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Racino add-on to stadium bill is probably short-lived

Stadium “reversal of fortune”; St. Paul mayor talks of “starved” twin; Accretive Health’s stock plunges; school trust land plan advances; Joe Senser testifies; and more.

Aaaaaand it’s back, for a day at least. Our Doug Grow and Tim Nelson of MPR report on the return of the racino. “In a surprise maneuver,” writes Nelson, “supporters of putting slot machines at Minnesota horse tracks tacked a racino plan onto the Vikings stadium bill on Wednesday. As the Senate finance committee approved the bill it added a plan to legalize slot machines at horse tracks as a backup financing mechanism. The measure will now head for the Senate tax committee, and could be headed for a vote by both the House and Senate within days. … Stadium bill author Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, said the addition threatens to kill the bill. She said there is still time to strip the racino option, which is likely to draw opposition from the state’s Indian tribes and gambling opponents.”

Charley Shaw at Politics in Minnesota delivers a very thorough overview of the stadium’s “reversal of fortune”:  “[A]n intense lobbying campaign that has seen labor and business moving in concert for the first time has kept the bill alive and moving. House Majority Leader Matt Dean, R-Dellwood, said he believes the push from labor, in particular, has exerted a restraining influence over elements of the legislative DFL that had been inclined to engage in gamesmanship over the stadium. ‘Labor has been pushing very, very hard,’ Dean said. ‘There are a lot of their members that are on the bench. When they see political games being played, they get angry.’ The bill’s chief author, Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, noted that the business lobby has turned up the heat on Republicans in a similar fashion. … In addition, the revenue potential of e-pulltabs has proven to be a point of contention. Many legislators have expressed doubts that authorizing an electronic version of a game that is played mainly by older people will yield any serious windfall to the state or to sponsoring charities. And those doubts have cast a spotlight on backup revenue sources conceived to make sure that any revenue shortfall from electronic pulltabs and bingo does not have to be made up by drawing down general fund dollars.”

“Where’s ours?” is pretty much the cry from St. Paul as the Legislature continues its march toward a load of taxpayer goodies for Minneapolis. Rochelle Olson in the Strib writes: “Mayor Chris Coleman found himself Wednesday in a position familiar to many of his predecessors at St. Paul City Hall: Pleading with legislators for state investment in the eastern twin city. ‘If you feed one twin and starve the other, one of them is going to die,’ he told the Senate Finance Committee, a majority of whom were not swayed. The panel stripped from the $1 billion Vikings stadium bill a provision that would have forgiven St. Paul’s $43 million indebtedness from 1993 for the RiverCentre Convention Center downtown. Given the $400 million in state money that would go toward the stadium and the discussion of an additional $150 million for the Target Center — both in Minneapolis — Coleman doesn’t want his city to be left out. The mayor is seeking money for a trifecta of projects. In addition to the RiverCentre, he would like cancellation of $34.75 million in loan payments for the Xcel Energy Center and $27 million put in the bonding bill for a new 7,000-seat St. Paul Saints ballpark in Lowertown. So far, things are not going so well.”  But the mayor is getting more comfortable with that “dying twin” metaphor.

Accretive Health Inc., charged by Attorney General Lori Swanson with pursuing patients into the emergency rooms over unpaid bills, saw its stock price crater. The AP reports: “Shares of Accretive Health Inc. plunged Wednesday, after the Minnesota attorney general reported that the Chicago company advised a Minnesota hospital to use high-pressure tactics to collect money from some patients before administering care. … SHARE ACTION: Down 30 percent, or $5.54, to $12.95 in afternoon trading. Earlier shares traded at $12.42, the lowest price since June 2010.”

I still want to keep an eye on this one … Dennis Lien of the PiPress writes: “Moments after the Minnesota House overwhelmingly approved a measure changing oversight of state school trust lands, Republicans and Democrats shook hands and exchanged hugs. On the House floor. At center aisle. That unusual display of bipartisanship on Wednesday … reflected years of work by several lawmakers to shift administration of school trust lands from the state Department of Natural Resources. They contended the DNR has not done a good job of generating revenue for schoolchildren from those properties. The House, and a couple of hours later the Senate, repassed an updated version establishing a Legislative Permanent School Fund Commission and a trust lands director, appointed by the governor, to oversee and administer land given to the state in the mid-19th century. … The bill, however, was not without critics. Several DFLers said two provisions inserted during conference committee negotiations undermine the package. They said one of them would eliminate legislative approval of lakeshore sales and the other appears to allow future Legacy and Environmental Trust Fund dollars to be used to buy land already under state control. Rep. Jean Wagenius, DFL-Minneapolis, called those efforts a ‘money grab.’ ”   

Some alleged swindles don’t even compare to the big dogs … Sarah Horner at the PiPress reports: “Blaine’s longtime chief building official is scheduled to appear in court Thursday … on charges of using his authority as a city employee to swindle a resident. Gary Hagedorn faces one count of gross-misdemeanor misconduct as a public officer and one count of misdemeanor theft by swindle in the 2010 incident, according to a criminal complaint in Anoka County District Court. … Hagedorn, a 16-year employee in charge of Blaine’s building and inspections division, is accused of telling a resident in need of extensive home renovations that he was qualified to conduct an electrical inspection of the man’s residence, the complaint said. Hagedorn also claimed he could do the work for less than it would cost to hire a state inspector. Before the exchange, the city had designated the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry as the inspection authority for all electrical inspections in Blaine, the complaint said. On August 9, 2010, the resident … wrote a $400 check to Hagedorn for the work.”

Joe Senser was on the stand in his wife’s trial Wednesday. Abby Simons of the Strib says: “Joe Senser knew his wife hit more than a construction cone or barrel when he examined the damage to his Mercedes-Benz the morning of Aug. 24. He was still giving Amy Senser the silent treatment, he testified Wednesday, angry for being roused from bed the night before to pick up their teenage daughters and two of their friends from a concert at the Xcel Energy Center after she failed to show up. The next morning, he said, his annoyance turned to panic when he looked at the ‘odd’ damage to the front right fender, then saw a news report online that a man had been killed on the Riverside Avenue exit ramp. … Under questions by his wife’s attorney, Eric Nelson, Senser said he regretted being angry with his wife for getting lost that night because she was on antibiotics for a sinus infection and her migraines were returning. He said he never smelled alcohol on her or suspected she had been drinking. ‘Not at all,’ he testified. ‘Never even crossed my mind’.”

Following Joe Soucheray’s lead … the Strib puts up an editorial on the misplaced privacy notions regarding payouts of public money: “Count it as a partial victory: The state Department of Administration said this week that Burnsville school officials should not have blacked out parts of a $255,000 settlement agreement with a former employee. News media organizations, including the Star Tribune, and outraged citizens had challenged the school district’s decision to redact nine lines of a separation agreement with Tania Z. Chance, the former human-resources director, leaving taxpayers in the dark about the use of their dollars. … even the unredacted document fails to give specifics about the circumstances that prompted Chance and the district to part ways. A proposal to strengthen the state’s Data Practices Act would fix that problem. Rep. Pam Myhra, R-Burnsville, has introduced a bill that would close loopholes and mandate that complete terms of agreements must be disclosed and specific reasons given for big payouts.”

The lefty Capital Times in Madison serves up an editorial that is, shall we say, “uncomplimentary” of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. After noting various legal predicaments of previous high government officials, it says: “While past governors have had their ethical challenges, Gov. Scott Walker is in an ethical — and legal — league of his own. In recent days, Walker has been dogged on his recall election campaign trail by questions about when exactly he decided to hire a team of criminal defense lawyers to help him navigate the challenges posed by an ever-expanding John Doe inquiry into allegations of felony wrongdoing by individuals he employed as aides and hit up for campaign contributions. Walker also faces questions about why he worked so hard to suggest in February that he only recently began hiring former federal prosecutors and lawyers with experience defending criminal conspirators — when, in fact, it now appears that he began assembling a defense team as much as a year ago. … It is important to recognize that Walker’s establishment of a legal defense fund, his hiring of a team of criminal defense lawyers and moves by the governor and his campaign to retain four top law firms to help deal with an investigation into official and campaign corruption does not mean that Scott Walker has committed any crimes. That is for prosecutors, judges and juries to determine. But the governor’s refusal to speak openly or frankly about the fact that he has, indeed, organized a legal defense fund and that he is, indeed, ‘lawyering up’ is another issue.”