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Minnesota lawmakers beat the clock, barely

Unionization effort passes; Capitol wine and beer sales allowed; no-excuse absentee voting; Salon weighs in on “shelved” bullying bill; and more.

They beat the clock. A team of Star Tribune reporters details the last hours of the 2013 legislation session: “Minnesota DFL legislators scrambled to patch together the final budget measures late Monday night, charting a dramatic new course for the state. With five minutes in the 2013 legislative session to spare before the midnight deadline, the Senate voted 36-30 to pass a $2.1 billion tax bill that ushers in a higher taxes on the wealthy and smokers. Legislators also approved an eleventh-hour proposal to rehabilitate the State Capitol and pay for flood control in outstate Minnesota, each with strong bipartisan support. For DFL Gov. Mark Dayton, several watershed victories were achieved, including his campaign pledge of taxing the state’s wealthiest wage-earners to balance Minnesota’s budget.

Unionized day-care … The Wall Street Journal’s Mark Peters and Chris Maher say that new Minnesota legislation gives “organized labor a rare victory at the state level.” The measure would allow unions to try to organize workers who provide home day-care services and other home care: “The state House, by a vote of 68 to 66, passed legislation Monday that allows [workers to decide if they want] unions to negotiate on behalf of providers whose clients receive government subsidies — including through Medicaid, the federal health program for low-income and disabled people. Minnesota’s Senate passed the bill last week. A spokeswoman for Gov. Mark Dayton, of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, said he would sign it into law. … Unions haven’t won many victories in state legislatures in the past few years and instead have been largely occupied with fending off right-to-work bills and other measures — backed mostly by Republicans — that would cut unions’ ability to represent workers and collect dues.”

In the PiPress, Megan Boldt says: “The House gallery full of union supporters erupted in cheers, a violation of chamber rules, when the bill was approved on a 68-66 vote. And their response prompted outrage from Republicans, who have been fighting the measure all session arguing it’s just the DFL’s political favor to organized labor that helped them grab the majority in last fall’s election. ‘Just let them cheer. They own the place,’ shouted Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, after the eruption. … The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees is organizing in-home child care providers, the focus of much of the debate. Personal care attendants are being organized by the Service Employees International Union.”

So you mean some these people weren’t already drunk? The AP reports: “Your favorite brew may soon be available for purchase at the Minnesota State Capitol. The Legislature passed a bill Monday, May 20, that includes a provision that directs the city of St. Paul to issue an on-sale wine and malt liquor license to the Capitol cafeteria. The bill now goes to Gov. Mark Dayton. The Capitol’s basement cafeteria is a German-style rathskeller cafe. It was restored to its original design in 2000. It even has a painted slogan on the ceiling, in German, that urges visitors to enjoy an adult beverage.” Six drinks and you get to vote on the next stadium financing idea.

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With hours to go last night, Brian Bakst and Patrick Condon of the AP were saying: “Smaller policy bills flew through under the wire, including an election bill that authorizes no-excuse absentee voting and a campaign finance bill to increase the size of contributions that Minnesota candidates can accept from individuals. Democrats reluctantly declared a bill aimed at school bullying a casualty of the dwindling clock. Sen. Scott Dibble, the Minneapolis Democrat pushing for the new bullying policy, complained that Republicans stonewalled his bill by pledging a lengthy debate. “This is a political agenda and kids lose out,” he said.Senate Minority Leader David Hann and his fellow Republicans said they feared it would burden schools with new state requirements and open them up to potential lawsuits.”

The GleanBut Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk was making noises about staying until … as Baird Helgeson writes in the Strib: “Bakk said Monday night he will not end the session until they pass a measure to pay for a State Capitol restoration. ‘It appears the House was willing to go home without the Capitol, but that’s just not acceptable to me,’ said Bakk, DFL-Cook. ‘I was not going to go home without the Capitol being done.’ House Republicans were able to defeat a $800 million borrowing package that included the Capitol renovation and a raft of other projects. House Democrats have been trying to cobble together a stripped-down measure with only the Capitol and a few other projects that the GOP could embrace.”

In Salon, Mary Elizabeth Williams covers the GOP’s battle against … battling bullies: “Congratulations, Minnesota. Nearly three years after Anoka High School student Justin Aaberg hanged himself after allegedly being subjected to anti-gay harassment, state Republicans seem to have decided that bullying is no longer a problem. The Pioneer Press reports Monday that an anti-bullying bill has been withdrawn ‘after Republicans said they planned 10 hours of debate on the issue.’ Using mean, aggressive measures to get your way over a bullying bill? Anyone else feel an Alanis Morissette verse coming on? … The state’s House passed the anti-bullying bill earlier this month. But its progress may have been impeded by, of all things, the tremendous recent progress for LGBT rights. Last week, Minnesota became the 12th state to approve marriage equality, a victory that has left many conservatives angry and frustrated.” You can’t buy that kind of bad PR.

 “Duped,” he says! John Welbes’ PiPress story on the latest Petters defendant says: “James Fry, the last defendant related to the Tom Petters Ponzi scheme, went on trial Monday, May 20, on fraud charges that could put him in prison for decades. Other than Petters, Fry is the only person charged related to the case who did not plead guilty. The 59-year-old investment manager — who raised billions of dollars that were invested in the Petters scheme — claims he was duped, along with other sophisticated investors. ‘Just because you’re rich doesn’t mean you can’t be scammed,’ Joe Friedberg, his defense attorney, said during his opening statement Monday in federal court in St. Paul. Fry was ‘under the ether’ of the Petters Ponzi scheme, believing that the solid returns would continue, Friedberg said.” Was that the “Greed” brand of ether?

“The Lex” has been sold … again. Jess Fleming of the PiPress says: “John and Michelle Hickey, who bought the Lex about two years ago, were the fourth set of owners since the restaurant opened in 1935. There is no word yet on who the fifth owners are, though a news release describes them as a ‘St. Paul-based restaurant group.’ ‘I wish I could tell you who they were,’ John Hickey said. ‘They’ve been successful entrepreneurs in the past, and they’re going to put a lot of their effort into this thing. … They’re trying to get their ducks in a row as to what they’re going to do so they can answer questions.’ This much we do know: The restaurant will close May 31 for renovations and will reopen in the fall. A rooftop patio might be part of that. Current staff will be laid off and encouraged to reapply for their jobs when the restaurant reopens, according to a news release.” They won’t move Ron Rosenbaum’s table, will they?

Don’t cut or eat the cheese … The AP says: “Minnesota health officials say more than two-dozen people have been sickened by eating raw Mexican-style cheese. The Minnesota Department of Health said Monday, May 20, at least 25 Minnesotans became sick with salmonella linked to eating queso fresco made with unpasteurized cheese. The state health department, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and the city of Minneapolis have been investigating the outbreak and the source of raw milk since the first cases were detected in early April. Of the 25 cases, 15 were hospitalized. All have recovered.”