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Senate and House committees approve gay marriage bill

Mayo Clinic expansion faces questions; legislators leaning on U of M; Minneapolis charter school on shaky ground; and more.

On the progress made by the gay marriage legislation Tuesday, Jennifer Brooks of the Strib says: “[B]oth the House and Senate passed the marriage equality bill out of committee, moving it one step closer to a vote by the full Legislature. Gov. Mark Dayton has said he would sign the bill if it passes the Legislature. … The Legislature was as divided as the citizens who came to testify. Both bills passed out of committee on straight party-line votes. Sen. Dan Hall, R-Burnsville, said his opposition to the marriage legislation didn’t mean he should be branded a bigot or bully. ‘We want to treat everybody with love and respect [and] I think we can do that without redefining marriage,’ he said. ‘Is this about romantic sexual relationship? Or is it about the benefits? The money? What is it you really want? Marriage doesn’t make you more or less valuable. You’re all valuable.’ ”

Brooks makes no mention of Mike Frey, the “concerned father and husband” whose uh, “ooky,” off-the-mark clinical testimony has already made him a viral sensation coast to coast. At Lez Get Real, Bridgette P. LaVictoire writes: “[T]he usual run of outrageous testimony has come out of the wood works with regards to it over the course of the testimony. For the most part, this is testimony that is absolutely inaccurate and sometimes so stupid that it is really hard to believe was being said. Mike Frey, who bills himself as a concerned father and husband, decided to cite Minnesota’s sodomy law when testifying before the House Civil Law Committee. Now, it has to be noted that all the sodomy laws in the United States were struck down in the early 2000′s. Frey, with his testimony, showed once again that there is this obsession among the anti-gay groups and homophobes out there with regards to, well, gay sex. Frey, who does not seem to have either a medical degree or a degree in biological sciences, claimed that heterosexual sex is safer because the vagina possesses a ‘barrier of cellular tissue that doesn’t allow the sperm … to penetrate the blood flow.’ ”

Yeah, a much closer look might be in order. Tom Scheck of MPR reports: “The chair of a key legislative committee said supporters of a plan that relies on more than $500 million to help the Mayo Clinic expand in Rochester should go back to the drawing table. In a hearing Tuesday, House Taxes Committee chair Ann Lenczewski said she has deep concerns about the plan’s financing. … The fate of the Mayo Clinic bill may come down to end of session negotiations among Gov. Dayton, DFL House Speaker Paul Thissen and DFL Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk. All three have said they want to do something for Mayo but have doubts about the financing plan. Dayton said that he is concerned about the price tag for the plan and suggests the size and scope of the project may need to be scaled back.”

Mila Koumpilova of the PiPress follows U of M President Eric Kaler to the Capitol: “Kaler made a case to lawmakers that the U is on a mission to get leaner. Now, it’s the legislators’ move. At the start of this year’s session, lawmakers called on the university to examine its administrative ranks and report back with preliminary findings by mid-March. They suggested the success of Kaler’s $1.1 billion biennial budget pitch might hinge of the outcome. … Gene Pelowski, DFL-Winona, said the state won’t have ‘anywhere near’ the amount Dayton proposed to give the university. On his committee, the idea of insisting the university curb tuition increases regardless of the state aid amount appears to be gaining bipartisan traction.”

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U of M unions released a statement about the report. Via MPR’s Alex Friedrich, it says: “Cherrene Horazuk, President of AFSCME 3800 and clerical worker in the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs, said of the report, ‘This confirms what we have been saying for years. The University has a problem with top-heavy management. We see again and again that front line staff who serve students and the community get laid off while upper management positions not only are protected, but are increased along with their salaries.’ … ‘We are glad to hear President Kaler express a commitment to make real changes in the staffing layers and spans at the University. It’s unfortunate that it took front-page headlines in national news outlets for this to come about.’ ”

A Minneapolis charter school is in danger of closing. WCCO-TV’s Reg Chapman reports: “Emily O. Goodridge-Grey Accelerated Charter School has been told its main source of funding won’t be renewed. The Minneapolis school is home to some of the area’s poorest children and at one time was considered one of the most improved charter schools in the state. But in Minnesota, each charter school needs an authorizer to sponsor the school. The Audubon Center of the North Woods is Emily Grey’s authorizer and the center decided to go through the process to not renew their contract.”

Naturally, no one expects him to show up. HillelI Italie of the AP says: “If he lived in England, he’d surely be Sir Bob Dylan. The most influential songwriter of his time has become the first rock star voted into the elite, century-old American Academy of Arts and Letters, where artists range from Philip Roth to Jasper Johns and categories include music, literature and visual arts. According to executive director Virginia Dajani, officials couldn’t decide whether he belonged for his words or for his music, so they settled on making him an honorary member, joining such previous choices as Meryl Streep, Woody Allen and a filmmaker who has made a documentary about Dylan, Martin Scorsese. … Dylan’s manager, Jeff Rosen, had no immediate comment on Dylan’s reaction — Dylan did accept membership, a condition for the vote to go through — or whether he would attend the academy’s April dinner or May induction ceremony.”

Meanwhile, in D.C., Kevin Diaz of the Strib says: “Amid growing popular sentiment, Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., has introduced legislation that would make it easier for mobile phone users to switch wireless carriers by allowing them to ‘unlock’ their phones. Under current copyright law, that would be all but a criminal act. Similar legislation is being unveiled in the GOP-controlled House, and the bipartisan roster of co-sponsors in the Senate suggests that legalization might actually happen.” That one almost feels as though it is moving too fast for the telecom lobby.

And once more for good measure … Strib business columnist Lee Schafer says, to no one’s surprise, that Gov. Dayton’s back-down on that business-to-business tax was both right and sensible: “The reason consumers pay sales taxes and businesses mostly don’t is not due to some fundamental policy unfairness, as the governor suggested, or that consumers are politically less powerful. It’s that the consumer is, by definition, the last link in any value chain. They are the ones who ‘consume’ a product or service. In the household, no purchase gets put in inventory for resale, nor is paying for a service an operating expense incurred in making something else or providing a service. This is why there is a policy consensus that a broader tax on consumer purchases including services can be a fine idea, eliminating distortion between consumer goods that may be taxed and services that may not.” Clearly, someone got the memo.

The big CapX2020 power line project is changing the face of Scott County. Tony Wagner of the Strib says: “Towers are being erected on farmland south of Belle Plaine, and construction will continue across Scott County to the Lakeville area over the next year. The project is on schedule, but landowners in its path still have concerns. The $730 million line will be up and running in 2015, stretching 250 miles from Brookings, S.D., to Hampton. It’s the longest leg of CapX2020, a $2.2 billion transmission line network created by a consortium of 11 utility companies, including Xcel Energy and Great River Energy. The route, cost and effects of CapX 2020 have been hotly debated since it was proposed in 2007.”