New Legislative District Maps Create Interesting Matches
New legislative maps were delivered to members of the state legislature and Congressional delegates. These new legislative district maps were released by the Special Redistricting Panel called for by Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie Gildea.
Released on Tuesday, Feb. 21, the map doesn't appear to favor one party or the other in a significant way despite population growth in GOP-leaning areas. Our state constitution sets forth conditions for judges to consider as they create new boundaries to ensure as much fairness as possible. Each new Senate district has approximately 79,000 people and each House district has roughly half, or 39,500. You can explore the new boundaries and other documents here.
The new lines resulted in some new districts not occupied by any sitting legislator, as well as some pairings of two sitting legislators. When those legislators are from the same party, some hard decisions have to be made. Over the latter part of last week, some of those decisions were announced. Not surprisingly, in many of those paired districts, one legislator has stepped aside to let the other run. In a few circumstances, neither was prepared to step down and will seek their party's endorsement and possibly run in a primary.
Of note, House Majority Leader Matt Dean (R-Dellwood), is paired with Rep. Carol McFarlane (R-White Bear Lake). The new district that both occupy is primarily from Rep. McFarlane's existing area, but incorporates the small city of Dellwood. Longtime legislator and former transportation chair Rep. Hornstein (DFL-Minneapolis) has been paired with freshman, and special election winner, Rep. Greene (DFL-Minneapolis). Both will seek their party's endorsement. Many same-party matchups in the House have been dealt with amicably through retirements or the opportunity for one to run in one of the many new Senate seats.
Interesting Senate matchups include Senators Marty (DFL-Roseville) and McGuire (DFL-Falcon Heights). Sen. McGuire was paired in the 2002 redistricting as well and stepped down, but this time intends to pursue her party's endorsement. Longtime legislator Sen. Vandeveer (R-Forest Lake) and freshman Sen. Lillie (R-Lake Elmo) have been paired and neither has stepped aside yet. A new open district has formed adjacent to Sen. Lillie, and there is some speculation he may move to satisfy Minnesota's residency requirement so that he can run again in that new district. Another likely endorsement battle will unfold between veteran Sen. Jungbauer (R-East Bethel) and freshman Sen. Benson (R-Ham Lake).
House pairings and new districts can be found here.
Senate pairings and new districts can be found here.
Legislators Complete Fourth Week of Session; Election Issues Dominate Legislative Debate
It's been only four weeks since the beginning of the 2012 Minnesota legislative session, and already you can see the lineup of issues that will drive the debate leading up to the November general election. Republican majorities in both the House and Senate have teed up a number of issues during committee hearings, including possible constitutional ballot initiatives requiring voters to provide proof of identification and a "right to work" initiative allowing workers to opt-in to union dues.
DFL legislators are crying foul on many Republican initiatives, citing a legislative process that is operating too fast, too soon. Governor Dayton has joined the chorus. He swiftly vetoed four tort reform bills sent to him last month, claiming his administration was not consulted on the legislation.
What has become clear in a very short timeframe is that the 2012 Minnesota legislature is all about keeping the scope of the session narrow, getting done quickly and on time and positioning for the 2012 general election. Legislators were distracted last week after new legislative district maps were released by the courts, literally bringing the legislative process to a grinding halt for twenty four hours. Legislators are now anxious to get back home to their new districts—some of them have to physically move—and meet their new constituents.
Only two weeks remain before the first legislative committee deadline. On March 16, legislation must have been heard in all required policy committees in at least one body. Policy committees will be meeting around the clock in order to process legislation and meet deadlines.
All of this points in the direction of keeping this legislative session short and simple. Republicans are motivated to do no harm and get back home and begin to get their story out. Democrats, motivated by what they perceive as a victory in the redistricting battle, are banking on a head wind from President Obama and U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar as they head into the November election with the two of them at the top of the ticket.
With short legislative deadlines and a narrow policy agenda, it is entirely possible that the 2012 legislative could end as soon as early April.
Minnesota state government received good news today, as the state's February economic forecast showed a $323 million surplus for the current two-year budget cycle. This is the second positive economic forecast in a row, confirming that the state's economy is growing, albeit slowly.
Under current law, the entire $323 million is already spoken for: $5 million will be sent to the state's budget reserve account, which has a statutory required level of $653 million, and the remainder will be directed toward paying off the $2.7 billion owed to school districts.
Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB) estimates that two thirds of the total surplus comes from reduced spending, particularly in the area of health and human services. Even more specifically, lower enrollment in the state's Medical Assistance program drove those reductions. The remaining one third is attributed to revenue updates.
The good news may be short lived however, as economic forecasts for the 2014-15 biennium show a $1.1 billion budget deficit awaiting the legislature in its next session.
More information on the February forecast can be found on the MMB Web site.
Vikings Stadium Debate Begins in Earnest
Gov. Dayton and the Minnesota Vikings today released their proposal to build a new Vikings football facility near the existing Metrodome site. Surrounded by Minneapolis, legislative and labor officials, the Governor announced the $975 million deal to a packed press conference audience.
The proposal would use gambling pull tab revenues and existing Minneapolis sales taxes to fund the public portion of the project. No state general fund dollars would go into the project and no new revenues would be raised.
Now the real work begins. Today's announcement did not include the release of a negotiated piece of legislation. Legislators close to the project promised to introduce legislation within the next ten days. Hearings will likely take place throughout the remaining weeks of the 2012 legislative session.
Go here to view more information on the announcement.
Important Upcoming Dates
1st deadline: March 16, 2012
2nd deadline: March 23, 2012
3rd deadline: March 30, 2012
April 6–13, 2012
April 30, 2012…subject to change