Democratic Congressman and candidate for Governor, Tim Walz says despite being a lifelong sportsman and veteran with nearly 25 years of service, it’s time for gun reform in Minnesota. Walz says he’s donated the money he’s received from the NRA to charity and won’t be taking money from them in the future and he adds “it’s not the NRA I grew up with, it’s not a world where I can take my shotgun to school and go hunting after football practice, those days have changed, I’ve changed and I think they [NRA] need to stand in the breach of this.” Walz acknowledges “there is a place here of protecting second amendment rights of lawful gun owners, but keeping assault weapons out of the hands of folks on the streets–we need to do it.” Walz is calling for universal background checks and an assault weapons ban in Minnesota.
The group Moms Demand Action are at the State Capitol on this first day of session, calling on lawmakers to consider gun reforms. The group’s Erin Zamoff says the movement for gun violence prevention is growing after several high-profile mass school shootings and says “we were living in Virginia when the Virginia Tech shootings happened and I was so upset, and then Sandy Hook, I was horrified, and now I’m frankly outraged–we’re just done–it’s been enough.” Zamoff adds that “a lot of people don’t understand that in Minnesota right now — we don’t have background checks on all gun sales, so Internet sales, gun shows, sales between unlicensed people–have no background check whatsoever and that’s pretty outrageous.” Zamoff says she’s asking for stricter background checks and “red flag” laws to temporarily prohibit people who are a danger to themselves or others from having access to firearms. Chris Dorr with Gun Rights Minnesota says, however, stricter background checks will not improve public safety. And he says the pro-gun lobby will hold lawmakers who pass reform legislation accountable at election time.
This opening day of the 2018 Minnesota Legislature could prompt Senate Democrats to sue Republicans. D-F-Lers are threatening a lawsuit if Paynesville Republican Michelle Fischbach, who’s now lieutenant governor, tries to remain a state senator at the same time. Senate Democratic Leader Tom Bakk says, “It will depend on what their action is. If Senator Fischbach is not presiding, I think then that sends a different signal.” Fischbach was elected president of the Senate in a prior session. Democrats want her out of the Senate so they have a shot at taking back the majority in a special election.
Democrats say it’s unconstitutional for Fischbach to hold more that one office at the same time. Republicans respond there’s much legal precedent to the contrary.
A revised state budget if necessary, plus a bonding bill for state public works projects are the main tasks of the 2018 legislative session which begins today at noon. Governor Mark Dayton has proposed a 1.5-billion-dollar bonding bill, and says he limited his request. “1.5 billion [dollars] is a very responsible bill and it’s frankly inadequate for the scope of the needs,” Dayton says. Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt is talking about half that — 800 million dollars. “We’re open to discussions on less than that, or potentially more than that if the projects are right,” Daudt says.
Senate Republican Majority Leader Paul Gazelka says, “I’m open to a bonding bill. I thought it should be significantly less than a billion dollars, but what that number is, is part of the negotiation.” Gazelka says a bonding bill should focus on transportation and waste-water infrastructure.
Republicans need Democrats’ help to get enough votes to pass a bonding bill. House Democratic Minority Leader Melissa Hortman says the single most important thing lawmakers can do to create jobs is pass a “healthy-size” bonding bill. She says, “With interest rates low right now but definitely projected to rise,… we absolutely should borrow and build now.” Senate Democratic Minority Leader Tom Bakk says, “I’m gonna propose that we do a billion-dollar traditional bonding bill, and then we do an additional bill on maintenance.”
One of state lawmakers’ most complicated tasks in the 2018 session is to make Minnesota’s tax code line up with the new federal changes — what’s called “conformity.” Republican Senator Roger Chamberlain from Lino Lakes, who chairs the Tax Committee, says, “The best thing… for the good citizens of this state is to conform to the federal [tax] law and then change our [Minnesota] law to reduce their taxes — in other words, conform and relief.” Some top Republicans warn that lining up Minnesota’s tax code with the new federal rules will put a “huge tax increase” on some Minnesotans unless other changes are made. Democratic Governor Mark Dayton wants the tax structure as equitable as possible, especially for working Minnesotans. House Democratic Leader Melissa Hortman says tax cuts should benefit middle-class families more than the federal tax changes do.
More in this interview with Chamberlain:
Lawmakers are back at the State Capitol to start the 2018 session, and one of the first things they must do is pass an operating budget for the legislature after last year’s protracted court battle over Governor Mark Dayton’s vetoes. Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt says their intent is not to add anything extra: “Just send a bill just the way it was [at the end of the 2017 session],” he says, “Not to try to use it for a vehicle for anything else, but just to kind of use it as something to close that chapter.” Daudt says the House won’t pass it on the first day of session, but in “the first couple of weeks probably.”
Senate Republican Majority Leader Paul Gazelka says they would prefer a “clean bill”, but “there are some other issues that we’ve already been talking about: What do we do about different things? And I don’t want it to be a ‘Christmas tree’ bill. That’s why we didn’t get a transportation bill for about 10 years.” Governor Mark Dayton says he prefers a “clean” bill but legislators have the right take their own action. Dayton says he agrees with Republicans that “I don’t want it to be a ‘Christmas tree.’ I’m not gonna make it absolute. I want to sign the bill. I want to put it all behind us. I want to move forward.”
Senate Democratic Minority Leader Tom Bakk says approval of state employee contracts should be included so those workers get cost-of-living increases. Bakk says, “I will advocating very hard that ratification of those state employee contracts be included in the legislative budget. I was pretty disappointed when it was rejected by the subcommittee.”
Fargo-based Choice Financial is buying Venture Bank, the Twin Cities’ largest independent lender to small businesses. The Star Tribune reports Choice Financial is looking to enter the metro market to diversify its portfolio in agriculture and energy loans. The purchase price was not disclosed.
Minnesota lawmakers’ main task during the 2018 session beginning Tuesday is a bonding bill for state public works projects. The University of Minnesota is asking for 238 million dollars, and President Eric Kaler says, “We’re really talking about renewal, not bright new shiny objects, but really investing in the buildings that we have.” Included in the request are projects on the U-of-M’s campuses in Duluth, Crookston and Morris, plus four million dollars to renovate the historic Glensheen Mansion in Duluth.
Kaler says if there’s a revised state budget, the University will also push for additional funding. He says, “A good state appropriation enables us to keep any tuition increase to as low a level as possible.” Governor Mark Dayton and legislature leaders all predict the next economic forecast at the end of the month will show a budget surplus, which will spark a flurry of lobbying by dozens of interest groups.
This opening day of the 2018 Minnesota Legislature could prompt Senate Democrats to sue Republicans. D-F-Lers are threatening a lawsuit if Paynesville Republican Michelle Fischbach, who’s now lieutenant governor, tries to remain a state senator at the same time. Senate Democratic Leader Tom Bakk says, “It will depend on what their action is. If Senator Fischbach […]