And how screwed up were those final minutes Monday night? So screwed up that it’s not clear if the House passed the right bill, the AP says, “Minnesota lawmakers rushed Monday night to adopt a bill funding economic development and energy programs before a midnight deadline. The Republican-led House spent less than 90 seconds on the nearly 100-page measure, voting over the howls of Democrats. The House chief clerk read out the incorrect bill number while pairing it with a description more fitting to the budget bill. House Speaker Kurt Daudt closed the voting board after only 84 of 134 members had voted, announcing its passage.” Truly, close enough for gummint work.
Post-official session, Mother Strib is not pleased. The paper editorializes: “The inability to reach a bipartisan agreement on a major funding boost for roads and transit ranks as the 2015 Legislature’s biggest shortcoming. If anything, this session worsened the political climate for transportation. With little else affording bragging rights, House Republicans ended the session crowing about stopping a gas tax increase, thereby deepening partisan entrenchment on the issue. More than two years ago, a commission of experts said that keeping this state’s transportation system functioning at its current level — never mind improvement — would require an additional $1 billion investment per year for the next 20 years. That’s a sum well beyond what can be obtained by repurposing existing taxes.”
Says Don Davis for the Forum News Service, “Despite the rough ending, Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said it was the most bipartisan session he has seen. ‘Tonight the Legislature passed the final components of a two-year budget to keep Minnesota moving forward,’ Bakk said. ‘Protecting MinnesotaCare from elimination, $138 million for nursing homes, and important new investments in education were significant accomplishments for the DFL Senate.’ Daudt also talked about being bipartisan. ‘Republicans delivered for our students and our aging adults, and enacted dozens of innovative reforms to improve of the lives of Minnesota families,’ the speaker said.”
In the New York Times, Julie Bosman writes, “In a letter to the House speaker, Representative Kurt Daudt, a Republican, Mr. Dayton blamed Republicans for the impasse. He said their refusal to spend more on education was ‘astonishing,’ given the large surplus and the Republicans’ setting aside money for tax cuts. ‘It is incomprehensible that estate tax cuts for millionaires and property tax relief for large corporations are higher priorities for your House Republican caucus than investing adequately in our students and young children,’ he wrote.”
Electric utilities had a good session. Greater Minnesota broadband? Not so much. Dave Shaffer of the Strib: “Iron mines, electric utilities and the biofuel industry came out winners in energy-related measures passed at the close of the Legislature. But people with rooftop solar panels now face fees from municipal and cooperative electric companies, which convinced lawmakers that homegrown generators don’t pay their fair share of the power grid.”
One moment of sanity, though. Says Curtis Gilbert of MPR, “Supporters of a proposed soccer stadium in Minneapolis are regrouping after the Legislature declined to authorize tax breaks for the facility during its regular session. The setback leaves an uncertain future for the Major League Soccer franchise. But Bill McGuire, the owner of the Minnesota United soccer team is not giving up.”
You gotta pay for the best. Jessie Van Berkel of the Strib tells us, “Minnesota is one of the most difficult places in the Midwest to afford rental housing, despite an increase in the state’s minimum wage. Someone making the $8 hourly minimum would have to work 68 hours a week to afford a one-bedroom apartment with the fair market rent of $707, according to an annual report released Tuesday by the National Low Income Housing Coalition.”
NBA Finals, baby! Says ESPN, “The Minnesota Timberwolves lost 66 games during the 2014-15 season. But they won big on Tuesday night. The Wolves landed the first pick in the 2015 NBA draft following the league’s annual lottery. Minnesota had an NBA-high 25 percent chance of landing the top pick, based on its last-place finish in the league-wide standings.” I still say Ndudi Ebi has game in him.
Kurt Helin at NBC Sports says, “It is expected that Timberwolves will take Karl-Anthony Towns, out of Kentucky, or Jahlil Okafor of the national champion Duke Blue Devils. Rumblings are that Minnesota GM Flip Saunders prefers Okafor. Whichever one the Timberwolves don’t take, the Lakers likely will (and they prefer Towns).”
Why not raise it to age 50? Says Patrick Springer for the Forum News Service, “Minnesota tobacco control advocates may propose raising the legal age for buying cigarettes to 21 years old. Hawaii, New York City and more than 30 municipalities in Massachusetts have raised the legal age for buying tobacco, and the experiment will be closely watched, said Andrea Mowery, vice president of ClearWay Minnesota, a foundation that promotes prevention and cessation of smoking and tobacco use.”
Think the Four Seasons resort, but for moose. The AP’s Steve Karnowski says, “With Minnesota’s moose population on the decline, conservation groups have teamed up with government agencies in hopes of helping the animals hang on by enhancing the habitat that’s critical to their survival. Northeastern Minnesota’s moose population is down to around 3,450, about 60 percent lower than the estimated 8,840 in 2006. Scientists are still trying to understand why, but they suspect interplay among warmer temperatures, parasites, disease, and changing forest habitat. The state suspended moose hunting in 2013. Aided by nearly $3 million in state money, the Minnesota Moose Habitat Collaborative is using prescribed burns, selective logging, brush-cutting and planting about 2.5 million trees, to provide better food and cover across 8,500 acres of Minnesota’s prime moose territory.”
Woody in Minnesota? The Strib’s Chris Riemenschneider reports, “The Academy Awards aren’t important enough to draw Woody Allen out of his beloved New York, but a good gig in Minnesota with his jazz band apparently will do it. The filmmaking legend will perform at the State Theatre on Aug. 2 with his reputable Dixieland-style ensemble, Woody Allen & His New Orleans Jazz Band. Tickets go on sale Friday at 10 a.m. through Ticketmaster or the State Theatre box office for $53.50-$104.” That’s cheaper than the Stones.