Republicans in the Minnesota House are starting to release some specifics on what they intend to do to fund the state’s transportation system.
House Transportation Committee Chair Tim Kelly, R-Red Wing, says he will release the plan in a few weeks. He won’t say how much it will cost but said it would be “substantial.”
“We’ve got a lot of tools available to us and we’re just in the process of putting it all together,” Kelly said.
Kelly said the options he’s considering include a using portion of the state’s $1.9 billion surplus, bonding and dedicating existing tax revenue from rental cars, auto parts sales and leased vehicles.
“If we take those funds on an ongoing basis and dedicate those funds to roads and bridges and infrastructure and maintenance, that’s a logical step,” Kelly said. “I would think the department [Minnesota Department of Transportation] would presume that would be sustainable funding.”
Kelly emphasized again that the House Republicans will not raise taxes to fund transportation.
Gov. Dayton and Senate Democrats want to raise the gas tax and vehicle registration fees to pay for $6 billion in road and bridge projects over the next decade.
They held a news conference today to criticize Republicans for not having a specific plan.
News that the state’s projected budget surplus has expanded to nearly $1.9 billion has taken some of the urgency out of DFL Gov. Mark Dayton’s argument that Minnesota needs a 16-cent per gallon tax increase on fuel to pay for an array of new road projects. (MPR News)
Dayton, whose family founded Target, wants to meet with the company’s CEO to discuss coming layoffs and Target’s commitment to Minnesota. (MPR News)
Dayton is slamming a proposal to create a new legislative budget office, calling it unnecessary and unproductive. (MPR News)
A measure that would offer couples the option to divorce outside the authority of Minnesota courts has the backing of two legislators who say they want to start a conversation about how marriages end, but family law attorneys argue that the legislation is impractical — and unconstitutional. (Star Tribune)
A long running debate has resumed at the Capitol over whether Minnesota craft breweries should be allowed to sell 64 ounce bottles of beer on Sundays. (MPR News)
Republican control of the Minnesota House is helping abortion opponents make their case this year. (Star Tribune)
No lakes and only a few streams in Minnesota’s southwest corner meet the state’s quality standards for fishing and swimming. (MPR News)
With yet another do-or-die test of Obamacare before the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday, the justices were sharply divided. By the end of the argument, it was clear that the outcome will be determined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy. (NPR)
Sen. Al Franken said opponents of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) raised a “ridiculous” argument at the Supreme Court. (Star Tribune)
Republicans say they’re working on alternatives to the ACA if the Supreme Court strikes down more of the law. But it appears they’re still a long way away from reaching consensus. (USA Today)
The House committee examining the 2012 attacks on American outposts in Benghazi sent a subpoena to Hillary Rodham Clinton’s lawyer, requesting all emails she had in her personal account as secretary of state that relate to Libya. (New York Times)
An unusual request has gone out to wealthy donors writing large checks to support former Florida governor Jeb Bush: Please don’t give more than $1 million right away. (Washington Post)
A long running debate resumed at the Capitol Wednesday over whether Minnesota craft breweries should be allowed to sell 64 ounce bottles of beer on Sundays.
State law currently forbids craft brewers from selling what are called growlers on Sundays.
The House Commerce Committee discussed the bill in a hearing that focused on several alcohol related bills.
Supporters say loosening the law to allow the Sunday sales of growlers will increase a niche market of people looking to take home specialized beer.
“We are missing out on a huge opportunity for tourism to our state,” said Rep. Sarah Anderson, R-Plymouth. “This is not just limited to Minnesota. The craft brewery industry is booming, and we happen to be a magnet right now.”
Craft brewers have been lobbying for passage of the law for two years. They say the Sunday sales would be a natural extension of their business, since tap rooms are open on Sunday and they already sell beer that they make on the premises.
“We have a lot of tourists in town, and we are open on Sundays and we do tours,” said Dan Schwarz who owns the Lift Bridge Brewing Company in Stillwater. “Many times customers ask to take growlers home and we cannot do that.”
The Legislature has been at an impasse over Sunday growler sales.
Some worry any change to the law would open up a larger debate over whether all alcohol products could be sold on Sunday. Others, including Joel Carlson with the Minnesota Wine and Spirits Wholesalers Association, say it isn’t fair to open the market to craft brewers alone.
“Because some favored industries got that exemption doesn’t mean that we need to continue going down that slippery slope and make it even worse,” he said.
A change to the law could affect liquor store owners, restaurants, craft brewers, distributors and unions. And it could shake up a system that has been in place for decades.
Edward Reynoso, the legislative director for Teamsters Union Joint Council 32, said changing the law to allow growlers to be sold on Sundays could reopen the labor contracts for 850 of his members who work in the liquor industry.
Reynoso said an employer, whom he declined to identify, has already threatened to reopen the union contract, which would mean pay, insurance and other items would be have to be renegotiated. Reynoso said his union disagrees with the employer but won’t support the bill until the issue is settled.
“We’re continuing the discussion with the employer, and we’re optimistic and hopeful to reach a compromise sometime soon,” Reynoso said. “Until such time, I can tell you that we continue to be opposed to any expansion of Sunday liquor sales in the state of Minnesota which would also include Sunday growler sales.”
Other people told the committee not to stop with Sunday growler sales. Several said changing the law to allow the sale of beer is unfair to wine drinkers.
“It does not feel equitable to me as someone who does not enjoy beer that those who drink beer would now be able to purchase beer on Sunday to take with them to their events, to take with them to enjoy with family, while I would not be able to do the same with wine,” said Kristen Merritt from Buffalo, Minn.
The House Commerce Committee didn’t vote on the bill. Committee chair Rep. Joe Hoppe, R-Chaska, said he may include the issue in a larger liquor bill.
The growler bill faces a tougher test in the Minnesota Senate, especially since it died there last year. Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said the Senate will consider the bill.
“I think I’m open to the conversation. I don’t know how widely this opens the whole Sunday sales issue, but I’m open to learning more about what kind of expansion it would create,” Bakk said.
Bakk said, however, that he doesn’t support allowing the sale of alcohol on Sundays because it could hurt liquor store owners who say they don’t want to be open on Sunday.
Rep. Pat Garofalo said Wisconsin’s right-to-work bill would make it harder for businesses to set terms and conditions of employment. He’s inviting those businesses to relocate to Minnesota. Read more →