Tag Archives: SD 47

Ortman back from War College: firing wildly and with shiny tap-dance shoes

As we mentioned earlier in the week, State Senator (and possible U.S. Senate candidate) Julianne Ortman spent the week at the Army War College’s National Security Seminar.   Part of a new Army recruit’s basic training regimen includes learning how to shine shoes.  Well, it seems Ortman may have taken a lesson or two while there because she came back ready to attack and with shined-up and ready-to-go tap dancing shoes.

Earlier today, Ortman fired off several rounds of criticism at U.S. Senator Al Franken on Twitter, which was countered by myself and a few others — not to defend Franken (because he and the rest of Congress have a lot to answer for), but rather to ask Ortman what she would have done instead.  After all, it’s easy to criticize, but harder to advocate alternatives.   We saw this in effect during this legislative session’s budget battle, where Republicans never articulated an alternative budget.

Did Franken “hide” his knowledge of the NSA program?

Ortman’s initial attack against Franken called out the Senator for “hiding” the NSA program.  As a member of the Judiciary Committee, Franken had been briefed on the program to some level of detail.  Well, it is certainly true that Franken did not comment publicly on this topic until yesterday.  Why is that?  Because it was illegal for Franken to discuss it publicly. 

Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act modifies Section 501 (d) of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act as to say:

“No person shall disclose to any other person (other than those persons necessary to produce the tangible things under this section) that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has sought or obtained tangible things under this section.”

Even worse, the briefings that lawmakers received on such programs were subject to unusually stringent security.  Lawmakers were not allowed to take notes, staffers were not allowed to attend, and per the provisions of the law stated above, the lawmakers were prohibited from talking about the programs.

So did Franken “hide” his knowledge of the programs?  No.  Did he do enough to push back?  The record on that is unclear.  Two Democratic Senators, Ron Wyden of Oregon and Mark Udall of Colorado, have been pushing the limits on these programs, obliquely hinting that there was something afoot.

Ortman seems to be suggesting that Franken should have done more.  Perhaps that’s true.  But one can only imagine if Franken had violated the law and revealed details of a classified national security program.  I sincerely doubt that Ortman would be saluting his whistleblowing — rather, she’d be crying about Franken putting our national security at risk.

Ortman goes on to make an additional charge:  namely, that the PATRIOT Act didn’t authorize such programs.  Unfortunately, Ortman provides no basis to back up her claims that have any merit.  And, sadly, she tap-dances around any of the direct questions asked of her — would she have voted for the PATRIOT Act and FISA modifications?  What is her argument for why these programs were prohibited?  Where was her outrage when these programs were authorized under a Republican administration? Does she think Franken should have broken the law and spread details of these programs?

While I haven’t attended the National Security Seminar, I can only imagine such brazenly partisan behavior probably isn’t considered in our nation’s best interest.  Let’s hope that if Ortman does run against Franken that she finds some lines of attack that aren’t based in distortions and falsehoods.

Here’s the entire exchange, so you can judge for yourself:

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Ortman faces uphill climb in potential race against Franken

Public Policy Polling released the first detailed polling on the 2014 U.S. Senate race today.  It shows that U.S. Senator Al Franken is — as of today, anyway — in pretty good shape 17 months out from the election.

Franken currently holds a +9 in his job approval ratings (51% approve vs. 42% disapprove) which is a solid rating for an incumbent heading into a re-election campaign.  Franken also currently holds at least a 15-point lead against any of the possible challengers polled.  Businessman Mike McFadden (the only potential candidate who has publicly expressed interest in the race) and Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek trail Franken by 15 points, while State Senator Julie Rosen trails by 16 and U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann, radio talk show host Jason Lewis, and Chanhassen’s own State Senator Julianne Ortman trail Franken by 17.

There’s not a lot of good news in the polling data for Ortman.  Ortman’s name recognition is low (80% didn’t know who she was), but among those who did know her, almost four times as many had an unfavorable opinion as had a favorable opinion.  Those numbers gave her the lowest favorability numbers among the potential candidates in the poll.  Worse, she had an unfavorable opinion among Republicans and self-identified conservatives who knew who she was.  Franken leads Ortman by 29 points among women and by four points among men (even though Franken polls -8 in job approval among men).  However, her low name recognition does give her the opportunity to introduce herself on her own terms to voters.

Numbers like these help explain why Ortman may have felt the need to take time from the end-of-session rush last week to try and blast Franken over the IRS investigations of Tea Party groups.  If she intends to run, she needs to drive name recognition and establish herself as a credible contender because based on the polling numbers and Franken’s formidable fundraising — it’s going to be an uphill battle.

It’s totally not about that

State Senator Julianne Ortman held a press conference today to try and finger U.S. Senator Al Franken for playing a role in the current controversy over the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) giving unwarranted scrutiny to certain conservative 501(c)(4) groups.

In 2012, Franken and a group of other Democratic Senators sent two letters to the IRS, requesting that they give added scrutiny to 501(c)(4) groups.  Both progressive and conservative organizations had been setting such groups up because they are tax-exempt and not subject to campaign finance disclosures.

You can see the letters at the links below:

February 2012 letter

March 2012 letter

In each, the Senators in question ask the IRS to scrutinize all 501(c)(4)s.  Ideology doesn’t come up in either letter.

So, let’s sum up the argument here.  Ortman is asking us to believe that the letters from 2012 which called for additional scrutiny to be applied to all 501(c)(4)s are significantly responsible for IRS misbehavior that began in 2010 and was actually uncovered and stopped after the letter was sent.  Not even the reliable conservatives at Powerline are buying that one.

Why, then, would Ortman go to the trouble of calling a press conference to highlight this non-news with no real relation to her role as a State Senator?  Oh, yeah:

When asked about such a thing, Ortman played the “who me?” card.

Uh-huh.  It’s totally not about that.

And let’s not forget that Ortman has never exactly been shy about sending letters of her own demanding action by other parts of government.  Earlier this session, she asked Attorney General Lori Swanson to break from usual practice and preemptively give a ruling on whether legislation was constitutional or not.  Last session, Ortman demanded that the Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court investigate the handling of family cases in the First District.

So it seems that Ortman’s outrage over legislative letter-writing is rather subjective.  Just remember, though, about those 2014 rumors:  it’s totally not about that.

Senate passes marriage equality; Ortman votes no

The Minnesota State Senate today passed the marriage equality bill by a vote of 37-30, following four hours of debate.  State Senator Julianne Ortman (R-Chanhassen) voted no on the issue.  Only one Republican, Senator Brandon Petersen, voted in favor of the bill, while three DFL Senators voted no (Dan Sparks, Leroy Stumpf, and Lyle Koenen).

senatemarriage

Governor Mark Dayton has indicated he will sign the bill, and a signing ceremony is planned for 5 p.m. Tuesday afternoon on the South Side Capitol Steps.  Minnesota will be the 12th state to institute marriage equality.

Rumors were swirling before the vote that Ortman, who had been consistently opposed to marriage equality in recent sessions, may be reconsidering her position.  At times during the debate, she was spotted conferring with Senator Scott Dibble, the bill’s author.  Hanging over Ortman’s vote was the notion that she might be a candidate for higher office in 2014.  Recent speculation has indicated that she may be looking at the race for U.S. Senate against Al Franken.

 

The Republican base is strongly opposed to marriage equality.  Polling from January shows 79% disapproval among Republicans, which likely makes the path to endorsement difficult for a marriage equality supporter.

Meet Your “New” Republican Party!

State Rep. Ernie Leidiger will be holding his annual hog roast fundraiser next month.  This year’s event is themed “Meet The New Republican Party”, and features a pulled pork dinner, silent auction, activities for kids, karaoke, and a bonfire.  On-site camping is also available if needed.  Lots of special guests are also invited, like these fresh faces:

Hog Roast Emcee and failed gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer

U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann

U.S. Representative John Kline

U.S. Representative Erik Paulsen

Radio talk show hosts Jason Lewis and Sue Jeffers

State Senator Julianne Ortman

State Representative Joe Hoppe

Of course, these aren’t “new” faces at all.  These are just the same faces we’ve been seeing and hearing from for years now.  Keep looking down the list and — aha! — here are the new faces we’ve been looking for!

State GOP Party Chair Keith Downey

State GOP Deputy Party Chair Kelly Fenton

State GOP Secretary Chris Fields

Of course, of these folks, only Fields really qualifies a “new” face.  Heck, Fields hasn’t even lived in Minnesota for two years and he already has lost a race for Congress by 49 points.  Downey is a two-term former state representative who was heralded as an ideological leader behind the Republican House majorities that got routed in 2012.  Fenton, meanwhile, is a longtime party activist.

Even more to the point, though, is that while you can theoretically argue some of the faces are “new” — the ideas are the same old stale ones they’ve been peddling for years.  Let’s hope the pulled pork is fresher than the ideology.

[Picture above is 2010 gubernatorial loser and voice of the “new” Republican Party Tom Emmer]

Looking for a Republican suburban woman and other thoughts

MinnPost ran a story last week on prospective GOP candidates for Governor.  Of note in that story was a quote from prominent Republican operative Ben Golnik lamenting the fact that “the ideal candidate — a female from the suburbs” wasn’t out there.  As such, I found it interesting that the name of State Senator Julianne Ortman didn’t come up.  Ortman’s resume — in the Senate over a decade, former Deputy Majority Leader, a caucus leader on tax and legal issues — stacks up comparably against many of the other named contenders.  And she’s one of the Senate GOP’s better communicators, as evidenced by her continuing high profile despite not holding a formal leadership position anymore.

I have no idea if Ortman is interested in higher office — perhaps she’s signaled she’s not, which is why she didn’t make this piece.  But it seems that for many, the list of women available for statewide runs in the Minnesota Republican Party ends with Laura Brod now that Amy Koch is out of the Senate.

Given that the current list of prospective candidates all have significant question marks as it relates to their ability to either earn the Republican endorsement or win a general election — Sen. Dave Thompson might be too conservative for a statewide election, Rep. Kurt Zellers was widely criticized for his leadership (or lack thereof) last session as Speaker of the House, Sen. David Hann was an also-ran in the 2010 race for Governor, Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek has perhaps spent too much time on gun issues for the base’s liking, and Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson has already lost one statewide race (Attorney General in 2006) — it seems maybe the list of usual suspects should be expanded.  But, of course, I doubt the Republicans are looking to me for advice.

Here are some other things happening in the community:

  • In case you haven’t already heard, two new restaurants opened in Chaska in the last week or so:  BullChicks in Chaska Commons, and Egg & Pie Diner in downtown.  I’m hearing positive word-of-mouth on both.
  • The two facility taskforces convened by the Eastern Carver County School District continue to make progress.  The High School taskforce is wrestling with the question of balancing programming and demographics between Chaska and Chanhassen High Schools.  Meanwhile, the Early Childhood through Middle School task force is working on finding the best way to deal with overcrowded schools on the west side of the District as well as finding a permanent home for the La Academia Spanish immersion program.  I am a member of the Early Childhood through Middle School task force  and I can attest to the difficult challenges that lie ahead here.  Over the next few months, there will be opportunities for public input on potential changes — I encourage you to keep your eyes open and attend those sessions when they occur.

Ortman votes no on marriage equality

The marriage equality bill, S.F. 925, had a hearing today in the Senate Judiciary Committee.  State Senator Julianne Ortman (R-Chanhassen) was part of the party-line vote on the bill, with all five DFLers voting in favor of the bill and all three Republicans voting against the bill.  The bill is now eligible to vote to the full Senate for a vote.

In the 2012 election, Ortman’s SD 47 voted in favor of the amendment, earning 51.4% of the votes.  However, the results sharply varied from the eastern side of the district to the west.  The eastern portion of the district, House District 47B, voted against the amendment (only 45.4% voting yes), while the western portion of the district, House District 47A, had 57.5% voting yes.  It will be interesting to see if the dynamics in 47B play a role in influencing State Rep. Joe Hoppe’s vote.  Hoppe voted in favor of the amendment last session.

The counterpart bill in the House, H.F. 1054, had a hearing this morning in the Civil Law Committee that will continue tonight.   State Rep. Cindy Pugh, who represents northeast Chanhassen as part of District 33B, sits on that committee.  Pugh is a solid “no” vote on marriage equality.

 

A final look back at the 2011-2012 legislative session for Ortman, Hoppe, and Leidiger

Minnesota’s Legislature gavels back into session tomorrow, with DFL majorities ready to take the reins from the Republicans.  Carver County’s population growth over the last decade will mean additional representation for the County, as northeast Chanhassen will be represented by legislative newcomers State. Sen David Osmek and State Rep. Cindy Pugh, while the rest of the county will return State Sen. Julianne Ortman, State Rep. Joe Hoppe, and State Rep. Ernie Leidiger to their positions.  Before we turn the page on the 2011-2012 session, let’s look back at the highlights and lowlights for Ortman, Hoppe, and Leidiger as well as a look forward to what they might do in this session.

State. Sen Julianne Ortman

34Ortman

State Sen. Julianne Ortman

By the numbers:  Chief authored 61 bills, and 16 were passed by the Legislature (10 were signed into law and 6 vetoed by Gov. Mark Dayton).

Highlights:  Ortman was one of the most powerful figures in the Senate last session, chairing the Tax Committee and being elevated to Deputy Majority Leader following the Amy Koch scandal.  Legislatively, Ortman’s role on the Tax Committee gave her leverage in the budget negotiations in 2011.  Ortman also was able to pass some useful judicial reform, raising the dollar limit for cases that can be pursued in conciliation court.

Lowlights:  The rest of Ortman’s judicial reform agenda was ill-considered, and vetoed by Gov. Dayton.  Ortman also regrettably tried to follow along with her Republican colleagues and introduced a constitutional amendment to  fix a legislative problem — by putting limits on state spending in the constitution.  Finally, Ortman rather publicly flip-flopped on tax credits for renters, raising taxes on many.

The Future:  Ortman will be the ranking minority member of the Senate Tax Committee, which will give her a platform to critique and potentially influence the Governor’s expected tax reform package.

State Rep. Joe Hoppe

Rep. Joe Hoppe

State Rep. Joe Hoppe

By the numbers:  Chief authored 31 bills, and 11 were passed by both houses of the Legislature (9 were signed into law, and 2 were vetoed).

Highlights:  Hoppe chaired the Commerce Committee and he continued his record of working on business regulation reform, passing bills that tweaked rules related to health care premium-setting, licensing in the real estate market and allowing blackjack at Canterbury Park and Running Aces while allowing tribal casinos to do off-track betting on horse racing.  Hoppe was also a key supporter of the Minnesota Vikings stadium effort.

Lowlights:  Hoppe had sought a significant reform to Minnesota’s Public Employee Insurance Program (PEIP), changing the process for education unions to enter PEIP.  Currently, if a majority of eligible union members approve, the union can enter PEIP.  Under the legislation, additional approval by the employer (in this case, the school district) would have been required as well.  This was a serious point of contention between school boards and Education Minnesota.  Gov. Dayton vetoed the measure.  Hoppe also — after repeatedly claiming that he didn’t like legislating by constitutional amendment — carried Ortman’s spending-related amendment in the House and voted for the gay marriage and voter ID amendments.

Looking forward:  Hoppe will be the Republican lead on the Commerce Committee.  Given his good working relationship with DFL Chair Rep. Joe Atkins, we can expect Hoppe to continue to produce similar efforts at regulatory reform.

State Rep. Ernie Leidiger

Rep. Ernie Leidiger

State Rep. Ernie Leidiger

By the numbers:  Chief authored 10 bills, and 2 were passed by both houses of the Legislature (1 signed into law, 1 vetoed).

Highlights:  Leidiger had few legislative accomplishments to note during the session.  The one bill he authored that was signed into law requires law enforcement to fingerprint those arrested for violation of a domestic abuse no contact order.

Lowlights:  Leidiger’s bill to mandate use of the federal E-Verify system for all state employees was vetoed by Gov. Dayton for being duplicative of existing state processes.  Leidiger also, as you may have heard, made some waves for inviting controversial preacher Bradlee Dean to give the invocation in the House in 2011 and for violating two campaign finance laws by paying for a speeding ticket using campaign funds.

Looking Forward:  Leidiger was one of the least productive of the House’s GOP freshmen last session.  Out of 31, he ranked 29th in bills chief authored, tied for 22nd in bills signed into law, and was only asked to participate in one of 92 conference committees to hash out final versions of bills.  As a member of the legislative minority now, Leidiger looks destined for a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing unless he radically changes his approach to the job.

Brick City Blog Endorsement: Jim Weygand for State Senate

The record of incumbent State Senator Julianne Ortman merits discussion — certainly a more intelligent discussion than what occurred in her primary election race versus Bruce Schwichtenberg.  Ortman, as Deputy Majority Leader and Tax Committee Chair, gives Carver County a prominent voice in the Legislature.  She is a well-informed legislator and an eloquent advocate for her positions.  The real question, though, is how she uses that voice, and to what ends.

I have long advocated on this blog for fundamental reform of state taxes — specifically taking a hard look at our personal and corporate income tax code that is littered with special credits and deductions (known as tax expenditures) that make the tax code complicated and often unfair.  This used to be an issue that Sen. Ortman talked about frequently before the Republicans took the majority in 2010.   She floated it once early in 2011 — and after that point, Michael Brodkorb began shutting down her ruminations on that topic.  From that point forward, Sen. Ortman has spouted the same hard-line stance as the rest of her caucus, which may explain in part why she was rewarded with the promotion to Deputy Majority Leader following the Amy Koch scandal.

In her campaign this year, Ortman has talked about reforming sales and property taxes.  Unfortunately, her proposals would only enhance the ongoing regressivity in state and local taxes in Minnesota that has existed since the Ventura tax cuts of the late -1990s.  Some of the individual components she proposes — such as broadening the base of the sales tax and lowering the rate, for instance — have merit.

Yet, without looking at all three legs of the state’s taxation “stool” we can’t have tax reform that is fair and will provide benefits to all Minnesotans.  Why?  Because broadening the sales tax base — while beneficial to the state by making revenues more predictable — will tend to hit lower-income earners harder than higher-income earners.  You need to find a way to offset that increased burden on lower-income folks, and the income tax is likely the best vehicle to do so.

Gov. Dayton has promised a significant tax reform package, and his Revenue Commissioner, Myron Frans is well-respected on both sides of the aisle.  If returned to the State Senate, what role would Sen. Ortman play?  Is she ready to rediscover her pragmatic tax reformer past, or will she continue to demonstrate a less flexible approach to placate her extremely conservative caucus?

Ortman’s increased partisanship can also be seen in her rejection of the appointment of former State Sen. Ellen Anderson to the Public Utilities Commission this year.  Certainly, if Sen. Anderson is too partisan to hold such a position, then logic would dictate that Sen. Ortman would fail her own test for suitability to similar appointed positions.  That’s not a standard that we want to be setting for future Governors and their appointments.

Ortman has a history of promoting legal reforms that work against the interest of ordinary Minnesotans.  This, too, is a trend which has gone the wrong direction during the last two years.  Another example of Ortman turning her back on middle-class Minnesotans?  Her flip-flop on the renters tax credit, which had the effective impact of raising the tax bills of thousands of renters across the state.

Ortman’s frequent support for amending the State Constitution is also a concern.  Ortman voted in favor of the two Amendments on the ballot this fall, and proposed a third that didn’t receive legislative approval.  It’s this third Amendment that is of particular concern since Ortman was the chief author of the bill (carried in the House by Chaska State Rep. Joe Hoppe).  This amendment would tie the hands of the State Legislature by putting limits on how much the Legislature can spend in a particular biennium.  Using the Constitution to manage the State Budget is exceedingly poor policy — one need only look at the mess California is in to see that.  The answer to our budget problems is as simple as voting for legislators who can get the job done the right way.

Which brings us to Ortman’s opponent, Jim Weygand.  Weygand has a long history of public service, dating back to the late 1970s in his former home of Rochester.  Weygand spent a decade as the mayor of Carver, leading the city through an era of rapid growth that continues today.  He’s a member of the Carver County Library Board, the Board of The Community Foundation of Carver County, the Beacon Council, and Carver’s Park and Recreation Board.

Weygand is a practical problem-solver.  He’s a Democrat, but he’s not afraid to buck the party line when it’s required.  You don’t get elected to office for a decade in Carver County if you’re ideologically indistinguishable from an Uptown Minneapolis liberal, after all.  Anyone who has worked with him or talked to him knows that he’s a guy who tries to bring people together to keep things moving forward.

One of the real strengths Jim brings to the table is his understanding of and support for infrastructure development — both statewide and here in Carver County.  As a rapidly growing area, one of the things that holds back growth and development is resource constraints on infrastructure.  We see it and experience it everyday on our drives to work and school.  Even with the addition of new US-212 from Eden Prairie to Chaska, and even with work on MN-5 from Chaska to Victoria, there is still much to be done to make sure that Carver County has the right transportation connections to the rest of our State.  We are incredibly underfunded just in roads and bridges over the next 20 years in this State.

Unfortunately, Sen. Ortman has taken the notion of increasing taxes to pay for this backlog off the table.  In fact, Ortman voted against this year’s bonding bill, which contained funding for a number of statewide transportation projects.  Legislative Republicans have failed to articulate any long-term strategy to address this growing crisis that threatens our state’s economic growth.  Weygand will work to make sure that we get the robust transportation system our state needs to remain competitive economically.

Education is another critical component of the Weygand platform.  Both parties in this State bear responsibility for the dreadful practice of shifting funds away from our K-12 schools.  What we need from both parties in St. Paul is a sustained, predictable plan to pay back that shift.  After all, it ‘s hardly fair to blame schools for financial mismanagement when St. Paul is failing to meet their commitments every budget cycle.  Weygand is the only candidate in this race that promises that as a priority, while Republicans continue to rely on one-time monies and vague promises to make our schools whole.

It’s time to stop the partisan bickering, Carver County.  It’s time to move Minnesota forward again. Jim Weygand is the right candidate to do that.  Please vote for him on November 6.

Ortman gets a second GOP challenger [UPDATED]

The Republican endorsement race for State Senate in District 47 looks to be heating up with the apparent entry of Bruce Schwichtenberg into the race.  Schwichtenberg, who has previously run (and lost) twice for Carver County Commissioner against Jim Ische, joins Kevin Masrud in challenging incumbent State Senator Julianne Ortman for the GOP nomination.  A letter from Schwichtenberg announcing his candidacy can be found below:

[Thanks to the tipster who gave me a copy of the letter!]

[UPDATE]:  Schwichtenberg has a website now.

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