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Unions feel legislative ‘love’ in Minnesota

LRT Green Line cars pass first test; Kline’s role as chairman; “Judgmental Map” draws harsh judgments; protecting high school coaches … and legislators; and more.

The AP’s Brian Bakst detects progress for unions in Minnesota. “In most states, where costs are still being cut, the proposal would be out of the question. But in Minnesota, it’s just one in a raft of union-friendly bills moving through the Legislature, giving union workers the prospect of big victories even as their brethren are reeling elsewhere. As economic changes batter organized labor nationwide, eroding its membership and political power, Minnesota has emerged as one of the few places where unions are faring well. Democrats hope they’re creating a bulwark in a more hostile world. ‘There’s been a general war on anyone who is working class and has a union by trying to take union rights away,’ [said] Democratic Rep. Michael Nel. ‘Here in Minnesota maybe we’re ahead of the curve in pushing back.’ But Republicans see dire consequences ahead, including a possible business backlash.”

By now you’ve probably already seen the pictures … Rupa Shenoy of MPR writes:Metro Transit said the first test of a light-rail car on the new Green Line went off without a hitch Sunday. The test confirmed light-rail cars won’t touch the poles that will hold the overhead power lines. The light-rail car was towed down the Green line at the pace of a brisk walk. Rail service between St. Paul and Minneapolis is scheduled to start in 2014. … The Central Corridor project is considered the largest and most complex public-works project in state history. Overall construction of the project is now 92 percent complete.” And we’re waiting eight months for the last 8 percent?

Corey Mitchell of the Strib examines 2nd District Congressman John Kline’s role as committee chairman: “As chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee, Republican U.S. Rep. John Kline oversees an annual budget of more than $6 million and an influential panel that’s supposed to hold sway over legislation that touches the lives of almost every American. Serving as a committee chair on Capitol Hill also remains a rare accomplishment: Over the past half-century, only five members of Congress from Minnesota — Kline, U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson and former congressmen Jim Oberstar, Martin Sabo and John Blatnik — have led House committees. But the jobs aren’t what they used to be. As Congress has become more partisan, the careful, sometimes tedious, work of writing legislation and guiding it through the committee process is being bypassed more frequently.”

So, what we’re after is satire without an edge? Bill Ward of the Strib reports on a “Judgmental Map” judged having gone too far: “Last week, hundreds of Minnesotans came across a “Judgmental Map” of Minneapolis on a website — and passed judgment on it. The map, intended to be satirical, characterized neighborhoods with stereotypes, including ‘NIMBYs’ in Bryn Mawr, ‘Gay renters’ in the Loring Park area and ‘People who think they live in Nantucket’ near Lake Harriet. But the labeling of north Minneapolis as ‘Too scary to investigate’ and ‘Compton of the North’ unleashed a brouhaha in the site’s comments section.”

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Finally, protection for high school coaches … from irate parents. Megan Ryan of the Strib writes: “Louder and more frequent parent complaints about high school coaches have the Legislature considering more protection for them, a plan that apparently would be a first in the nation. The bill, introduced by a former high school cross-country coach, arrives after the departure of dozens of Minnesota coaches, often amid pressure from increasingly vocal and demanding parents about more playing time or better roles for their high school athletes. The measure, in the House omnibus bill, would add one line to an existing statute on coaching contract renewal: ‘The existence of parent complaints must not be the sole reason for a board to not renew a coaching contract.’ ”

The GleanAnd in a similar vein … Kevin Wang of the AP reports: “A Wisconsin lawmaker is pushing for tougher laws to deter people who would intimidate or harm members of the Legislature and their families. Under legislation introduced by Rep. Garey Bies, a Republican from Sister Bay, acts such as striking, shoving, or kicking a lawmaker or a family member with no legitimate reason would face harsher penalties. Bies said harassment of lawmakers is a longstanding issue but has worsened since Gov. Scott Walker signed a law in 2011 that effectively ended collective bargaining for most public workers.” Define “legitimate reason.”

Also next door … Dee J. Hall of the Wisconsin State Journal tells us: “Measures that would boost penalties for drunken driving would cost $250 million a year and send thousands more people to jail or prison, according to estimates provided by state agencies that would be charged with implementing the proposals. The state also would need to spend $236 million to build 17 300-bed facilities to house the expected increase in people serving time for drunken driving, the Department of Corrections estimates. Those estimates don’t include the extra costs to counties whose jails would house offenders serving sentences of a year or less.” The elephant in that room is the stunning number of “unharvested” DUIs.

You heard President Obama’s Michele Bachmann joke from the White House Correspondents’ Dinner (aka “The Nerd Prom”)?  Writes Bradley Klapper of the AP: “Some of Obama’s jokes came at his Republican rivals’ expense. He asked that the GOP’s minority outreach begin with him as a ‘trial run’ and said he’d take his recent charm offensive with Republicans on the road, including events with conservatives such as Sen. Ted Cruz, Sen. Rand Paul and Rep. Michele Bachmann. ‘In fact, I’m taking my charm offensive on the road — a Texas barbecue with Ted Cruz, a Kentucky bluegrass concert with Rand Paul, and a book-burning with Michele Bachmann,’ Obama joked.” The “political motivation” of that remark is just so palpable.

At the conservative blog True North, Gary Gross holds up a Dr. John Kern as the go-to guy for repudiation of the DFL’s education spending: “Aiming for a course correction after a decade of disinvestment, the House and Senate are likely to take up historic education bills next week at the State Capitol. Some the features of those bills include:

  1. Investing in what works – early learning: New investments to fund early education and all-day kindergarten, helping Minnesota students get on the right track early.
  2. Strategic funding for K-12 schools: Increasing per pupil funding for Minnesota schools throughout the state.
  3. Reducing college tuition and debt: Making the first investment in higher education in a decade to ease the burden of skyrocketing tuition and student debt.

Dr. John Kern debunked the all-day Pre-K myth:
Primary Findings
The consensus I found is that: 1) socioeconomic conditions are the single largest determinant of success in school and life, 2) benefits of intervention accrue primarily to children in dire socioeconomic circumstances, and 3) benefits to the general population are minimal, fading by third grade, presumably because they are getting what they need in their home environments. … In other words, all-day Pre-K is just spin to spend tons of money on the Education Minnesota wish list. It doesn’t help kids. It helps the unions while raiding taxpayers’ wallets.”