When is A Fee a Tax? MN Supreme Court Case Could Impact Franchise Fees

The MN Supreme Court is expected to rule this summer on the question: When is a “Fee” really a “Tax”? And also perhaps weigh-in on: What is a “fair” fee structure, when levied on a tax-exempt organization? The decision may have far-reaching impacts on municipal Franchise Fees as recently implemented in Bloomington, as well as the longer-standing ones in most MN cities including Edina, Eden Prairie and Minnetonka.  And it is likely to trigger a need for legislative action as cities continue to seek ways to fund city services while attempting to avoid double-digit percentage property tax increases.

The Nonprofit Leadership Forum on June 6 at Hamline University was a multiple-viewpoint discussion of the issues raised by the court case. The case was initiated when one of St. Paul’s oldest churches, First Baptist, decided to question the city’s $16,000 annual “Street Right of Way” assessed fee which had increased over 5 years to become the 2nd largest line item on the church budget. The city uses those fees, charged to every property based on linear street footage, to pay for snow plowing and 10 other “essential” street & boulevard maintenance services. The size of the fee is especially startling when compared with the $5000 fee paid by the 25-story UBS tower in Town Square, and is also more than the fee paid by the State Capitol.

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Spring Conversation Explores Move to Unionize Self-Employed

Over 60 people participated in a thought-provoking discussion of efforts to unionize child care and home care providers.  Senator Michelle Benson (Republican, Asst Minority Leader),  writer and commentator Kim Crockett, and Attorney Doug Seaton spoke knowledgeably of the push to bring these independent workers under the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union (AFSCME) or Service Employees International Union (SEIU).  This push has been supported by enabling legislation put forth by the Minnesota DFL and signed by Gov. Dayton.

This year’s “Spring Conversation” was held at the Edina Country Club, which provided a relaxed atmosphere for socializing and for a challenging dialogue. 



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Two Prominent Bloomington Officials Leaving Office


In mid-May, two prominent elected officials in Bloomington announced that they would be leaving their posts.  County Commissioner Randy Johnson announced that he will not seek re-election this year in Hennepin County District 5.  Councilmember At Large Cynthia Bemis Abrams resigned from her Bloomington City Council position effective June 4.  

Read more about Johnson, Abrams, and the openings for Hennepin County Commissioner and Bloomington City Council below

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Edina EEC Work Groups Need Community Candidates by June 2

Applications for Edina’s new EEC Working Groups due by June 2

Edina is creating two new working groups under its Energy & Environment Commission (EEC).  An Edina news release stated that the Business Energy Efficiency and Residential Energy Efficiency working groups will “strive to reduce the community’s greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2025 through strategies and actions that are sustainable, practical and measurable.”

These working groups would likely benefit from a diverse perspective, so please consider CLICKING HERE to apply online at the City of Edina website by the June 2 deadline.  Current EEC commissioners like Keith Kostuch (kostuch.eec@gmail.com) and Bill Glahn can be contacted to provide background.

SD49 Office Space to Move by Year End

Edina Community Center revised layout has no room for SD 49 GOP

In May 2015, Edina conducted a special election bond referendum. The Edina voters approved $125 million in bond funding to update learning spaces, enhance building security at the district’s 10 schools, and improve district infrastructure.  A year later, the facility planning associated with the new floor plans and security enhancements at the Edina Community Center (ECC) is becoming clear. 

There will be no room for several of the remaining ECC tenants, including the Congressional District 3 (CD 3) and Senate District 49 (SD 49) Republicans.  By December 1, 2016, new office and meeting space will be needed.  We are asking for your help in identifying inexpensive office and storage options to efficiently maintain our operations.

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Edina EEC Votes to Condemn Crumb Rubber Use

The City of Edina Energy and Environment Commission voted overwhelmingly to condemn the use of crumb rubber in the city of Edina.  

artificial_turf_from_www_dot_ct_dot_gov.jpgOn May 12, the Edina Energy and Environment Commission (EEC) voted 10-2 in favor of a resolution condemning the use of crumb rubber in Edina. Currently there are two city-owned fields, Pamela Park and Braemar, that utilize this controversial in-fill material. The Edina School District is now moving forward with plans to install crumb rubber in-fill on four new fields and to replace the turf on Kuhlman Field with crumb rubber.  It is not yet clear what impact the EEC condemnation vote will have on the existing Edina-owned fields or on the new construction of the school district fields.  Cities and school districts throughout the country have banned crumb rubber because of health and environmental concerns caused by the material, which consists of ground up waste tires.  The federal Environmental Protection Agency is currently conducting a major study of the health and environmental risks posed by crumb rubber and expects to issue a preliminary report by the end of 2016.  

The EEC is an advisory commission consisting of 13 community members that helps the City of Edina stay on the forefront of environmental issues

Convention sends two from Edina and Bloomington to Cleveland

The 2016 Republican State Central meeting and Convention convened in Duluth on Friday afternoon.  The delegates and seated alternates contributed to several important actions.  The National Committeewoman and National Committeeman were elected.  Fourteen delegates and eleven alternates were selected to go to the Republican National Convention.  An amendment was approved to the MN Party constitution to adjust the process for vetting and endorsing judicial candidates.  

Perhaps most important, the consensus of the convention was that the Minnesota GOP would align itself with the presumptive GOP presidential candidate, Donald Trump. 

Doug_Seaton.JPGBarb_MNGOP.JPGTwo members of SD 49 were picked to attend the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.  Doug Seaton was elected as a Rubio delegate and Barb Sutter was elected as a Trump alternate.  The full list of elected delegates and alternates is at the end of this article.

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Barb Sutter Appointed MN GOP Secretary

BarbMNGOP.jpgMN GOP Chairman Keith Downey announced on May 9 that he has appointed Barb Sutter, with the unanimous approval of the State Executive Committee, to serve as Secretary of the Republican Party of Minnesota.  The appointment is “on an interim basis until an election can be held at the next State Central Meeting after our upcoming May 20th meeting.”

Ryan Love, elected MN GOP Secretary in 2014, resigned when the acceptance of a new job required that he leave Minnesota and move to Florida

Chairman Downey congratulated Barb and thanked her for her service to the Party.

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Edina, Bloomington Candidates Meet SD49 Supporters

Campaign Organizing Meeting and Social a Big Hit

More than 80 Senate District 49 leaders and volunteers met at the Richfield American Legion on Friday evening, May 13.  The senate district leadership convened first to discuss preparations for the Minnesota legislative races as well as for the US House campaign in Congressional District 5.  

FrankDrake.jpgMikeLehmann.jpgFrank Drake, Mike Lehmann, Dario Anselmo, and Max Rymer each spent a few minutes describing their plans and expectations.  Significant work has been done to get ready for the campaigns that will go on over the summer and fall.

A number of additional volunteers joined the senate district leaders to informally get acquainted and talk about opportunities as summer approaches. 

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Legislative Update: Two Weeks & Counting


With two weeks left in this legislative session, our local representatives are taking positions on bonding and state spending.  The bonding bill offers a unique opportunity to demand action on special interests.  DFL State Senator Melissa Franzen has taken advantage of this opportunity.

road-sign-808733__180.jpgSince bonding bills can directly impact Minnesota’s borrowing capacity, they require a three-fifths vote to approve. Passing a bonding bill will therefore require votes from both parties.  In late April, the Star Tribune reported that  Sen Melissa Franzen set her price for her vote to approve a final bonding bill.  She joined six other DFL senators, primarily from the metropolitan area, in demanding approval of $135 million in state funding for the Southwest Light-Rail Transit project. 

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