Inside the Minnesota Capitol

Inside the Minnesota Capitol

Minnesota politics, regulatory agencies and state government news updates

Week in Review

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Committee deadlines for the 2015 session were established this week:

  • March 20, committees must act favorably on bills in the house of origin;
  • March 27, committees must act favorably on bills, or companion bills, that met the first deadline in the other house; and
  • April 24, committees must act favorably on major appropriation and finance bills.

The House, Senate and Governor also announced an agreement on allocation of space in the renovated Capitol. The design reduced the number of offices for State Senators inside the Capitol from 39 to 4, assigning offices in the newly constructed Senate office building across the street.

Taxes

The first bill adopted on the House floor was the tax conformity bill, HF6, introduced by House Tax Committee Chair Greg Davids (R-Preston). It was introduced on January 8 and passed by the relevant House Committees a week later. The bill was amended to add language from HF27, clarifying the 2013 Destination Medical Center law to address a recent Attorney General’s ruling. Following a unanimous bipartisan 129-0 House floor vote, it moved to the Senate, with sponsorship by Sen. Rod Skoe (DFL-Clearbrook). House Minority Leader Paul Thissen (DFL-Minneapolis) urged the Senate to move quickly to pass the bill and it did so on Thursday with a vote of 62-0.

Minnesota Senate Republicans unveiled a plan to eliminate the state income tax on Social Security in an effort to keep retirees from leaving the State. The “Retire in Minnesota Act” would reduce Minnesota’s income tax on Social Security income by 10 percent annually until it is completely phased out in a decade. Although leaders acknowledge it will reduce seniors’ contributions to the State’s fund, they argue that loss will be made up by the seniors who stay in the State and contribute to the economy.

Meanwhile, Gov. Mark Dayton has proposed an expansion of the State’s child and dependent care credit, which, if approved by the Legislature, would provide nearly $100 million in tax relief to families.

Nursing Homes

With Minnesota’s elderly population on the rise, nursing home owners and workers have told Minnesota legislators that they are in need of more State money to stay open and retain staff. Care Providers of Minnesota is part of a Coalition, Long Term Care Imperative, that is advocating for a $200 million plan that would reform nursing homes reimbursements. They launched a campaign, “Face Aging MN,” to increase awareness among the public of aging and long-term care needs. The nursing home proposal would link more public money for higher nurse salaries to better quality of care. It also attempts to equalize reimbursement rates between rural and urban parts of the State, and expand health insurance options for employees. The nursing home proposal already has support among some key Republicans in the Minnesota House, including Aging and Long-Term Care Policy Committee Chair Joe Schomacker of Luverne. as well as DFL Human Services Finance Committee Chair Tony Lourey of Kerrick. The Lourey-Schomacker bill would connect nurses’ pay in an area to how much State money facilities receive.

Sunday Liquor Sales

Sen. Roger Reinert (DFL-Duluth) and Rep. Jenifer Loon (R-Eden Prairie) introduced legislation to repeal the State’s ban on Sunday liquor sales. Both lawmakers said with growing public support, they believe 2015 is the session to pass the bill. House Speaker Kurt Daudt supports repeal and Governor Dayton has indicated he would sign it if it comes to his desk. At a press conference announcing the bill, several liquor store owners were in attendance and one owner from a store in the Mall of America estimated her store would make $100,000 more a year in sales if open on Sundays.

 

Transportation Funding Issue Heats Up

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Right out of the gate, both chambers of the Minnesota Legislature put forward transportation funding packages. It has been called the issue of the session. The need for reliable, efficient transportation touches everyone in their daily lives.

Governor Dayton made it very clear that his number one priority for 2015 will be increased transportation funding for State roads, bridges and transit. The Governor will propose wholesale and retail gasoline taxes as one way to generate funding. The specifics of his proposal will be released later this month.

House Republicans countered that while they support additional funds for transportation, they prefer to do so within the context of the State’s estimated $1 billion budget surplus for the next biennium. House Transportation Chair Tim Kelly (R-Red Wing) introduced HF4 on January 8 which he said was designed as a short-term fix until the House could better determine the State’s real transportation needs. The bill seeks to use a mandated 15% efficiency savings across the Minnesota Department of Transportation. Of the total package, $750 million would come from existing funds or capital bonding with no need for new taxes. The bill would earmark $200 million toward local roads and bridges.

Senate Democrats followed up with introduction of their bill, SF87 by Transportation Chair Scott Dibble (DFL-Minneapolis) on January 12. The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) estimates a $6 billion funding shortfall for transportation over the next 10 years. Sen. Dibble stated that the need is not complicated and has been well documented. He lamented that our roads are less safe, accidents costly, goods and services can’t get to market in an efficient manner, and without proper transport our youth, disabled, and seniors are forced out of homes and community. Sen. Dibble remarked that we can’t build enough roads to accommodate everyone and need to find transit options. By contrast, House Republicans have no proposal for mass transit in their bill. The Senate bill increases revenue for funding to just under $800 million, with an additional $567 million for local road and bridge repair and replacement, as well as rail grade and crossing improvements through General Obligation bonds. It imposes a sales tax on gasoline at the wholesale level of 6.5% and increases license tab fees. There is some concern that the wholesale gas tax could bring in less money than projected if the price at the pump stays at current low levels.

Sen. Dibble recognized that the Republicans are not in favor of funding along the lines included in this bill and that there will be tough negotiations ahead. Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt says it’s unlikely Republicans will vote for a tax increase to raise revenue for transportation but promised to keep working with Democrats this session to find common ground.

2015 Minnesota Legislative Session Begins

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The Minnesota Legislature convened on Tuesday, January 6 at noon to begin the 2015 Minnesota Legislative session. The first day of session was marked by the swearing in of new members, organizational matters and other formalities. Most of the legislative business in January will consist of committee overviews of matters within their jurisdictions.

On Thursday, January 8, the DFL Senate leaders and Republican House leaders announced their key priorities for the upcoming session. The bills singled out by the leaders will mark the general focus and goals for these caucuses. Both plans emphasize job creation and education, but they take very different routes to get there.

Minnesota Senate Democrats proposed free education at the State’s two-year colleges, loan forgiveness for rural doctors and dentists, and a program to link up current minded students with employers. The other bills highlighted in the Senate DFL press conference also would fund early childhood education, child protection measures, and disaster relief for counties hit by storms. The House Republicans, on the other hand, emphasized reducing or removing regulatory barriers for business and reducing taxes as the best way to boost the State’s economy and generate jobs.

Governor Dayton will unveil his priorities for 2015 when he releases his proposed budget on January 27. However, speaking at the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce Session Priorities Dinner on Wednesday, January 7, Dayton made it very clear that his number one priority for 2015 will be increased transportation funding for State roads, bridges and transit. The Governor will propose wholesale and retail sale gasoline taxes as one way to generate funding. House Republicans countered that while they support additional funds for transportation, they prefer to do so within the context of the State’s estimated $1 billion budget surplus for the next biennium.

The physical constraints which will hamper the upcoming legislative session because of an extensive remodeling and updating of the State Capitol building have become clear. The project begun last summer and will continue through 2016. The constraints are so significant that Republican Senate Minority Leader David Hann of Eden Prairie is even proposing that the Legislature skip the 2016 session and complete any business required for the biennium during the 2015 session. Other legislative leaders admitted being intrigued by the possibility, but questioned how realistic it would be to accomplish.

Senate First Six

Senate Majority Leader Bakk said the State has a surplus because of the good work of the Legislature over the last two years. “We left $600 million on the bottom line to make sure the incoming legislature and Governor had a clean slate. Our proposals are scalable. We do not see a need for general fund spending increases.”

SF1 (Jensen) – Disaster Relief bill. Heavy rains last summer brought about major flooding in the State. FEMA funding was made available, but need a State match. The bill provides appropriations to the disaster assistance contingency account.

SF2 (Stumpf) – Education bill. The legislation grants tuition relief for qualifying high school seniors at a MNSCU site. It aims to address the shortage of skilled workers and match up unemployed workers with the employers that have vacancies. The bill encourages graduating seniors to enroll in community or technical college (provided they follow the set guidelines). The cost savings for students should cover about 50% of their education costs. The hope is that more students will go into trade and technical schools to aid in boosting rural economy.

SF3 (Clausen)- Jobs bill. The legislation provides loan forgiveness for doctors, mental health professionals, public health nurses, and dentists who agree to work in rural Minnesota. There is a critical shortage of dentists, healthcare professionals in rural Minnesota.

SF4 (Sheran) – Child Protection bill. The bill proposes stronger protection for children facing maltreatment. It would require records be kept on file for five years and enlist county agency involvement.

SF5 (Bonoff) – Jobs bill. The legislation addresses the PIPELINE, apprenticeship programs, creating a dual training competency grant program. It implements a “Earn while you Learn” proposal; the State will partner with business via the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development for grant dollars to support the student classroom on-the-job-training.

SF6 (Hoffman) – Education bill. The bill takes all-day kindergarten to the next level with funding for universal all-day preschool for four year old students.

Transportation Chair Sen. Dibble said transportation will be an extremely important focus for the Senate. He explained that they won’t be introducing the bill until next week, saying it will reflect recommendations of the MoveMN coalition that wants to generate funding through tax hikes.

House First Five

In the House, Speaker Daudt characterized the first five bills as those that represent the priorities that Minnesotans care about. He maintained that he will work with anyone who wants to work with their caucus to achieve their goals.

HF1 (Kresha) – Tax bill. The bill provides new markets tax credit for mining, timber and high tech. It also contains a pass through tax credit for S Corps. and speeds up the permitting process for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency from 90 days to 45 days.

HF2 (Loon) – Education bill. The legislation builds on the teacher evaluation process passed four years ago, and will be part of the process for teacher removal. It also seeks to streamline the process for teacher licensure including out of state teachers and offer flexibility for local school districts to bring in local community experts.

HF3 (Shomacker) – Long Term Care bill. The legislation introduces additional incentives for the long term care workforce. It offers a loan forgiveness program for certain health care workers and expands the scholarship program to nursing staff in long term care facilities to work toward a higher degree. The bill directs Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development to make long term care a priority in their workforce planning and establishes a long term care savings account along the same lines as an HSA. The new account would provide a tax credit for long term care costs for individuals who are not at retirement age to offset the cost of tax penalty for early retirement withdrawals.

HF4 (Kelly) – Transportation bill. The legislation seeks to use 15% efficiency savings across Minnesota Department of Transportation. $750 million of funding would come from existing funds with no need for new taxes. The bill would earmark $200 million toward local roads and bridges.

HF5 (Mack) – Health Care bill. The legislation seeks to bring about greater transparency and accountability for MNsure. The bill calls for requesting a federal waiver to allow for individuals to receive ACA tax credits outside of MNsure.

 

2015 Minnesota Legislative Session Preview

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With the 2014 elections in the rearview mirror, the focus has turned to the fast-approaching 2015 legislative session.  For the first time since 1985, Democrats control both the Governor’s Office and the Senate, while the Republicans control the House of Representatives.  Democrats pursued an aggressive agenda while controlling all of state government during the 2013 and 2014 sessions including balancing the budget through tax increases and budget cuts, additional education investments, MNsure legislation, all-day kindergarten, and a minimum wage increase.  Continuing such an agenda will not be possible with the Republican takeover of the House.  However, both Democratic and Republican legislative leaders have struck an optimistic tone that they will be able to find common ground, as long as the other party is willing to compromise.  Here is a preview of the hot topics that will take center stage during the 2015 legislative session. 

Biennial Budget – Passing a budget is the number-one job for state lawmakers during the 2015 session.  As a result, this issue will define the session.  Like most states, Minnesota operates on a biennial budget.  The state fiscal year runs from July 1- June 30.  The last six months of the fiscal year of the biennial budget take place during the session immediately following the elections, thereby providing the newly elected policymakers one full legislative session to craft a new two-year budget for the state.  If they aren’t successful in passing a budget, no law exists appropriating any money and the government shuts down. 

Minnesota’s finance agency, Minnesota Management and Budget, issues a revenue forecast in November and February of each year, which guides legislators in their budget decision-making.  The most recent budget forecast was released on December 4, which showed that Minnesota will have a $1.037 billion budget surplus for the upcoming biennium.  However, a portion of that money is directed to the rainy-day fund by law and the balance of leftover cash from the current budget will pay for inflationary increases in current spending.  This means there isn’t a lot of money left on the bottom line for legislators to spend without raising revenue.

The Governor will use the most recent forecast to build his budget, which he will submit to the legislature on January 27, 2015.  He has indicated that his budget will include investments in education, child care tax credits, and transportation funding.  The Governor has said that he does not believe there is a need for a general tax increase.  This should bode well for the Republican House.  The Speaker-designate, Kurt Daudt, has said that there is no appetite for a tax increase among his members and that they will focus on tax relief, long-term care and nursing homes, reducing the regulatory burden on individuals and businesses, and transportation investments. 

At the end of the day, there is not a huge budget windfall for legislators to spend.  However, the simple fact that there is money on the bottom line makes a budget stalemate and a government shutdown unlikely. 

Transportation – Next to the budget, transportation will be the big story of the 2015 session.   The Governor and House and Senate leadership all agree that it’s a priority and that something must be done in the upcoming session; it’s how to get it done that’s at issue.  Transportation Commissioner Charlie Zelle has stated that the state needs $6.5 billion over ten years to truly address the state’s transportation needs.  He suggested that the Legislature should establish a dedicated stream of revenue, such as a user fee.  During the 2014 election cycle, Governor Dayton also made transportation an issue and said he was open to a gas tax increase and has stated that he plans to include a major transportation funding package in his budget.  Speaker-designate Daudt has said that legislators first need to look at efficiencies within the Minnesota Department of Transportation before raising taxes. 

The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce has also cited transportation as a top priority, however, it stopped short of endorsing a gas tax increase.  The Chamber will be an important player in this debate. The Chamber’s support for a gas tax increase was crucial to passage of the last major transportation funding package in 2008. 

There will be three main facets to the transportation debate: whether or not to raise taxes or fees, the breakdown of funding between the metro and greater Minnesota, and how much funding will be dedicated to transit versus roads and bridges. 

Education – The Governor has cited education as one of his top priorities for the 2015 session.  He will push for additional per pupil funding, early childhood funding for low-income families, and more counselors for schools.  The GOP has cited closing the achievement gap as a top priority and Republican leaders singled out teacher tenure as an issue they’re interested in working on.   Metro versus Greater Minnesota education funding will also be at issue during the education debate. 

Taxes – There does not appear to be an appetite on the part of the Governor or on the part of the legislature to pursue a large-scale tax increase.  As noted earlier, any revenue raised during this session would likely be a dedicated fund for a specific need, such as transportation infrastructure.  Even that, however, would have to pass a Republican House that has signaled very little appetite for any kind of tax increase.

MNsure – While MNsure got off to a rocky start last year, the current open enrollment period has been largely glitch-free. To date, tens of thousands have enrolled through MNsure in the first six weeks of the open enrollment period marking an operational turnaround over the past several months.  Republicans have indicated that they intend to seek some changes to the program, including its funding structure and governing board powers and makeup.  They will likely face significant opposition from DFLers in the Senate.

Greater Minnesota – While not a specific legislative proposal, the House GOP has indicated through words and deeds that Greater Minnesota will be a major theme of their agenda for the next biennium. Ten of the 11 seats the GOP won in the 2014 election to take the House majority were from Greater Minnesota.  The Greater Minnesota message will permeate many of the issues that the House GOP addresses.

Online Lottery Tickets – The Minnesota Lottery found themselves in legislative hot water last session when they implemented the online sale of lottery tickets without the approval of the legislature.  A bill banning the lottery from issuing such tickets passed overwhelmingly at the end of the last session but was vetoed by the Governor.  The House has indicated that they will move on this quickly in 2015. 

Minnesota House Committee Schedule Released

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The incoming Republican Majority in the Minnesota House of Representatives released the 2015-16 committee schedule today. The new schedule can be found here.  The House will meet regularly in session on Mondays and Thursdays at 3:30 pm. With the exception of the Ways and Means Committee, no hearings are scheduled for Monday mornings and on Fridays.

The Senate will also be releasing a new committee schedule for 2015-2016 due to the renovation of the State Capital. Because this renovation has significantly reduced the number of hearing rooms available in the Capital Building, it is expected that the Senate committee schedule will be drastically altered from previous years.

John Reich to join Legislative and Regulatory Team

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Winthrop & Weinstine, P.A. is proud to announce that John Reich will join the firm’s Legislative and Regulatory team on December 8, 2014.

John comes to Winthrop & Weinstine with nine years of experience serving in both the Minnesota Legislature and the Dayton Administration. Most recently, John has worked as the Government Relations Director for MNsure where he helped secure passage of MNsure’s enabling legislation. John also worked with the Departments of Health, Commerce, and Human Services on Affordable Care Act conformity legislation and other initiatives related to the implementation of health care reform in Minnesota.

Prior to his time at MNsure, John served as the Government Affairs Director for the Minnesota Department of Commerce under Commissioner Mike Rothman. During his tenure, John served as the Department’s chief lobbyist and provided the Commissioner and senior staff strategic counsel on legislative and operational matters related to insurance, energy, telecommunications, and banking, among others.

John also served as the Committee Administrator for the Commerce Committee and the Telecommunications Division at the Minnesota House of Representatives. In this role, John served as chief of staff for the Chair where he negotiated legislation with stakeholders and lobbyists and built coalitions around issues.

John has his undergraduate degree from the University of Minnesota where he double majored in Political Science and German Studies. John lives in St. Paul with his wife and son and is an avid hockey player and Minnesota Wild fan.

Minnesota House Republican Leadership Announces 2015-16 Committees

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2015-16 Committee Name

Chair

Aging & Long-Term Care Policy

Rep. Schomacker

Agriculture Finance

Rep. Hamilton

Agriculture Policy

Rep. Anderson, P.

Capital Investment

Rep. Torkelson

Civil Law & Data Practices

Rep. Scott

Commerce & Regulatory Reform

Rep. Hoppe

Education Finance

Rep. Loon

Education Innovation Policy

Rep. Erickson

Environment & Natural Resources Policy & Finance

Rep. McNamara

Government Operations & Elections Policy

Rep. Sanders

Greater Minnesota Economic & Workforce Development Policy

Rep. Gunther

HHS Finance

Rep. Dean

HHS Reform

Rep. Mack

Higher Education Policy & Finance

Rep. Nornes

Job Growth & Energy Affordability Policy & Finance

Rep. Garofalo

Legacy Funding Finance

Rep. Urdahl

Mining & Outdoor Recreation Policy

Rep. Hackbarth

Property Tax & Local Government Finance Division (Taxes)

Rep. Drazkowski

Public Safety and Crime Prevention Policy & Finance

Rep. Cornish

Rules & Legislative Administration

Rep. Peppin

State Government Finance

Rep. Anderson, S.

Taxes

Rep. Davids

Transportation Policy & Finance

Rep. Kelly

Veterans Affairs Division (SGF)

Rep. Dettmer

Ways & Means

Rep. Knoblach

Ethics

Rep. Erickson

Minnesota House Committee Structure

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Newly elected Speaker-designate Kurt Daudt (R-Crown) and Majority Leader-elect Joyce Peppin (R-Rogers) will begin the hard work of setting up the committee structure for the Minnesota House of Representatives. The leaders will meet over the next few weeks to determine the number of committees and the membership for the GOP and DFL. Daudt has indicated he will lead a “family friendly” House with limited late nights and fewer weekend sessions.

With 26 newly elected freshmen – 21 GOP and 5 DFL, there will be a significant number of freshmen on all the committees. Under the House DFL there were 29 standing committees. It is expected the House GOP will reduce the number and streamline the structure to match up better with the Minnesota Senate which currently has 22 standing committees. During the last GOP House Majority there were 24 standing committees.

Speaker-designate Daudt will have to contend with senior members who will want a gavel. There are 25 members in the GOP caucus serving their 4th term up to the most senior member, Greg Davids (R-Preston) serving his 12th term. Tradition usually dictates members with the most seniority are given significant consideration. Daudt will have to fit the members’ expertise to the limited number of committee assignments.

Since Representative Mike Beard (R-Shakopee) stepped down, there is an opening for the Transportation Committee and long-time Health and Human Services expert, Jim Abeler did not run for re-election this cycle leaving the HHS chairmanship up for grabs. Look for some combined policy and finance committees and a standalone Agriculture Committee which will be chaired by a rural member.

Priorities

Daudt noted the House GOP Caucus will focus on job creation, caring for seniors and veterans and prioritization of road and bridge funding. Peppin stressed that everyone will have a seat at the table and the House will not leave Greater Minnesota behind.

Session will convene on January 6, 2015.

Minnesota House Leadership Selected

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In wake of the 2014 elections, the DFL and Republican House Caucuses met late last week to select their leadership for the 2015-2016 Minnesota legislative session. The new Republican Majority selected current Minority Leader Kurt Daudt (R–Crown) as their candidate for Speaker of the House in the upcoming session. Daudt beat back challenges from Representatives Matt Dean (R–Dellwood) and Rod Hamilton (R–Mountain Lake). Daudt was the architect of the fundraising and candidate recruitment efforts that put the Republicans in the majority.

Representative Joyce Peppin (R-Rogers) will join the leadership team as Majority Leader. In her comments after the Caucus meeting, Rep. Peppin said the House Republicans will be particularly sensitive to the needs of rural Minnesota where her Caucus picked up most of the 11 seats that put them in the majority.

In the House DFL Caucus, current Speaker of the House Paul Thissen (DFL–Minneapolis) was selected to return as Caucus leader, albeit this time as Minority Leader.

Representative Daudt predicted that the Committee organization for the 2015-2016 session would be in place by November 14 and Committee Chairs would be announced by November 21. Full committee membership is not expected to be announced until mid-December.

On the Senate side, Senator Tom Bakk (DFL-Cook) will continue to lead the Senate Majority Caucus and Senator David Hann (R-Eden Prairie) will continue to lead the Senate Republican Caucus.

Minnesota Returns to Divided State Government

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Despite convincing DFL wins in all contested statewide offices and in two heavily contested Congressional seats, the DFL Party was unable to retain control of the Minnesota House of Representatives. U.S. Senator Al Franken and Governor Mark Dayton won convincing victories, but the Minnesota House will be controlled by Republicans by a 72 to 62 margin.

Dayton Re-elected

Withstanding a last-minute barrage of negative ads from challenger Jeff Johnson, Governor Mark Dayton was able to pull out a five percentage point victory. In particular, the Republican Party of Minnesota spent heavily on a radio ad in the last week of the campaign questioning Dayton’s ability to handle an Ebola crisis in Minnesota. Dayton’s running-mate for Lieutenant Governor was first-time candidate and former Dayton Chief-of-Staff, Tina Smith. Her role in Dayton’s next term is yet to be defined but will, no doubt, be significant.

Changes in the Governor’s Cabinet for the second term are possible although most Commissioners are expected to return.

Minnesota House of Representatives Flips to Republicans

Despite the strong statewide success of the DFL Party, Republicans were able to pick up 11 seats in the Minnesota House to gain a gain a 72 to 62 majority. Of those 11 seats, ten were in rural Minnesota. Incumbent DFLers who were defeated include Reps. Roger Erickson, John Ward, Joe Radinovich, Tim Faust, Jay McNamar, Zach Dorholt, Andrew Falk, Mary Sawatzky, Patti Fritz, Shannon Savick and Will Morgan. Recounts are possible in several close races but will not change Republican control.

The House DFL and Republican Caucuses will meet later this week to select their leadership for the next session of the Legislature. Republican Minority Leader Kurt Daudt will be a candidate for Speaker of the House but could be challenged by Representatives Rod Hamilton, Matt Dean, or Sarah Anderson. Potential candidates for Majority Leader include Reps. Jen Loon and Tim Sanders. Current Speaker Paul Thissen and current DFL Majority Leader Erin Murphy will likely face off in a contest to lead the House DFL Caucus.

The DFL retains its 39 to 28 majority in the Minnesota Senate.

Other Statewide Offices

The DFL retained its control of the other State Constitutional Offices with Attorney General Lori Swanson and State Auditor Rebecca Otto comfortably winning re-election. Representative Steve Simon defeated former legislator Dan Severson in the closest of the statewide races. Simon will succeed retiring Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie.

Franken Re-elected to U.S. Senate

Unlike his narrow 312 vote win over former Senator Norm Coleman in 2008, Senator Al Franken cruised to an easy 53% to 43% victory over businessman Mike McFadden. McFadden never really made the contest close with Franken holding onto a double-digit lead for most of the campaign. Franken joins Minnesota’s other DFL Senator, Amy Klobuchar.

No Upsets in Congressional Races

Despite heavy spending by outside interest groups, Eighth District Congressman DFL Rick Nolan and Seventh District Congressman DFL Collin Peterson each won re-election. Republicans were particularly hopeful of picking off Nolan with their candidate, businessman Stewart Mills. State Senator Torrey Westrom challenged Peterson, but ended up losing 54% to 46%. In the race to succeed Congresswoman Michele Bachmann in the Sixth District, former Republican State Legislator Tom Emmer defeated Sartell Mayor Joe Perske by 56% to 38%.