U.S Bank Stadium Suites
Republicans will likely seek further details on the use of the two Norseman suites controlled by the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA). Although the MSFA recently prohibited the distribution of suite tickets to commissioners’ family and friends, the GOP majority may require the MSFA to publicly disclose all recipients of suite tickets in the future, propose the suites be privately sold, or require suite tickets be distributed to members of the public during Vikings games and other events.
- The DFL supports transparency with regard to the use of public space at U.S. Bank Stadium, especially the suites owned by the MSFA.
- The DFL awaits the recommendations of the Office of the Legislative Auditor, which has opened a special investigation into the use of the suites.
- The two suites controlled by the Authority were not written into the original stadium legislation, they were negotiated between the Authority and the Vikings.
- Profits from event spaces, including the suites, cover the costs of amateur soccer, baseball, and football games, as well as U of M home baseball games.
Met Council Restructure
Republicans have supported reforming the Met Council for many years. Most GOP critics contend that the work of the Council amounts to taxation without representation, and that the solution to this unaccountability is to require all Met Council members to be locally elected officials. Proponents of the Met Council contend this reform would open the organization to parochial interests instead of working toward the best interests of the entire metropolitan area.
- The DFL has supported numerous reforms to the governance structure of the Met Council to make it more accountable to the public: staggered terms for members, adding more citizens and locally elected officials to the nominations committee, and making the nominations process more transparent.
- The DFL supports the authority of the governor to appoint members to the Met Council, who are accountable to the governor’s administration instead of the interests of a local government or county.
- Requiring Met Council members to be locally elected officials would defeat the purpose of the Met Council and prevent the best interests of the entire Twin Cities area from being served.
State Government Budget Cuts
Republicans contend state government is full of unnecessary employees, performing duplicative work, and wasting taxpayer dollars. Due to this, the state government budget is a common target for Republican cuts, despite being a relatively low percentage of the overall budget. Common areas for scrutiny may include funding for the Ethnic Councils, public broadcasting grants, arts and humanities funding, and Gov. Dayton’s constitutional offices.
- The DFL supports the work of state employees and understands the need for quality staff to perform the work of taxpayers.
- The DFL believes in finding efficiencies in government but will not allow the vilification of state workers just to score political points.
- Broad layoffs of state employees or slashing the budgets of important boards and councils will be strongly opposed by DFL members in the upcoming session.
Public Employee Contracts/Paid Family Leave
Recent changes to public employee labor contracts through Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) provide six weeks of paid family leave to most full-time state employees. This benefit is supported by Gov. Dayton and was made public last February prior to the 2016 session. MOUs have been agreed upon between MMB and most collective bargaining units to incorporate the benefit beginning in 2017 since the Legislative Coordinating Commission Subcommittee on Employee Relations (SER) did not disapprove their adoption in the interim.
Republicans on the SER strongly criticized the MOU process and argued Gov. Dayton and MMB did not have the authority to issue MOUs for a major benefit like paid family leave. GOP members contend public employee bargaining agreements must be opened and renegotiated to allow paid family leave. It is likely the Republican Legislature will disapprove the agreements to provide paid family leave once the session begins and characterize the benefit as a giveaway to already overcompensated public employees.
- The DFL supports paid family leave for all Minnesota workers and believes that providing the benefit to its own employees is a step in the right direction.
- As Gov. Dayton stated last February, “It is time for the state to lead by example.”
- Many major privately-owned Minnesota companies already provide paid family leave, including the Mayo Clinic, U.S. Bank, and Target.
- Minnesotans should not be punished for choosing to start families or be forced to choose between caring for a newborn versus keeping their job.
- Providing modest paid leave will help to attract and retain top talent to work for the state.
Legislative Salary Council
By the end of March this year, the new 16-member Legislative Salary Council will prescribe the salary of legislators to take effect July 1. The amendment was approved by voters in the 2016 election and removes the conflict-of-interest for legislators to set their own pay. While the process is no longer legislators’ responsibility, there is still a question of whether legislators will accept any potential pay increase provided by the Council.
- DFL senate members broadly supported the passage of legislation to ask voters whether an independent council should set salaries of legislators.
- Republicans used this issue in the 2016 campaign to contend the Council would be a way to raise legislator salaries without taking responsibility for the issue; it remains to be seen how the new Republican majority will respond to the actions of the Council over the next few months.
Local Government Pre-emption.
Please see Labor section.