Friday, April 18, 2014

Two paragraphs, so much consternation

At the state convention, the nominations committee has to report on the qualifications of the candidates seeking endorsement.  From the MNGOP state party constitution;
Nominations Committee.
To be eligible to be considered for endorsement or election, candidates for statewide
nonjudicial endorsement and candidates for National Delegate or Alternate must meet all legal
requirements and submit nominating petitions to the Nominating Committee containing the
printed names and signatures of a minimum of 2% of the State Convention Delegates.
The Nominations Committee shall report to the convention those candidates who have met the
petition and legal requirements at Section 3A and whether the Nominating Committee deems the
candidates to be qualified or unqualified to receive endorsement or be elected. 
What are the criteria for 'qualified'?  That is left to the nominations committee's discretion. Many different opinions have been brought forward on what the nominations committee should be looking at when they determine qualifications.  Should candidates be measured on how conservative they are?  Should bad votes in their past be brought up?
Since I'm chairing the nominations committee, I'd like your input on this.  Leave a comment, find me on Facebook or Twitter, or give me a call.  This is your chance to have some input on how the nominations committee vetts the candidates for statewide office. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

One revealing sentence about Education Minnesota

From a story in the Owatonna People's Press (paywall after 20 articles per month) comes an inadvertent truth about teacher's unions in Minnesota.  After the superintendent of the Owatonna school district presented a contract proposal to the teachers union that included pay raises averaging 2% over a four year contract:
After Grant finished reading the proposal, the teachers joined for a closed caucus. After about 15 minutes, the union’s negotiators left to a round of applause from members.
They neither accepted nor rejected the proposal, and chose to set a future date for discussion. A specific date has not been set.
(Emphasis mine.)

Teachers applauded the fact that they refused to even vote on a contract proposal.  They applauded despite complaining that they have been working " without an agreement for 290 days".  They applauded a non-vote on a contract which gave more pay raises than city workers or police in Owatonna have seen in recent years.

They voted to stick it to the man (otherwise known as the taxpayers), and they applauded themselves afterwards.  That sums it up for Education Minnesota.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Why the endorsement matters

The MNGOP is in the midst of a turning point on the question of the endorsement process.  The unspoken rule of never going outside the endorsement process to the primary is being significantly challenged this cycle at the legislative, congressional district and statewide level.  Here's why the endorsement process matters, and why it will survive this election cycle.

First and foremost, the Republican Party in Minnesota has a tradition of local activists who come out to support campaigns at all levels.  It is repeated so often to be almost cliche but it is still true-the delegates and alternates from county and BPOU conventions are the majority of the volunteers that will be out pounding lawn signs, walking in parades, doing lit drops, and showing up to candidate rallies.  Unlike the DFL, which harness their allies in the unions to provide much of the legwork for campaigns, the GOP has to rely on unpaid, uncompensated volunteers for any ground game.

These volunteers give their time for a variety of reasons; some are simply conservative to the core and would support any conservative candidate, others see the direction the party has been trending and want to have a voice in choosing the candidates the GOP puts forward (that was the reason that got me into party politics).  These activists are the sounding board that every candidate tests themselves on, allowing candidates to start with small groups of people and work their way up to larger forums.  Giving the choice in endorsements to these party activists is the surest way of getting strong conservative candidates on the ballot to represent the MNGOP.

The second reason the endorsement matters is the party resources that comes with being the endorsed candidate.  The largest resource the party has to give is data access.  Voter and donor information has gone through several programs in recent years, first Voter Vault, then Phoenix, and now Data Center.  Party policy regarding data access is that once an endorsement is made, only that endorsed candidate may have access to party data.  That means that Rhonda Sivarajah and Phil Krinkie, who have vowed to take CD6 to a primary, will have only the resources of their own campaigns to reach out to voters and donors with, while newly endorsed Tom Emmer will have all of his own resources, plus 24/7 access to the issues that individual voters are concerned about, history of their interaction with the party, historic willingness to volunteer for campaigns, ect.

The straw man argument made to this data access is that the MNGOP's financial and PR struggles over the last 2 years have left the party unable to help endorsed candidates.  While it is true that the state party doesn't have the wherewithal to help as it did in the 2008 and 2010 cycles, the party's financial position has improved dramatically from 2012, and potential primary candidates would do well to remember that when they decide to oppose endorsed candidates.  Additionally, the state party has made significant strides in the last year to develop closer relationships with outside groups that share our conservative values.  That means that independent groups will be less likely to deploy resources on candidates who don't have the added value of party support.

The third reason the endorsement still matters is the simple fact that we are an endorsing state.  You can argue that a primary system is better, an argument my friend Jeff Kolb has made effectively.  But the fact is that moving Minnesota to a primary-only system would mean action from the state legislature, and very likely means the DFL party would have to agree to the change.  The idea that we need to break the endorsement process in order to be able to change it is a simple nonesense, a romanticized version of the Destroyers from Ayn Rand fame.  If the system needs to change, than we should change it.  But intentionally wrecking the system will leave the MNGOP vulnerable to the DFL for multiple election cycles.

To encourage every candidate to buck the endorsement process and run to a primary would mean tens of millions of dollars of wasted money.  Currently there are 6 candidates running for governor and 6 running for US Senate, which means each race is seeing a 6-way split of the money available from donors.  Money spent by one candidate to buy signs, literature and travel expenses is gone from the election cycle forever; those signs and lit can't be recovered or recycled for the eventual general election candidate.  The endorsement process winnows out candidates that have little real chance of winning a general election, and stops money from flowing to them and away from more serious candidates.

I believe in the endorsement process, and I think it works (the majority of the time) to help the party field the best possible candidates.  And in this current election cycle, I predict the endorsement process will select the eventual general election candidates. 

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Minnpost lists their bias up front

Kudos to Minnpost for listing their ideological bias right up front in a story today.  For their story "Minimum wage deal with automatic pay hikes: the horse trading" they try to be nonchalant about it, but state that the article is funded by a pro-minimum wage hike group:

This is one in a series of articles funded by a grant from the Northwest Area Foundation.

"The Northwest Area Foundation is committed to the well-being of the people in our region.
We support efforts across our eight states to reduce poverty and achieve sustainable prosperity. We focus on the work of proven or promising organizations — those that have demonstrated success and those that are on the cutting edge and poised to do innovative work in poverty reduction."

So a 'foundation' committed to working towards poverty reduction has purchased an article in Minnpost hailing the increase in the minimum wage.  I'm shocked, not that they would shell out the money for what is essentially paid public relations, but that Minnpost would add the disclaimer up front on the article and with a straight face.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Meet Aaron Miller

Quite contrary to the 2012 marathon, the 2014 1st Congressional District GOP convention lasted just three ballots.  After an almost three way tie in the first ballot, Rep Mike Benson fund himself losing ground on the second ballot, and quickly showed himself to be a classy candidate by withdrawing from the race.  Unlike the animosity of 2012, the two candidate race between Aaron Miller and Jim Hagedorn was professional.  When Benson asked his supporters to favor Miller, the third ballot showed movement en masse, and Jim Hagedorn upped the ante on Benson's classy move by dropping out of the race and asking for unanimous endorsement for Miller.

So who is Aaron Miller?

-Aaron Miller is a combat veteran, having served 28 years in uniform in the Army Reserves, including combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.  He is Command Sergeant Major, the highest non-commissioned officer rank in the US military, and was awarded the Bronze Star for his service.

-Aaron Miller is a businessman, who has spent the last 15 years in the healthcare industry on the front lines of evolving medical technologies.

-Aaron Miller is a family man, whose wife Jennifer also serves in the US military, and two daughters who live in Byron, Minnesota.

Aaron is a political newcomer, having never before run for office.  He is seeking to replace a man who political newcomer, who had never before run for office.

Aaron is a Command Sergeant Major in the US Army, the same rank as the man he is seeking to replace.  But unlike Representative 'Light on the Right' Tim Walz, Aaron has not one, not two, but three combat tours under his belt.

Aaron's website is here, and his Facebook page is here. 

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Why the flags were not at half staf this weekend

Having fielded my 8th call and 4th email this weekend, I think it is time to explain when we lower flags to half staff in America. 

US flags on federal property are lowered to half staff at the discretion of the President of the United States.  State flags on state property are lowered to half staff at the discretion of the Governor.  From the United States Code, Title 4:

By order of the President, the flag shall be flown at half-staff upon the death of principal figures of the United States Government and the Governor of a State, territory, or possession, as a mark of respect to their memory. In the event of the death of other officials or foreign dignitaries, the flag is to be displayed at half-staff according to Presidential instructions or orders, or in accordance with recognized customs or practices not inconsistent with law. In the event of the death of a present or former official of the government of any State, territory, or possession of the United States or the death of a member of the Armed Forces from any State, territory, or possession who dies while serving on active duty, the Governor of that State, territory, or possession may proclaim that the National flag shall be flown at half-staff,

The American flag on federal property can only be lowered when the president or governor has ordered it to be lowered.  Similarly on United States Post Office locations, federal prisons, ect. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

False advertising

This is how progressives win in Minnesota; they play fast and loose with who they are and what they really want.  From an AP piece in the StarTrib-
A large coalition of transportation, business and labor interests called Tuesday for a new 5 percent sales tax on fuel in Minnesota to help raise money for roads and transit projects.
The group, which calls itself Move MN, laid out a $750-million-a-year spending plan at a legislative hearing. It includes two major sources of revenue: $360 million annually for roads from the 5 percent sales tax on wholesale fuel, and another $335 million for transit projects from a three-quarter-cent sales tax increase in the seven counties that make up the Twin Cities metropolitan area.
Got that? Transportation and business interests, along with labor.   That sounds like a broad based group, ideologically speaking.  Except when you read the fine print.  From the website for Move MN, here is the list of Coalition Partners.  Business in yellow, unions in blue, and community coalitions in red.

Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition
Minneapolis Urban League
Minnesota AFL-CIO
Minnesota Association of Townships
Minnesota Cancer Alliance
Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy
Minnesota Community Foundation
Minnesota Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities
Minnesota County Engineers Association
Minnesota Environmental Partnership
Minnesota Farmers Union
Minnesota Inter-County Association (MICA)
Minnesota Public Health Association
Minnesota Public Interest Research Group
Minnesota Public Transit Association (MPTA)
Minnesota Rural Counties Caucus
Minnesota State Building Trades
Minnesota Transportation Alliance
Minnesota Utility Contractors Association
Minnesota Young Professionals Environmental Group
Minnesota Youth Environmental Network
Minnesotans for Healthy Kids Coalition
MN Best, Inc.
Myles Lorentz, Inc.
National MS Society Upper Midwest Chapter
Native American Community Development Institute
Neighborhood Development Center
New American Academy
Nice Ride MN
North Central Bus Sales
North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters
OPEIU Local 12
Otter Tail County
Parsons Brinckerhoff
PCiRoads, LLC
Portland Cement Association
Project for Pride in Living
Public Works for Public Good
Quality Bicycle Products
R & G Construction
Rani Engineering Inc.
Regional Health Equity Council, Region V
River Valley Action
Rochester Sand and Gravel
SEH, Inc.
Self Advocates Minnesota
Sheet Metal Workers Local Union #10
Sierra Club North Star Chapter
Small Business Minnesota
Southeast Minnesota Area Labor Council
SRF Consulting Group
Stantec Consulting
St. Cloud Area Planning Organization
St. Paul Bicycle Coalition
St. Paul Building & Construction Trades Council
St. Paul Riverfront Corporation
Suburban Transit Association
Summit Academy
Teamsters Joint Council 32
Tiller Corporation
Transit for Livable Communities
Trillum Services, Inc
The Trust for Public Land
Twin Cities LISC
UFCW Local 1189
U.S. Highway 14 Partnership
United Transportation Union
Urban Land Institute Minnesota
Urban Land Institute Minnesota Young Leaders Group
Walker Engineering, Inc.
Wenck Associates
Wendel Companies
Western Minnesota-Red River Valley Area Labor Council
Widseth Smith Nolting
WSB & Associates
Young Professionals in Transportation - Minneapolis Chapter
AARP Minnesota
The Ackerberg Group
Advocating Change Together (ACT)
African Career, Education & Resource, Inc. (ACER)
AFSCME Minnesota Council 5
Aggregate Industries
Alliance for Metropolitan Stability
Alliance for Sustainability
Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1005
American Council of Engineering Companies
American Engineering Testing, Inc.
American Heart Association Minnesota Chapter
American Institute of Architects Minnesota
Arc Greater Twin Cities
Architectural Alliance + 20 Below
Asian Economic Development Association
Associated General Contractors of Minnesota
Association of Minnesota Counties
Aurora/St. Anthony Neighborhood Development Corporation
Barr Engineering Co.
Bearence Management
Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota
Bituminous Roadways, Inc.
Bloomington Bicycle Alliance
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota
BlueGreen Alliance
Bolton & Menk
Braun Intertec Corporation
Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis
car2go Minneapolis
Cemstone Products Co.
CentraCare Health
Central Corridor Funders Collaborative
Central Specialties, Inc.
City Employees' Union Local #363
Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities
Communications Workers of America MN State Council
Conservation Minnesota
The Cornerstone Group
Cretex Concrete Products, Inc.
Cycles for Change
Fresh Energy
Geyer Signal of St. Cloud, Inc.
Greater MN Advisory Panel
Growth & Justice
Hardrives, Inc.
Hasslen Construction Company, Inc.
HDR Engineering, Inc.
Highway 169 North Task Force
Highway 55 Corridor Coalition
Highway 23 Task Force
Hope Community Inc.
Housing Preservation Project
HR Green
I-494 Corridor Commission
IBEW Local 292
International Union of Operating Engineers Local 49
Jewish Community Action
Kimley-Horn and Associates, Inc.
KLJ Engineering
Laborers District Council of MN and ND
Laborers Employers Cooperation and Education Trust
Laborers Local 405
Laborers Local 563
Laborers Local 1091
Laborers Local 1097
Lao Assistance Center
League of Minnesota Cities
LHB, Inc.
Mankato/North Mankato Area Planning Organization
Mathiowetz Construction Company
McLeod County
Metro Cities
Metropolitan Consortium of Community Developers
Metropolitan Economic Development Association
Meyer Borgman Johnson

Nearly every business listed above (not all are actual businesses, but we'll count them for argument's sake) is directly tied to road or light rail construction, or bus manufacturing.  Concrete companies, bituminous companies, engineering companies, and bus sales companies.

Metro area businesses are not asking for a tax increase for transportation--companies that would directly profit from a big increase in transportation spending are asking for a tax increase.  Don't be fooled by a slick marketing campaign that makes it sound like mom and pop businesses in the metro are asking for more taxes.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Help us Kathleen Sebelius, we're stuck in the military

John Kerry famously opined that if you make don't make smart choices and get an education, you 'get stuck in Iraq'.  A group of Minnesota soldiers famously responded.  Now, members of the Guard and Reserves are starting to realize they may be stuck in the military for a much different reason: Obamacare.

Back in 2005, the Pentagon extended health insurance to Guard and Reserve soldiers who did not have any other coverage available, called Tricare Reserve Select.  The premiums are excellent ($195 per month for family coverage, $51 for individuals) and the deductibles are reasonable.  These low rates are made possible by two factors; first, the large size of the pool of insured, currently north of 200k, and second, the fact that Guard and Reserve members are by definition healthier on average than the general population.  Not only must military members maintain a healthy weight and stay physically fit, but people with serious and chronic illnesses are simply not allowed to join the military.

But the flipside of this great benefit to being in the Guard and Reserve, affordable insurance, is that soldiers who are nearing the end of their enlistment are now facing the huge uncertainty of leaving that coverage for the chaos of Obamacare.  I know dozens of soldiers who say they can't afford to retire or get out of the military.  And on the front end, military recruiters are now touting Tricare as a major reason to join the Guard.

This weekend I spoke with two soldiers who had planned to get out of the Guard in the next several months as their enlistments end.  One of the soldiers, who is self employed, has been looking for an insurance plan to replace the Tricare he would lose by getting out.  The least expensive plan he could find on MNSure had a $117 monthly premium with a $4,200 yearly deductible.  He's a healthy young man who rarely goes to the doctor, but that $4,200 scares the crap out of him.  Instead of having to pay a penalty tax to the IRS for not having health insurance, he decided the cheaper option is to re-enlist for another 3 years so he can keep Tricare and wait out Obamacare.

The other soldier works for a small company outside of Rochester that recently told their employees they will be dropping health coverage because of Obamacare.  Paying the fine is simply the lessor of two evils for the company.  So this soldier, who has been deployed three times since 2004 and was looking forward to being done with the military, faces the choice of trying to navigate MNSure and the certainty of much higher premiums for his family, or staying in the Guard so he has access to cheap insurance when his company's health coverage is cancelled. 

The worst part of all of this, is the sneaking suspicion most of us have that with all of the budget cuts coming down the pipeline, Tricare for Guard and Reserve soldiers seems like an easy target for the bean counters.  It doesn't cost the Pentagon a lot of money in the overall picture, but it would be an easy place to cut, as most civilians don't know the program exists.  The Pentagon has already began cutting health care benefits for full time Guard and Reserve soldiers, so us weekend warriors can't be far behind.

Military leaders and members of Congress, not to mention the president, explicitly promised the military and veterans that Obamacare would not affect their health care benefits.  I guess that promise was as true as 'if you like your plan you can keep your plan.'