? Christopher Snowbeck at the PiPress notes the heating rhetoric over how those health insurance exchanges are being organized — or not — in Minnesota: “Dayton, a Democrat, sent a letter on Monday ... criticizing Republican bills moving through the Legislature for taking a ‘piecemeal’ and ‘ideological’ approach to creating in Minnesota a health insurance exchange — a key piece of the federal health care legislation. ‘Unfortunately, there are some who would rather play politics with this exchange in an election year, than work sincerely and cooperatively to advance it in Minnesota,’ Dayton wrote in the letter to Sen. Chris Gerlach, R-Apple Valley, and Rep. Joe Hoppe, R-Chaska. Neither Gerlach nor Hoppe could be reached for comment. But at a hearing Monday night, Sen. David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, suggested that Democrats at the federal level were the ones who first brought an ideological approach to the issue. ‘The federal health care law itself is pretty much the product of one political party without any bipartisanship at all,’ said Hann, chairman of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.” Did someone get that quote on video? I have to know if he managed to say that with a straight face.

There’ll be no union for graduate assistants at the U of M. The Minnesota Daily story, by Cali Ownings and Nick Sudheimer, says: “Graduate assistants at the University of Minnesota voted against forming a union 1,857 to 1,142, according to results released by the Bureau of Mediation Services Monday. About 68 percent of the 4,400 eligible graduate student workers cast votes during last week’s election. They decided not to form a union with the help of the United Auto Workers. Graduate students have been organizing on campus for the past two years. They collected signatures from more than 30 percent of the student body in order to put the union to a vote.”

Mila Koumpilova’s story at the PiPress says: “The university strongly opposed the unionization effort, which was backed by the United Auto Workers. U President Eric Kaler sent a message to assistants on the eve of the election urging them to participate. He said the status quo of working out graduate appointment terms between assistants with diverse interests and their departments makes sense. … In three previous elections, the majority of assistants voted against forming a union, including about 58 percent in the most recent 2005 vote. In opposing this latest effort, the university touted what it deems competitive pay and benefits it offers students. The $13,300 average pay at the U is above the average at Big 10 universities, the school said. The university also questioned the motives of United Auto Workers in seeking to represent students. Sara Nelson, a U graduate student and one of the drive organizers, decried the administration's push to influence the outcome of the vote. She scoffed at the picture Kaler's message painted of students negotiating directly with their departments. ‘You don't have any say, and that's precisely the problem,’ Nelson said, adding, ‘They would like to run the university as a business rather than as the public institution it is.’ ”

Hey, great news for Larry Craig if he ever passes through town again! Wendy Lee at the Strib says: “Atlanta-based Minute Suites LLC will land at MSP by December, setting up 14 relaxation rooms in Terminal 1 that fliers can rent by the hour. The suites, which will be about the size of a small office, will have a daybed, high-definition TV, desk and free wireless Internet. The suites are part of a growing assortment of products and services the airport is offering travelers as a way to raise revenue. Already, MSP has a spa, hair salon, and high-end restaurants that serve up delicacies like bison tartare and pumpkin soup. … The suites, which will start at $30 for the first hour, will be built on Concourse D. The commission originally planned to set up a health clinic on the concourse but said the vendor didn't finish paying for the project. So in February, the commission selected Minute Suites to install the relaxation rooms.”

Met Council critics want the agency accountable to elected officials. In Pat Doyle’s Strib story, it says: “[D]etractors want to strip the agency of its authority over transit planning and turn the job over to a panel more accountable to elected officials. Scott County Commissioner Jon Ulrich recalled recently how local officials responsible for advising the agency were shut out of work on a major transportation plan. ‘We were told if you want to see the full plan ... it will be online later in the week,’ Ulrich said. The critics want to turn the Met Council responsibilities for planning transit over to a board made up mostly of elected local officials, with many of them appointed by counties. Current council members are appointed by the governor and don't hold elective office elsewhere. They sometimes profess ignorance of actions taken by the agency's staff. Recently, the council was forced to backpedal after suburbanites complained about designs for new buses. The governor expressed concerns about staff decisions on awarding a transit contract. Republicans at the Capitol who want a greater role for elected officials also want to shift transit funding from the state to local property taxes.” … Which, if you look at it through their lens, would be smaller government.

And what is this guy’s bill for mice? Sarah Horner at the PiPress reports on a herpetologically inclined fellow in Coon Rapids: “The Coon Rapids City Council will likely decide whether a local resident can keep living with more than 300 snakes in his house. Per the council's request, Scott Nellis met with city staff last week to attempt to negotiate the problems posed by hundreds of rodents and reptiles in the UPS delivery driver's single-family Coon Rapids home. Efforts stalled over the northern suburb's pet ordinance, which prohibits residents from owning pythons and boa constrictors. Nellis, who owns more than 100 snakes of the two species, said the nonvenomous snakes are not dangerous and that he believes the city council should revise its ordinance to allow them. … Nellis owns about 360 snakes, 60 lizards and hundreds of rodents and cockroaches. He started breeding snakes in 1996 and ramped up his efforts in 2004. He sells the reptiles at expos across the Midwest.”

The elaborate check-kiting charge for which St. Paul businessman George Wintz is on trial gets coverage from John Welbes at the PiPress: “Several of George Wintz's businesses were struggling in 2009's poor economy when he wrote bad checks totaling $1.9 million to St. Paul's Pinehurst Bank, witnesses testified Monday ... One of the largest customers at Wintz's Triangle Warehouse facility — Smurfit-Stone, a cardboard-box maker — filed for bankruptcy early in 2009, said Nancy Cook, a key administrator for several Wintz-owned companies. Business also had slowed at a greeting card shop in downtown St. Paul, which Wintz had given to her, Cook testified. Wintz and two former Pinehurst executives are on trial in federal court in Minneapolis for a five-loan scheme they put together in 2009 to cover the $1.9 million overdraft. Cook, a longtime Wintz employee, didn't question the $500,000 loan she signed for Wintz in early March that same year. As she went to Pinehurst Bank to close on the loan, she didn't know what the loan would total, or the interest rate, she testified. ‘He asked, I said yes,’ said Cook, who had a personal relationship with Wintz that ended years ago. ‘If he needed it, I did it.' " Now that is a loyal team player.

Good piece by Maya Rao of the Strib on a rowdy Lake Street bar: “[A]uthorities paint a far grimmer picture of Champions, and charges filed against 14 people on March 19 have renewed the discussion over why the corner of Lake Street and Blaisdell Avenue S. has hosted so many drug deals and how much the bar plays a role — and has a responsibility to stop them. The latest bust comes five years after Minneapolis forced Champions to shut down for two weeks in the aftermath of an earlier drug bust. But the bar has since won an award for fighting drug dealing in the neighborhood. ‘Every person who works here is offended and feels betrayed by police,’ [owner Rick] Nelson said. Tom McNamee, who opened Champions in the 1950s after returning from the Korean War and remains a ‘consultant,’ is equally adamant: ‘Dammit, I want to stay on this corner. And we've done everything they asked us to do.’ … After the 2007 controversy, the bar added several off-duty cops to their corps of security guards. And its efforts to turn around were recognized by the National Restaurant Association, which named the bar a finalist in its ‘Restaurant Neighbor’ awards for helping prevent more than 30 drug deals in the area by giving out $2,000 in rewards to those reporting illegal activity. … investigators observed a man and woman who appeared to be doing a drug deal outside the front door of Champions. The woman asked the officers what they were looking for. When an officer said they wanted to buy $20 worth of crack, the man and woman began to argue about who was going to make the sale. Both did.” I guess I’ll take Mom somewhere else for her Easter nightcap.

If you believe a guy who tells you you’ll make $15 for every $1 you put into a deal with a company named something like International Rarities Holdings — that is  based in Nevada — well, there are several names for folks like you. Most rhyme with "hump." Dan Browning of the Strib reports: “Federal regulators filed a lawsuit Monday in St. Paul alleging that Minneapolis coin dealer David Marion duped investors out of more than $1 million, gambling away much of the money that was supposed to be used to expand his company. Marion, 52, of Shorewood, is sole owner of International Rarities Inc., which operates out of the downtown Tri-Tech building. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in August and is now being run by a court-appointed trustee who is evaluating whether it can be salvaged. The Star Tribune reported in May that some investors complained that Marion had sold them shares in an entity called International Rarities Holdings, a Nevada firm that he planned to use to take his privately held coin company public. Investors said they were told they could reap as much as $15 for every $1 invested. … Marion also told investors that the holding company had a seven-member board with three independent directors. ‘In fact, several did not know that Marion had unilaterally deemed them to be board members,’ the suit says. According to the SEC, Marion diverted most of the investor funds to himself or his coin company. Of the $1 million raised, more than $700,000 went to Marion's own uses, the SEC says. He spent nearly $200,000 gambling, withdrew nearly $100,000 in cash and deposited more than $400,000 into personal accounts, much of which he lost gambling."

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Comments (9)

au contrare

... Nelson said, adding, ‘They would like to run the university as a business rather than as the public institution it is.’ ”

If they wanted to run the university as a business they would probably be more open to a labor union since most people respect private sector trade unions and their record of rigorous training and work standards. I will only use union carpenters, plumbers and electricians.

It's the fact that this would be a union of college students temporaily serving as government employees with no standard skillset that rubs people the wrong way. Most people view government employee unions as incestuous relationships that provide no benefit to the taxpayers who pay the bill.

Maybe when she graduates and goes to work for Jimmy Johns she can try again.

GRADUATE students

Your demeaning comments about students at the U is unjustified considering you failed to understand the difference between the student body as a whole and graduate students.

Graduate students are skilled workers, with very little likelihood of spending any time in Jimmy Johns as employees.

Unionizing the graduate students has very little to do with money, but more to do with the power to figure out where the hell you fit in the university. You are not faculty, so you get no faculty-defined benefits. You are not students when it comes to other benefits. Even something as simple as figuring out where you can park is a pain, because you're not allowed to park in faculty spots OR student spots. Grad students are permanent visitors on campus, many (especially the hard science grad students) working ungodly hours for just enough money to keep you from starving, and suffering from mental and physical health problems as a result.


how 62 percent of those who voted agree with me and not you. I have five PhD candidates working for me, all brilliant and able people, and none voted for it. Maybe that's why.

Considering That the Affrordable Care Act Is Based

On ideas originally proposed by Republican "conservatives" and "conservative" think tanks, and continues to frustrate "liberals" like me because a great deal of what I would rather have had built into it was left out,..

I can't help but wonder what color the sky is in the alternative-reality which Sen. Hann has wrapped so tightly around himself.

Sen. Hann, the sky in the REAL world is blue, perhaps, if you look hard enough, you might see a slight glimmer of it which you could follow out into sunlight, fresh air, and a world where lies are frowned upon and verifiable science, facts, figures, logical analysis and REALITY would provide a wonderful antidote to the fouled air, and emotional stress and anger which so dominate your life and your knee-jerk perspective now.

You'll know you've found that real world and fresh air when you can think and say the word "Obama" without feeling rankled and what pops into your head at the sound of that word is that he's currently the legitimately-elected, well-supported, moderately popular President of the United States who has every right to be where he is.

Dennis, I fixed it...

Most people who are told how to view Gov't by the Koch Bros. view government employee unions as incestuous relationships that provide no benefit to the taxpayers who pay the bill.

The Republican health care plan?

The Republicans have never acknowledged that there actually is a health care crises beyond the so-called "entitlement" programs. They're only contribution to the health care debate if you'll recall was to accuse Obama of being a socialist and float one hysterical "warning" after another about death panels and other imaginary catastrophe's.

To the free market Republican mind, there can be no such thing as a health care crises because the markets produce perfect results. It's like "Rationalist" free market "economists" who cannot acknowledge the existence of "bubbles" in the markets because their ideology simply rejects the notion of anything other than perfectly appropriate prices.

grad students' union

Grad students don't make much money. It was probably the prospect of paying union dues out of a small paycheck that made them vote against joining a union not offering a whole lot of benefits.

I was a graduate assistant at

I was a graduate assistant at the U for three years, and I probably would have voted no on this if I was still a student there, for a few reasons:

In my department, a teaching assistantship was almost always given as a reward for good grades. It was relatively easy and oftentimes fun work that could be done at any time, with tons of schedule flexibility, and a very generous hourly rate -- I estimate $40/hr for a 10 hour per week appointment, once tuition and health insurance and bus pass reductions were factored in. All told, this knocked off roughly $30,000 off the cost of my Master's degree.

I did not get the sense, when talking to pro-union people, that preservation of the status quo was what they were organizing for, and I think the status quo served me and many of my classmates quite well. To borrow a phrase that has been used regarding voter ID that I strongly agree with, the union seemed like a solution in search of a problem.

Your experience

Your experience doesn't sound at all like mine. As a PhD grad student, teaching assistantships were not available for additional money. By contract, we were technically not allowed to take on additional work. We were often worked to the bone, with late nights at the lab, no reasonable parking (which wouldn't have been a big deal except that we were on campus late at night--I was alone on campus late at night when the last hockey riots erupted, and fortunately, the mob had moved to the other side of campus), and little ability to improve our lot. While our stipends did increase over the period of time I was a grad student (I'll note that they haven't gone up since), our health insurance costs, fees, and other expenses related to being a grad student also went up. We paid fees that paid for technology that undergrads got, but we weren't allowed to get (for example, wireless cards that undergrads got for use with laptops, which we couldn't get though we paid the same fees).