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  • Cities Forced to Raise Property Taxes to Subsidize Fiber Optic Network

    Posted by: Tom Steward on November 14, 2018
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    The objective of the $55 million RS Fiber Cooperative high-speed internet system looks intriguing on paper. Proponents pitch it as a world-class internet system designed to equip rural residents in 6,200 homes and farms to compete in the global information economy, retain and attract businesses and keep their kids closer to home. What’s not to like? In short, higher property taxes for residents of ten southern Minnesota cities in Renville and Sibley Counties. Due to a projected $1 million shortfall in revenue for RS Fiber that came out of the blue, property tax levies in those communities will escalate significantly...

  • Federal Agencies Scrutinize Met Council Compliance: Nation’s only regional government without local elected representatives comes under fire

    Posted by: Tom Steward on September 26, 2018
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    WASHINGTON, DC—The Met Council’s exemption from a federal requirement for Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPO) to have local elected officials, rather than political appointees, in charge of spending and policy decisions could be revoked, depending on the outcome of a review underway by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The Met Council remains the only MPO in the nation to be exempted from a requirement designed to hold regional governments accountable to the constituents subject to their decisions. But Federal Transit Administration Highway (FTA) and Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) officials recently announced they will “undertake further review of the Met Council’s compliance...

  • Environmentally Responsible Mining Will Boost Minnesota’s Economy $3.7 Billion a Year and Create 8,500 Jobs

    Posted by: Tom Steward on August 20, 2018
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    Environmentally responsible mining will provide a $3.7 billion annual boost to Minnesota’s economy, create 8,500 jobs and generate nearly $200 million a year in tax revenue for state and local governments, according to a new report by Center of the American Experiment. The report, Unearthing Prosperity: How Environmentally Responsible Mining Will Boost Minnesota’s Economy, evaluates the mining potential of the state’s largely untapped world-class mineral resources. “Mining is often framed as an ‘either or’ proposition—jobs or the environment, tourism jobs or mining jobs. But this is an inaccurate portrayal of modern mining,” said Isaac Orr, a policy fellow at Center...

  • Supreme Court Rules Public Employees Are Not Required to Fund Unions in Big Win for First Amendment Rights

    Posted by: Kim Crockett on June 27, 2018
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        Media Contact: Kim Crockett 612.388.2820 Decision affects thousands of Minnesota teachers, state and local government employees In a landmark decision for First Amendment rights, the U.S. Supreme Court today ruled that public employees cannot be compelled to pay union fees as a condition of employment. The 5-4 ruling in Janus v. AFSCME restores the First Amendment rights of freedom of association and free speech to more than five million government employees nationwide. The decision is likely to decrease the funding and political clout of powerful public employee unions in Minnesota and 21 other non-right-to-work states. Weighing a...

  • Educated Teachers Project Launches Statewide Information Campaign

    Posted by: Tom Steward on May 8, 2018
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    A new project being launched on National Teacher Appreciation Day, Educated Teachers MN aims to inform and empower Minnesota K-12 educators by raising awareness of a U.S. Supreme Court case widely expected to end the forced payment of union dues and fees by teachers and other government employees as a condition of employment. In 2016-2017 Education Minnesota collected over $50 million in dues and fees from 75,000 teachers statewide that were used for collective bargaining, lobbying and advancing the union’s political agenda. But Education Minnesota, AFSCME-5 and other statewide public employee unions are already bracing for the potential loss of...

  • 1st Amendment Challenge to Mandatory Union Fees Could Free All Public Employees From Forced Union Fees

    Posted by: Kim Crockett on February 26, 2018
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    Education Minnesota tactics cited in briefs before the Court The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday heard the long-anticipated case brought by Mark Janus, an Illinois child support specialist who’s asking the Court to end mandatory “agency” or “fair-share” fees. Center of the American Experiment has joined Cato Institute and the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) in an amicus brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to rule in favor of Mark Janus. The legal theory of the case is that all public-sector collective bargaining is political. Several other briefs before the Court cite an opinion editorial by Kim Crockett in The...

  • FTA Recommends No Funding for Southwest and Bottineau LRT, Orange and Gold Line BRT

    Posted by: Kim Crockett on February 15, 2018
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    The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has released its Annual Report on Funding Recommendations for the Fiscal Year 2019. The FTA is not recommending funding for any projects in Minnesota. The projects that have applied for federal funds are Southwest LRT, Bottineau LRT, the Metro Orange Line bus rapid transit along 35W, and the Metro Gold Line bus rapid transit in St. Paul.

  • Blaine Homeowners Reject Nation’s “First Certified Green Neighborhood”

    Posted by: Tom Steward on February 12, 2018
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    Solar power farms generally get built in rural areas, due to aesthetic and property value considerations. So Blaine residents were caught off guard last fall when Connexus Energy and city planners hyped a huge solar installation proposed next to their suburban subdivision as “the country’s first certified green neighborhood.” “If the project proceeds, the entire Sanctuary neighborhood will be powered by clean, renewable solar energy. That will be a first!” Connexus Energy Vice President Brian Burandt said in a November 30 letter to residents. “How will this benefit you? Your home will be served by 100 percent green energy for...

  • “Resist Trump” Racial Equity Program Pockets More Than 275k From MN Taxpayers

    Posted by: Tom Steward on December 18, 2017
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    Minnesota cities, counties and state agencies have spent more than $275,000 in taxpayer funds on a provocative racial equity program led by a national leftwing advocacy group that urges local governments to “resist Trump” and bases its training for public employees on the premise that government institutions and workers are inherently racist, whether they realize it or not. “The Alliance leads with race, with the recognition that the creation and perpetuation of racial inequities has been baked into government,” according to the Government Alliance on Race & Equity (GARE) website. “From the inception of our country, government at the local,...

  • Taxpayer and Ratepayer Subsidies Squandered as Suburb Dismantles Solar Project

    Posted by: Tom Steward on November 2, 2017
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    There were no dignitaries on hand, ribbons to cut or speeches on sustainability to commemorate the latest chapter in solar power at the Maplewood Community Center (MCC). Five years after a massive $310,000 subsidy from taxpayers and Xcel Energy ratepayers, the St. Paul suburb now has nothing to show for the supposed model renewable energy project—except for 216 obsolete solar panels and 198 reflector panels headed for storage and, more than likely, oblivion. The Maplewood Community Center’s rooftop solar system was one of dozens of green projects in Minnesota rolled out with little scrutiny under the 2009 federal stimulus program...

  • OLA Jim Nobles Releases Critical Met Council Transit Audit

    Posted by: Kim Crockett on October 4, 2017
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    “Metropolitan Council staff told us they use one set of assumptions (based on historical state and local funding) when preparing their federal transportation financial plans, and different assumptions (based on current appropriations law) when preparing internal reports and information for the Minnesota Legislature.” 

  • A Curriculum of Political Indoctrination in Edina’s Public Schools

    Posted by: Tom Mason on October 3, 2017
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      An investigation by writer Katherine Kersten released today exposes systematic political indoctrination of students in Edina public schools, beginning as early as kindergarten, all while the district’s long time reputation for academic excellence experiences a notable decline. The report, “Whose Values? Educational excellence threatened by ideology in Edina schools” appears in the Fall 2017 edition of Thinking Minnesota, the quarterly magazine published by Center of the American Experiment. Kersten, a writer and attorney, is a senior policy fellow at American Experiment. The magazine can be downloaded here. In addition to its usual circulation, the magazine will be delivered to...

  • 10,000 Cards Delivered to Gov. Dayton Demanding New PCA Election

    Posted by: Kim Crockett on September 28, 2017
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    Saint Paul, MN—Minnesota Personal Care Attendants (MNPCA), a coalition of home care workers and advocates, today delivered over 10,000 cards from PCAs across the state, demanding a union decertification election. The cards total three times more than the 3,543 PCAs who voted for unionization in 2014. SEIU Healthcare Minnesota established the union in a mail-in ballot, low voter turnout election with just 13 percent of the estimated 27,000 home-based PCAs in Minnesota. “Our impression after contacting thousands of PCAs around the state is that they just did not know about the election,” said Kim Crockett, Vice President at Center of...

  • Prominent DFL Donor, Key Figure in Corruption Scandal Commits Suicide in L.A.

    Posted by: Tom Steward on September 12, 2017
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    A prominent DFL donor and key witness in an unfolding Indonesian corruption scandal committed suicide last month after a nine-hour standoff with a SWAT team in Los Angeles. Johannes Marliem, a 32-year-old Minnesota businessman and philanthropist, shot himself in the early morning hours of August 10 in his rented home in the Beverly Grove neighborhood of Los Angeles. Marliem rose to prominence in Minnesota in 2013 with political donations to the Democratic Party and DFL causes that ultimately totaled more than $500,000. A native Indonesian, Marliem studied at the University of Minnesota, founding a Minneapolis marketing firm associated with an Indonesian...

  • Big Cuts Coming at MAPE State Public Employee Union

    Posted by: Tom Steward on September 8, 2017
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    The Minnesota Association of Professional Employees (MAPE) plans to slash its 2018 budget and revamp operations in anticipation of the fallout from a case that hasn’t even reached the U.S. Supreme Court—yet. For Minnesota’s largest state public employee bargaining unit, it’s not a question of if but when the high court takes up the so-called Janus case and strikes down mandatory union fees. As a result, MAPE will put a proposal before the union’s Delegate Assembly in two weeks to cut $1.4 million–more than 20 percent—from next year’s budget to offset an expected loss of members, dues and fair share...

  • Education MN Braces for Loss of Thousands of Members and Millions of Dollars

    Posted by: Tom Steward on August 31, 2017
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    The state’s most powerful public employee union—Education Minnesota—has quietly begun laying the groundwork to prevent the potential loss of thousands of members and millions of dollars, depending on the outcome of a landmark labor rights case widely expected to go before the U.S. Supreme Court next term. The pivotal case involves a public employee from Illinois named Mark Janus, who’s asked the high court to restore his First Amendment rights by reversing a 1977 decision (Abood v Board of Education) that established “fair share” union fees for public employees. If the Court takes Janus’ case and he wins, unionized public...

  • American Experiment Files Brief in Dayton Line Item Veto Case

    Posted by: Tom Steward on August 16, 2017
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    Center of the American Experiment has filed a “friend of the court” or amicus brief with the Minnesota Supreme Court in the line-item veto case between the current Legislature and Governor Mark Dayton. Governor Dayton used his line-item veto power in an attempt to force the Legislature to agree to another special session and to concede major policy changes he had already agreed to in negotiations and signed into law. The Center argued to uphold the ruling from Ramsey County District Court that found Governor Dayton’s attempt to defund the Legislature violated the Minnesota Constitution. “This case should be decided...

  • Right to Union Contact Lists Upheld by Minnesota Court of Appeals

    Posted by: Kim Crockett on July 27, 2017
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    The Minnesota Court of Appeals on Monday upheld a Ramsey County District Court order directing the Dayton administration to turn over an up-to-date list of personal care attendants to a group (MNPCA) opposed to union representation, clearing a legal hurdle to a campaign aimed at decertifying the SEIU Healthcare Minnesota bargaining unit. In order to force the election, MNPCA must garner signatures from 30 percent of a statewide PCA bargaining unit. But the 18-month long campaign has been stymied from the start by the Dayton administration’s lack of cooperation in providing accurate and timely lists of PCAs in Minnesota. As...

  • MN Education Dept. to Approve Radical Transgender School Guidelines  

    Posted by: Katherine Kersten on July 18, 2017
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    On July 19, a Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) council will vote on the adoption of a “transgender toolkit” for our state’s K-12 public schools. The tool kit pressures schools to allow transgender or gender non-conforming students to choose whatever bathrooms, locker rooms and athletic teams align with their “gender identity.” (pp. 9-10) Students can gain access to the facilities and teams of the opposite sex even if they are only “socially,” not “medically transitioning.”  (p. 4) But the toolkit does much more. For example, it threatens parental rights in an unprecedented way by encouraging schools to report parents who...

  • American Experiment urges High Court to Hear Mandatory Union Fees Challenge

    Posted by: Kim Crockett on June 7, 2017
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    Janus v. AFSCME could free all government workers in the U.S. from being forced to pay union fees as a condition of employment Public school teachers, state social workers and other public employees should not be forced to pay money to a union just so they can keep their jobs. That’s why Center of the American Experiment is urging the U.S. Supreme Court to hear Janus v. AFSCME. Janus v. AFSCME has the potential to finally end the decades-old requirement of forcing government employees to pay mandatory union fees regardless of whether they want to be represented by a union....

  • Report Shows Twin Cities Traffic Congestion Crisis is No Accident

    Posted by: Tom Steward on June 5, 2017
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    Twin Cities traffic congestion has reached the crisis point with metro area drivers stuck in traffic 47 hours per year on average compared to 12 hours in 1982. But instead of focusing on comprehensive congestion relief, the state agencies responsible for the transportation system—the Metropolitan Council and MnDOT–pursue policies that make the problem worse, according to a new Center of the American Experiment report. The 24-page report, “Twin Cities Traffic Congestion: It’s No Accident,” estimates the cost of wasted time, wasted fuel and increased pollution from commuters, delivery drivers and others stuck in traffic tie-ups totals nearly $4 billion a...

  • No Go! Southwest Light Rail Stiffed in Trump Budget

    Posted by: Tom Steward on May 23, 2017
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    President Trump’s 2018 budget released today contains bad news for the Met Council’s pet light rail project. There’s no funding for the controversial $1.9 billion Southwest Light Rail Transit line in the administration’s “A New Foundation for American Greatness” budget just unveiled. The spending plan follows through on previous  announcements by federal transportation officials that only transit projects with Full Funding Grant Agreements (FFGA) in place by October 2016 would receive funding. The proposed Southwest Light Rail line does not have such a funding agreement, leaving it ineligible for $929 million in federal construction funds under the new administration’s policy. Federal...

  • Transgender Toolkit for MN Schools Based on Controversial Obama Rule

    Posted by: Catrin Thorman on May 22, 2017
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    A controversial transgender and gender nonconforming “resource toolkit” drafted by the Minnesota Department of Education’s (MDE) School Safety and Technical Assistance Council recently caught the attention of 67 Minnesota legislators. The 29 page document — “Toolkit to Ensure Safe and Supportive Schools for Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students” — purports to be a compilation of “best practices that schools can use” to address gender identity. The toolkit is based on a controversial Title IX transgender policy imposed by the Obama administration that is no longer in effect. MDE insists the package should be viewed as advisory in nature only. “The toolkit does not serve...

  • Lawmakers Spar Over Controversial Home Care Worker Contract

    Posted by: Tom Steward on May 9, 2017
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    It’s not often a hearing of the Subcommittee on Employee Relations packs the room. But the chambers were filled for a hard-hitting legislative session at the State Capitol on Monday that put the Service Employees International Union and their backers on notice. The message? No more business as usual when it comes to public employee union contracts considered for approval by state legislators. The abrupt change caught Democrats off guard. “I have served on this subcommittee as the longest serving member,” said Rep. Debra Hilstrom (DFL-Brooklyn Center). ” I have never seen what’s about to happen today happen in this subcommittee...

  • Federal and Local Funding Still in Doubt for Southwest Light Rail

    Posted by: Tom Steward on May 3, 2017
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    The sigh of relief by Met Council brass over a $10 million New Starts federal grant that keeps the Southwest Light Rail line on life support illustrates just how jittery the regional agency has become over the fate of the controversial $1.9 billion project. But the troubled line still faces significant obstacles in Washington and St. Paul that threaten to derail funding and approval of the project. The funding announcement became news as part of the federal budget deal reached by Congress over the weekend. Some initial reports gave the impression that Congress had fully funded the project and directed...

  • US Transportation Officials: No Federal Funds for Troubled Southwest Light Rail  

    Posted by: Tom Steward on April 22, 2017
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    Hold everything. Top U.S. Department of Transportation officials have informed Minnesota legislators the controversial Southwest Light Rail Transit line does not qualify for $928 million in make-or-break federal funding necessary for the Metropolitan Council to start construction as planned this year. The announcement came from the Federal Transit Administration in response to a letter from Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Daudt and 83 Republican state legislators who expressed concern over SWLRT’s “financial plan, potential environmental impacts, alignment and projected ridership.” Rep. Jason Lewis, R-Minn., has also urged FTA to reject funding. The FTA oversees the federal New Starts program that provides...

  • Is Southwest Light Rail Transit Line on the Ropes?

    Posted by: Tom Steward on March 30, 2017
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    The Met Council always expected the Southwest Light Rail Transit line to be on the short list in Washington—the short list for $895 million in federal funding for construction. Instead, the controversial $1.9 billion project has suddenly popped up on a different list of transit projects that the Washington Post warns “could be out of luck under the Trump Budget.” President Trump’s budget proposal zeroes out the New Starts program that funds light rail transit projects like SWLRT. “Future investments in new transit projects would be funded by the localities that use and benefit from these localized projects,” according to...

  • Is the Minnesota Commerce Department Out of Control?

    Posted by: Tom Steward on March 13, 2017
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    Most of what happens behind the scenes at state agencies stays behind the scenes. The gears of government grind on, leaving taxpayers little choice but to trust that officials act in their best interest. But three recent legal cases involving the Minnesota Department of Commerce have provided ammunition for critics of the entrenched administrative state and unelected regulators that run it. “Court opinions and other legal filings published in the past several months have afforded Minnesotans a stark look at the internal operations of the Minnesota Department of Commerce,” Rep. Tony Albright (R-Prior Lake) and Rep. Kelly Fenton (R-Woodbury) wrote...

  • Lawmakers Aim to Make the Met Council Accountable

    Posted by: Tom Steward on February 22, 2017
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    The Metropolitan Council still holds the title of the biggest, most powerful unelected regional government in the country bar none. But that would change under proposed legislation calling for local elected officials to replace political appointees of the governor as Met Council representatives. “This legislation brings more openness to the Metropolitan Council by aligning its membership with local elected officials, giving regular citizens more voice in the make-up of the council and the important policies it implements,” said Rep. Tony Albright (R-Prior Lake), author of HF 828. While the proposed legislative reforms were embraced by the agency’s critics as a...

  • City Debates Turning Down Grant in Latest Met Council Flap

    Posted by: Tom Steward on January 16, 2017
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    Shakopee could become the first city to reject a $32,000 Met Council planning grant this week in the latest sign of local governments’ mounting antagonism to the heavy hand of the nation’s biggest unelected regional bureaucracy over their affairs. “We are concerned about the direct connection of the Thrive 2040 Plan, Met Council’s housing policies and any housing goal plan, as it relates to the acceptance of this grant,” Mayor Bill Mars wrote in a recent email exchange with Met Council officials. Met Council staff have downplayed the rift. “I don’t think we have a ‘controversy,’ so much as a...

  • Cigarette Smuggling Soars in Minnesota After Big Tax Hike

    Posted by: Tom Steward on January 6, 2017
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    Cigarette smuggling has soared since Minnesota imposed a $1.60 per pack excise tax increase in 2013, propelling the state to fifth highest for the crime in a new Tax Foundation and Mackinac Center for Public Policy report. The study shows smuggled smokes accounted for more than a third of cigarettes–36 percent–consumed in Minnesota in 2014, leading to an estimated $313 million loss in revenue due to tax evasion and avoidance by so-called border shopping. “Minnesota’s big leap in the ranks of smuggling states is no surprise,” said Michael LaFaive, Mackinac Center Fiscal Policy Director and co-author of the report. “As...

  • Contractors Pressed to Shop Subcontractor Bids as MnDOT Misses Minority Goal Again

    Posted by: Tom Steward on December 22, 2016
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    A new MnDOT report shows the agency has again failed to reach its goal for minority and women-owned business participation on transportation projects for at least the tenth year in a row. This despite spending an estimated $10 million of taxpayer funds on training and recruitment to pave the way for the federally mandated Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program since 2007. The DBE program requires states to set goals for companies “owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals” for federally-funded MnDOT projects. But the latest numbers indicate DBE-qualified firms landed 8.5 percent of federally funded road construction contracts statewide...

  • SEIU and State Ordered to Halt Early Contract Talks in Boost for Decertification Drive

    Posted by: Tom Steward on December 5, 2016
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    The Minnesota Bureau of Mediation Services has ordered the suspension of contract talks between the Service Employees International Union representing personal care attendants and state negotiators to avoid interfering with a union decertification campaign underway. “This Order is issued to preserve existing conditions and promote a free and fair environment for the resolution of this question of representation,” said Carol Clifford, a BMS Representation Specialist, in a two page order dated December 5. “…It shall remain in full force and effect until an investigation and/or hearing has been conducted and the matter is disposed of by a determination issued by...

  • VA Spends 300k to Study Defunct St. Cloud Wind Turbine

    Posted by: Tom Steward on November 29, 2016
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    The Veterans Administration has been trying to get a wind energy project up and running at the St. Cloud VA Medical Center since 2007.  Almost a decade later, the 245 foot high wind turbine originally hyped as a national model by the White House is up but not running since 2012. The most notable results generated to date by the 93 ton renewable energy installation are a nearly $2 million loss for taxpayers and a black eye for the Obama Administration’s green energy agenda. Yet instead of mothballing the project and cutting taxpayers’ losses, the federal agency recently doubled down...

  • State Ordered to Turn Over List to Personal Care Attendants Fighting Union

    Posted by: Tom Steward on November 1, 2016
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    A Ramsey County Court has ordered the Minnesota Department of Human Services to stop stalling and turn over the names of thousands of personal care attendants to a coalition leading a union decertification drive against SEIU Healthcare Minnesota. Minnesota Personal Care Attendants (MNPCA), a coalition of personal care attendants who provide home-based care for the disabled recently sued three state agencies in an attempt to get an accurate and up-to-date contact list of home care workers to notify about the campaign. MNPCA is working to force a new election in hopes of decertifying the union that won a 2014 low...

  • MN Secretary of State Sued for Instructing Election Judges to Let Felons and Others Known to be Ineligible to Vote

    Posted by: Tom Steward on October 28, 2016
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    Minnesota Secretary of State and county election managers are being sued by election judges who claim the 2016 Minnesota Election Judge Guide requires them to violate state election laws. The lawsuits were filed today in Hennepin, Ramsey and St. Louis Counties by three election judges who are requesting an injunction relieving them from having to provide ballots to people who are listed as felons, people under guardianship and noncitizens. “It is important for all election judges to honor their election judge oath to adhere to Minnesota election law and allow only eligible voters to cast a vote,” said Andy Cilek,...

  • News Alert: To Save or Not to Save METS: That’s the Real Question for Counties

    Posted by: Tom Steward on October 7, 2016
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    Three years after a disastrous launch, the MNsure state health care exchange’s IT system (METS) remains so dysfunctional that county officials still struggling to implement it openly question whether the system should be scrapped. “The whole operability of the public program side is a complete, unmitigated disaster,” said Dakota County Commissioner Mary Liz Holberg. “After a while you just get numb,” said Pennington County Commissioner Darryl Tveitbakk. “…The administration of it has been a disaster.” “It’s been three years of incremental improvements, temporary fixes and manual work-arounds for public healthcare programs,” Hennepin County Board Chair Jan Callison told Gov. Mark...

  • Minnesota Supreme Court Protects Citizens from Unfair Taxes Disguised as Fees

    Posted by: Tom Steward on August 24, 2016
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    The Minnesota Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling today that declared a fee charged by the City of St. Paul to fund road maintenance was in fact a tax that was subject to the state constitution’s limitations on taxation.   The case was brought by two churches, the First Baptist Church of St. Paul and the Church of St. Mary, that had been paying excessive and unfair fees. “This case represents a victory for Minnesota taxpayers who deserve a fair, transparent and accountable tax system,” said Peter Nelson, a Vice President and Senior Policy Fellow at Center of the American Experiment...

  • Met Council to Spend $25 Million to Monitor Race-Based Use of Parks

    Posted by: Tom Steward on August 10, 2016
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    A walk in the park may be just that to most of us, but not the Met Council. It all depends on who’s taking a walk in the park. A remarkable 47 million visits to regional parks were recorded last year, more than visit the Mall of America. Yet the Met Council staff has concluded that some racial groups aren’t using the parks as much as their numbers suggest they should–and local governments get the blame. “Missing from the throngs of visitors were people of color in numbers proportional to their share of the region’s total population,” according to the...

  • Homecare Workers Mount Statewide Drive to Drop Union

    Posted by: Tom Steward on July 18, 2016
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    The Service Employees International Union that won the biggest public employee labor election in Minnesota history in 2014 now faces a statewide decertification campaign aimed at eliminating  collective bargaining for 27,000 personal care assistants. A group of PCAs today launched a drive to collect the required 9,000 signatures to force a follow-up election, reigniting one of the state’s most controversial political issues of recent years. A 2013 state law designates Minnesota home care workers as public employees subject to collective bargaining because they receive a Medicaid subsidy to care for family members and others with special needs. Homecare workers who join...

  • Rogue State Teaching Board Fined and Cited for Contempt of Court

    Posted by: Tom Steward on July 7, 2016
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    How many court orders does it take to compel state education officials to follow the law? A courtroom showdown over the serial intransigence of the Minnesota Board of Teaching has led to a rare contempt of court citation and $7,100 in penalties imposed on the controversial agency. Court transcripts show the Minnesota Board of Teaching and the Minnesota Department of Education not only snubbed a teaching license application request from plaintiff Joan Dobbert, but also a standing Ramsey County District Court order for the Board to expedite the process. “They’re not interested in following the law, they’re clearly not interested,”...

  • Widespread Voter Fraud Documented in New Minnesota Supreme Court Case

    Posted by: Tom Steward on July 1, 2016
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    A new voter fraud case before the Minnesota Supreme Court claims 1,366 ineligible felons have cast at least 1,670 fraudulent votes in recent statewide elections, possibly tipping the outcome of close contests, including the 2008 U.S. Senate race. The case holds repercussions for the 2016 election with the plaintiffs seeking a court order to prevent state and local election officials from distributing ballots to ineligible voters by implementing new safeguards. The lawsuit marks the culmination of a years-long effort to challenge suspected voter fraud tied to Minnesota’s same day voting registration law. More than half a million Minnesotans register to...

  • Suburb Backs Off Restrictions on Homeowners’ Rental Property Rights

    Posted by: Tom Steward on June 15, 2016
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    Brooklyn Center, Minn.—For the second time this year, a Twin Cities suburb has turned back a controversial proposal to curtail one of its residents’ fundamental property rights—a homeowner’s freedom to rent his house. Brooklyn Center had appeared poised to become the fifth Minnesota city to restrict property owners’ rental rights, joining Mankato, Northfield, West St. Paul and Winona. But the Brooklyn Center City Council on Monday unanimously rejected an ordinance that would have banned most property owners from renting out their homes by limiting rental licenses to 30 percent of houses per block. South St. Paul city councilors dropped a...

  • Taxpayers on Hook for $100k for City Council’s Lawyers in Open Meeting Violations

    Posted by: Tom Steward on June 8, 2016
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    Victoria officials expect taxpayers to foot the bill for up to $100,000 in anticipated attorneys’ fees for four city council members found liable in March for a combined 38 intentional violations of the Open Meeting Law.  But not if the citizen watchdog group behind the civil lawsuit can help it. “The City of Victoria should not pay private counsel to represent officials engaging in intentional and unlawful conduct like that proven here,” Alan Kildow, the citizens’ attorney, said in a May 25 letter. “The individual Defendants are not entitled to that personal benefit at taxpayer expense, particularly when the expense...

  • House Democratic Leader Called Out for “Pattern of Verbal Abuse” of Opposition Staff 

    Posted by: Tom Steward on June 3, 2016
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    It gets crazy in the waning hours of a legislative session. But House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis has displayed “a disturbing pattern of verbal abuse of Republican Staff” on the House floor throughout the 2016 legislative session, according to a letter signed by seven GOP legislators. “Your verbal taunts occurred both on and off the record, but all were plainly visible to most in the House chamber. This is absolutely unacceptable behavior by any member – let alone a leader – of either caucus,” states a May 26 letter the legislators sent to Thissen. The blunt letter follows an...

  • Will Bloomington Ever Allow Residents to Vote on Trash Plan?

    Posted by: Tom Steward on May 31, 2016
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    They’ve garnered hundreds more signatures on their petition campaigns than five-term Bloomington Mayor Gene Winstead received in votes last November. But it remains to be seen whether the third and latest petition from the citizens group Hands Off Our Cans will be the charm or third strike in a year-long battle with City Hall to let residents vote on who should collect their garbage. Until now, residents of Minnesota’s fifth largest city have been able to select from seven garbage haulers. But the Bloomington City Council has moved to replace the system for “organized collection.” The issue at stake—freedom of...

  • Threat to Eagles Shuts Down Three Xcel Energy Wind Turbines for Months

    Posted by: Tom Steward on May 11, 2016
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    The eagle has landed in rural Mower County, shutting down three turbines at the Pleasant Valley Wind farm for a month so far in hopes of preventing a deadly collision between the federally protected bird and churning blades just 200 feet away. Xcel Energy discovered a pair of adult eagles and at least one eaglet high in a tree in a windbreak between two turbines near State Highway 56 and County Road 1 on March 10, immediately reporting the threat to federal Fish and Wildlife Service authorities. In addition to idling the turbines closest to the nest through the summer,...

  • Residents Criticize Environmental Impact of Solar Project  That Cut Hundreds of Trees

    Posted by: Tom Steward on May 2, 2016
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    Buffalo Township, Minn.–Residents of Buffalo Township are voicing concerns over the environmental impact of a solar power project they say has leveled hundreds of mature hardwoods and taken fertile cropland out of production 35 miles west of the Twin Cities. While it may be too late for Buffalo Township, the backlash has led to a moratorium on additional solar developments in Wright County. “A lot of people were not aware of what was happening yet. Now, it gets thrown in their back yard and all of a sudden it’s like, we’re not so sure about this,” said Don Schmidt, Buffalo Township Supervisor...

  • U of M Professor Bills $120 an Hour Plus Benefits to Study $15 Minneapolis Minimum Wage

    Posted by: Tom Steward on April 19, 2016
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    A University of Minnesota economics professor leading a study underway on a possible $15 per hour minimum wage in Minneapolis will be paid $120 per hour plus benefits under a contract approved by the Minneapolis City Council. Samuel Myers, Jr., Director of the Roy Wilkins Center for Human Relations and Social Justice at the University of Minnesota, will receive $19,000, plus $6,500 in benefits for an estimated 160 hours on the project, university documents show. Myers earned $183,000 in 2014, according to the Minnesota public salaries database. Two more participants in the study, including AFL-CIO Chief Economist William Spriggs, will receive...

  • Landmark Ruling as Court Finds Victoria City Officials Committed 38 Open Meeting Law Violations

    Posted by: Tom Steward on April 1, 2016
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    In what may be the biggest Open Meeting Law case in Minnesota history, a Carver County District Court has found four current Victoria City Council members committed a total of 38 intentional violations of the state transparency statute, leveling a total of $7,800 in personal fines. The civil case brought by 13 residents of the Twin Cities suburb alleged numerous violations of the Open Meeting Law by city officials in 2013 in the process leading up to building a new city hall and public works building. State law requires governmental bodies to open their meetings to the public for transparency...

  • State Agency Spending $350,000 to Implement Environmental Regulation Blocked by Supreme Court

    Posted by: Tom Steward on March 28, 2016
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    The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is spending hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to comply with controversial federal greenhouse gas regulations that have been temporarily blocked by the US Supreme Court and may never be implemented. Last month, twenty-seven states concerned about federal government overreach and the economic consequences of the Clean Power Plan successfully sued to stop the Environmental Protection Agency from enforcing the climate change regulations until their legal challenges are resolved. But MPCA officials responding to a CAE inquiry indicated the agency will spend more than $350,000 this fiscal year anyway, moving full speed ahead “reviewing and...

  • Child Care Providers Flatly Reject Unionization in Lopsided Vote

    Posted by: Tom Steward on March 2, 2016
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    PAUL, MINN.– After eleven years of facing labor organizers at their doors, Minnesota in-home child care providers overwhelmingly rejected union representation in an election decided today in St. Paul. “Providers have been saying ‘no’ to the unions for so long, it just feels so good that we’ve finally been heard,” said Lakeville provider Pat Gentz. Despite more than a decade of organizing, card campaigns and expenditures, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 5 garnered 392 votes, compared to 1,014 for providers opposed to the union. The margin of victory announced by Bureau of Mediation Services officials stunned...

  • DFL Lawmaker Bucks Nurses’ Union in Effort to Streamline Licensing

    Posted by: Tom Steward on March 1, 2016
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      Judy Santiago just wants a level playing field with the Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin nurses who compete with her. Minnesota has granted reciprocity to licensed nurses in neighboring states for ten years, allowing them to care for Minnesota patients, over the phone or in person, without requiring a Minnesota nursing license. But Santiago still has to buy a separate license to practice in each state, costing the Burnsville nurse time and money. “I know nurses who have 30 plus licenses in order to be able to work with patients telephonically,” Judy Santiago said. “That’s just ridiculous....

  • Farmer Runs for School Board That Sued Him for $2.9 Million

    Posted by: Tom Steward on February 23, 2016
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    A Gaylord chicken farmer plans to turn his campaign for school board into a teachable moment for the Sibley East Public Schools officials who asked a court to award $2.9 million in damages against him, as a result of his fighting a controversial $43 million bond referendum. After a Sibley County District Court denied the multi-million dollar claim in January, Nathan Kranz could have retreated to his chicken coop. Instead, he announced a bid to run in an April special election to serve on the school board that he says threatened his very livelihood. “I’m convicted in what I’m doing,”...

  • MNsure Enrolls Millionaires in Medicaid and MinnesotaCare Programs

    Posted by: Tom Steward on February 15, 2016
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    The Affordable Care Act was supposed to extend health coverage to millions—not millionaires. Yet while many families continue to struggle to afford medical insurance, some Minnesotans with millions in assets get free and low-cost subsidized health coverage through MNsure, the state health insurance exchange. “It’s happening all over the nation and all over Minnesota,” said Harlan Johnson, a Pequot Lakes health insurance broker and MNsure Health Industry Advisory Council member. “I’ve looked people on the MNsure Board of Directors right in the eye and told them this. They know it, but they don’t want to deal with it.” It’s a...

  • Stealth union election threatens to bind thousands of child care providers

    Posted by: Tom Steward on February 8, 2016
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    After fending off union organizers for a decade, Minnesota home-based child care providers face a make or break February election that could leave their businesses subject to collective bargaining and monthly dues. Yet most of the estimated 10,000 licensed and unlicensed child care providers statewide will not get a say in the issue, under the rules of engagement in a 2013 state law. “We were shocked to find out that they were limiting the election to a small group of providers who accepted a payment in one month, which we believe excludes thousands of providers,” said Jennifer Parrish, a Rochester...