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Unions feel legislative ‘love’ in Minnesota

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.”

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.”

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Comments (6)

  1. Submitted by RB Holbrook on 04/29/2013 - 09:54 am.

    The All-Day Pre-K Myth

    It says something about the mind of the modern conservative that benefits “accru[ing] primarily to children in dire socioeconomic circumstances” would be considered a bad thing.

    • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 04/29/2013 - 07:21 pm.

      Upon Review

      I’m plenty comfortable enough with my progressive credentials to defend a conservative.

      I think you are misreading what that particular conservative is saying. Since the children of middle and upper income families don’t benefit from all day kindergarten, there is no reason for the state to spend money to support it. By the time those kids are kindergarten age, most of them are familiar with books, and have routinely taken part in enriching activities such as trips to museums and zoos.

      The children who do benefit from all day kindergarten are the kids who come from homes where books were never read. They’ve never been to a zoo, or a puppet show at the library. My kids had all of those things by the time they were two. It would be ridiculous for me to ask Minnesota tax payers to pay for my kids to attend all day kindergarten. And if your middle class kid had all day kindergarten and mine “only” had half day, your kid wouldn’t be “getting ahead” of mine. Any perceived gains would evaporate in a couple of years. Contrary to popular opinion, education is the lighting of a fire, and not the filling of a bucket.

      It is fair and reasonable for tax payers to ask, “Who is this intended to benefit, will they benefit and is that worth the cost?”

      • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 04/30/2013 - 04:49 pm.

        Throwing out the baby with the bath

        I don’t understand why the program should be jettisoned if the middle and upper classes are not getting sufficient benefit from it.

      • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 04/30/2013 - 04:56 pm.


        I know this was not part of your comment, but try finding any information about Dr. Kern. Apparently, he’s a statistician who does most of his work in environmental risk management. Education-related issues seem to be little more than a hobby.

  2. Submitted by Steve Titterud on 04/29/2013 - 12:32 pm.

    The tedious work of writing legislation, indeed !!

    “…sometimes tedious, work of writing legislation…is being bypassed more frequently” says a mouthful.

    Much of the legislation passing through House and Senate is NOT written by the officeholders, and oftentimes is not even READ by the elected representatives.

    It’s so much easier to have a lobbyist group hand you a canned piece of proposed law, and then, should there be any confusion, tell you how to vote on it. ALEC is pretty good at this, at the level of state legislatures.

    U.S. Sen. Manchin of WV recently had to beg the gun bill opponents – “The only thing we’ve asked for is for people to read the bill” – as an indication of how desperate one can get when the NRA simply sends out the word to vote against it. Many of those Senators could care less what it actually says, they’re going to vote against it because the NRA told them to. So why waste your time less reading it ?? Therefore Sen. Manchin must beg them to read.

    One has to wonder how much “assistance” Rep. Kline has in his work from his for-profit college clientele ??

  3. Submitted by James Hamilton on 04/29/2013 - 01:21 pm.

    Of unions and other species.

    Today’s essay question: Unions have benefitted every person in the United States: yes or no?

    Put me in the yes column. Despite the many excessess of certain unions in the latter half of the 20th century, and the corruption that cost so many union members so much, it’s very clear that the lives of all Americans have benefitted from the union movement. Working conditions, wages, benefits – all have been improved by union activity, whether by collective bargaining or by political activity. Their very existence in any industry increases the earnings of every worker in the industry, if only because employers have to compete with union wages and/or want to keep their own shops non-union.

    Are some Minnesota unions too closely affiliated with the DFL? Undoubtedly. The cure for this is not to dismantle unions, but for the GOP to think back to its own identification with union workers in the ’50s, an identification that stood them well nationally after decades of opposition to the movement as a whole. If the GOP were to quit looking at the education unions as enemies, we might actually make some progress in salvaging Minnesota’s edcuational system.

    I am not slavishly pro-union, by the way. My father’s union permitted, if not encouraged, the use of goon tactics against him when he chose not to participate in a slow-down, because he needed the money to feed his family. Officials looted and/or mismanaged the pension fund, leaving him virtually no pension after 30 years of service. I’ve been offered journeyman cards by two union business agents, if only I paid the requisite fees, despite the fact that I lacked the requisite skillls. I oppose the DFL’s current attempt to unionize independent day care operators. (Try that in any other area and you’ll be charged with restraint of trade activities, at best.) But, I understand that they can and do serve an important purpose.

    Unions are no different than any other human endeavor. They can be used for good or ill. They can sacrifice members long term interests for short term gains, just as any business or governmental body can do with respect to their constituencies.

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