Light Rail on the Dan Patch Line...Again?!

Edina_Dan_Patch_Mtg_2017.jpgIn 2002 and again in 2017, some ardent supporters of light rail pushed for a feasibility study of a line to run from Savage to St. Louis Park. Conveniently, the Dan Patch freight rail line runs over that exact same route. Despite spending $400,000 in 2002 and another $30,000 in 2017, local legislators and residents did not support the initiative.

In 2019, it is rising from the dead again.

MN House Rep. Hunter Cantrell (DFL-Savage), Steve Elkins (DFL-Bloomington), and Brad Tabke (DFL-Shakopee) have co-sponsored HF1783  to authorize a rail transitway feasibility study.

As we reported in our newsletter of July 31, 2017, the Dan Patch Line is an 80-year old single-track freight line that runs from Northfield to Savage. It crosses the Minnesota River into Bloomington and runs north along the east side of Hyland Park. It continues north through Edina to St Louis Park, staying west of Highway 100.

Freight traffic will continue on this single line, and will likely increase. To reduce costs from earlier estimates, any commuter trains would have to run on the same track, without an increase in right-of-way, over 14 same-grade road crossings, with unique cars that cannot operate on the other existing light rail tracks.

To read more background on why the Edina residents pictured above came out in 2017 in opposition to commuter light rail on that track, CLICK HERE

Residents who live along the line or commute over any of those same-grade road crossings are urged to let their congressional members know of their concerns about the futility of authorizing another feasibility study.

Brad Aho Talks Affordable Housing at SD49 Program

For_Newsletter_Brad_Aho_discussed_Tenant_Protection_Ordinances.jpgLocal governments are under increasing pressure to use their power of permitting to require developers to include less expensive housing in their building plans. In his talk on February 26 as part of Senate District 49’s dinner program series, Brad Aho noted that land, labor, and construction material costs are going up faster than the wages of many of the people who currently live in or would like to move to our area. Still, local and regional governing bodies are also a significant cause of increased housing costs in the Twin Cities area.

As an Eden Prairie City Council member for 14 years, Brad Aho has been in a unique place to watch his city develop. He presented comparison information about local communities' housing costs and incomes, showing there is a need for "affordable" housing in our suburbs. He also has a good sense of why housing costs have gone up. He noted that it costs more to build a house in the Twin Cities area than in a suburb of Chicago. A report commissioned by a builders group, recently cited in an article in the Star Tribune, found that an average home in Lake Elmo would cost $47,000 less in Hudson, Wisconsin.

Aho pointed to overlapping local and regional governments as a big part of the affordability problem that they are now trying to solve. Building regulations and fees are significant cost drivers. As much as 33% of the cost of building a new home here can be traced back to local, regional (e.g., watershed districts), and state policies and fees. Aho said that “municipal fees and regulations in the Twin Cities make it nearly impossible to build a single-family house for less than $375,000.”

Click here to see Brad's detailed presentation text.

Aho acknowledged that some fees cover the cost of construction inspectors who ensure local codes are enforced. However, the value to lower income homebuyers of fees such as “park dedication fees” are less clear.


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Good to Know: Who Pays Federal Income Taxes?

IRS data from 2016:
• Top 1% of taxpayers (adjusted gross income of at least $480,804) paid 37.3% of all federal income taxes
• Highest 5% of taxpayers (adjusted gross income of at least $197,651) paid 58.2%
• Highest 10% of taxpayers (adjusted gross income of at least $139,713) paid 69.5%
• Bottom 50% of all filers paid 3% of the total federal income tax bill
o Does not include Social Security tax payments

MN Woman Charged With Voter Fraud

i-voted-sticker_closeup.jpgThe Star Tribune and Alpha News have both reported that a woman in Minnesota has been charged with voting twice. Zameahia J. Ismail voted in her home district of St. Louis Park. Then she voted again in Minneapolis “after being instructed to support Minneapolis City Council member Abdi Warsame.”

Ismail said the reason she chose to knowingly commit voter fraud was that Warsame was “going to help Somalian community”. It is not known who else Ismail voted for.

How was she able to vote in Minneapolis? Someone vouched for her and she was able to register and vote on the same day. Ismail says she did not have any proper identification when she went to register to vote in Minneapolis.

The person who vouched for Ismail has not been charged.

Secretary of State Steve Simon does not believe that voter fraud materially affects Minnesota voting. Yet he will not release the voting information being sought by the Minnesota Voters Alliance that may be able to determine if it does or not. And if there are no consequences for people that enable voter fraud through inappropriate vouching, it’s likely this will happen again.

This Week in the MN House: MNLARS, Mandates, Health, Gun Bills

bright-cardiac-cardiology-433267_small.jpg• This week, the Ways & Means Committee will hear DFL Rep. Rick Hansen's bill (HF861)  for Gov. Walz's MNLARS deficiency request. The bill now includes $10 million in funding for Deputy Registrars after it was amended in committee.

• The Ways & Means Committee heard an overview Monday of Governor Walz's budget recommendations from Commissioner Frans and State Budget Director Britta Reitan. This was the first opportunity that the House will have to discuss the governor's budget in committee and question members of the administration on his proposals.

• The DFL's business mandate bills continue in the Government Operations Committee on Tuesday with HF5 (Paid family leave) and HF11 (Sick/Safe time). Chair Mike Freiberg (DFL) is apparently tired of the great testimony they've heard from various small business owners and stakeholders about the harmful impact of these bills, because the hearing notice states that testimony will be limited.

• On Tuesday the HHS Finance Division will hear the Department of Human Services budget presentation. This will be a great opportunity to discuss the Governor's ONEcare Buy-In proposal, the provider tax and the billion dollars it will add to health care costs over the next two years, and fraud in the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP). Here's a link to the Governor's DHS budget recommendations  if you'd like some (not very) light reading.

• The Public Safety Division will be hearing both major gun bills on Wednesday: Background Checks (HF8) and Red Flags (HF9) . Time and location for the gun bill hearings are 7 PM, Location: Capitol 120. This event will be ticketed on site by the Sergeant of Arms; an earlier-announced hearing location in Edina was rescinded over the weekend.

Yes, elections have consequences. Tell SD49’s State Legislators where you stand on these issues. CLICK HERE  to see their contact information on our website.

SD49 Convention Elects New Officers, State Central Delegates

For_Newsletter_Exec_Officers_Nomination_edited.jpgCongratulations and thank you to new co-Chairs Russ Burnison and Joel Quinnell, and the others (listed below) who stepped forward to accept leadership roles for SD49.

Edited_Jennifer_Carnahan_addresses_convention.jpgAbout 55 delegates and alternates turned out on Saturday, February 23, for our 2019 convention. While attendance was roughly 43% of  our 2018 endorsing convention, the dedicated 2019 participants supported three hours of local party business. The delegates and seated alternates listened to speeches by party officers and candidates, discussed and approved senate district bylaws, and elected senate district executive officers and State Central delegates and alternates.

We greatly appreciate the 36 volunteers who helped plan, set-up and run the convention. Volunteers contributed in a number of ways, from chairing and recording the convention to greeting and registering attendees, checking the credentials of delegates and alternates, counting votes, updating rules, and maintaining security. Because of their efforts, the convention ran very smoothly.

For_website_edited_Carol_Brumwell_accepts_award_from_Randy_Sutter.jpgOur esteemed Crystal Eagle award went to Carol Brumwell (at left) for her insightful leadership and skillful editing of the Senate District 49 newsletter for more than three years.

Randy Sutter and the Convention on behalf of the Senate District also recognized outstanding volunteer efforts in 2018 by Jim Bixby, David Clynes, Noah Harber (left, below), Bill Holm (next image), and Al Muerhoff (3rd image).


Continue reading for more convention photos and election results.

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USA Leads in Greenhouse Gas Reductions

Credit to The American Legion Magazine, January 2019

Greenhouse_Gas.jpg"Take a wild guess what country is reducing its greenhouse gas emissions the most? Canada? Britain? France? India? Germany? Japan? No, no, no, no, no, and no," economist Stephen Moore writes. "The answer to that question is the United States of America." Citing the latest world climate report from the BP Statistical Review of world energy, Moore notes that the United States has reduced its carbon emissions by 0.5 percent – "the most of all major countries."

How can that be, given that the United States never signed the Kyoto Protocol and withdrew from the Paris Climate Accords? The major reason, according to Moore, "is the shale oil and gas revolution that is transitioning the world to cheap and clean natural gas for electric power generation."

Equally telling is Moore’s finding that "nearly every nation that signed on to the Paris Accord and has admonished America for not getting in, has already broken its promises." In fact, "all EU countries are failing to increase their climate action in line with the Paris Agreement goal," according to Climate Action Network Europe.

This Week in the MN House: Reinsurance, SS Tax, MNLARS

  • Democrats' epic flip-flop on reinsurance begins on Tuesday, Feb. 12, with the first hearing in the Commerce Committee for DFL Rep. Laurie Halverson's bill (HF629) to extend reinsurance for three years. Rep. Greg Davids (R) is the second co-author on the bill and several other Republican members have also crossed the aisle to sign on as well. No doubt Republican members on the Commerce Committee will be reminding their DFL colleagues all of the things they've said previously about reinsurance.

In 2017, Republicans in the Minnesota House established a reinsurance plan to pool the risk for insurance companies willing to offer coverage under MNSure. It significantly reduced MNSure policy rates. Given that health plans must submit their rates to the Department of Commerce for review in April, the legislature and the governor need to approve a reinsurance plan for 2020 sometime in March. This is significantly earlier than any of the other budget decisions.

Last week, Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston, chief author of the 2017 reinsurance bill, sent a letter to Commerce Commissioner Steve Kelley urging the department to immediately begin modeling what would happen to Minnesota's individual insurance market if the legislature and the governor do not renew a reinsurance program.

In response to questioning last week, Commissioner Kelley stated, “I have not been asked by anybody in the Governor’s office to model that and I have not asked the staff to model that.”

  • On Thursday, Feb. 14, in the Taxes Committee, there will be hearings on four Social Security tax relief bills. One is HF56
    the bill introduced by Rep. Tony Jurgens (R), which many additional Republican members have co-authored.

minnesota-license-plate.jpg• Lastly, on Thursday the Legislative Audit Commission will hear a long-awaited Office of the Legislative Auditor (OLA) report titled “Factors That Contributed to MNLARS Problems.” The Minnesota Licensing and Registration System (MNLARS) launched in July 2017, replacing a 30-year-old legacy system to process vehicle title and registration transactions. The system has encountered technical complications since that time and remains not yet fully functional.

Yes, elections have consequences. Tell SD49’s State Legislators where you stand on these issues. CLICK HERE to see their contact information on our website.

Barb Sutter Announces Run for Re-Election as MN GOP Secretary

Sutter___Stauber_2.JPGIt gives me great pleasure to announce that I’m running for a second term as Secretary of the Minnesota GOP. It is a privilege to have this job, and with your support, I hope to be able to continue to work on behalf of — and with — all of our Party activists & volunteers from across our state!

While our November election results shattered us, they also called for a serious time of introspection — both from a Party standpoint and from a personal one. I know many of us felt we worked harder than we ever have before…for very disappointing results.

But outcomes also present opportunities, and for us that means we need to look at new ways to engage and make a difference in Minnesota and in the 2020 elections. We have some serious catching up to do and, personally, I’m ready to get started!

The primary areas as Secretary, that I’d like to focus on are sharing & implementing best practices among our Precincts & their Senate Districts and broadening the outreach of our Affiliates.

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This Week in the MN House: Contact Your Rep

Surprised_woman_pexels-photo-1201758.jpegOn Tuesday, January 29, the Government Operations Committee will hear HF123, which would eliminate the Legislative Budget Office, undo a key GOP victory from the last biennium, and cede power over fiscal notes to the Executive Branch.

This Wednesday, January 30, the Elections Committee will hear HF94, which would allow a single person to assist an unlimited number of voters each election cycle in filling out their ballots. Current law only allows each volunteer to assist three individuals per election.

Sometime this week, the Labor Committee will hear HF5, the Paid Family Leave bill. It creates a massively expensive new bureaucracy to manage sick/parental leave/etc. benefits for Minnesota employees. It would require a payroll tax increase (the amount is still unspecified in the bill) on every employer and employee in the state, even if they already have benefits.

Yes, elections have consequences. Tell SD49’s State Legislators where you stand on these issues.

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