Capitol Chatter: Voter registration available on WebMinnesotans now may register to vote online.
By: Don Davis, Duluth News Tribune
ST. PAUL — Minnesotans now may register to vote online.
“We join many states that have already demonstrated that online registration is secure and that it saves taxpayers money,” Secretary of State Mark Ritchie said.
Ritchie said the online process is more convenient for voters, reduces errors in voter rosters and delivers significant cost- and time-savings for local election officials. It also could speed lines at polls, where voters may register on election days.
Minnesota is the 15th state to offer online registration and the only one in the region.
The secretary of state also announced his office will make absentee ballot applications available online. Last year, 10,506 Minnesotans voted absentee, going through a paperwork intensive process.
“This is a great improvement in voting absentee for our men and women overseas or at U.S. military bases far from home,” said retired Lt. Col. John Kingrey, judge advocate general officer of the Army Reserve. “Those defending our freedoms should be able to exercise their right to vote in a simple, straightforward manner.”
Paper absentee registration forms still will be available.
Who deserves credit?
Everyone takes credit for good news, but bad news is an orphan.
An example is news that Minnesota’s business climate appears to be getting better.
Right after release of the “Forbes 2013 List of the Best States for Business,” Democrats and Republicans took credit for Minnesota jumping 12 spots to eighth place.
The two sides filled Minnesota’s Twitterverse. Democrats said their changes in the state budget this year did the trick. Republicans hinted, or said outright, that the budget beginning July 1 has not been around long enough to influence such a turnaround so the budget that they mostly wrote two years ago is the reason for the improvement.
Forbes looked at costs, labor supply, regulatory environment, current economic climate, growth prospects and quality of life to draw up its list. Virginia ranked first, followed by North Dakota, Utah, North Carolina, Colorado, Nebraska, Texas and Minnesota.
The state most Minnesota politicians consider a top competitor, Wisconsin, ranked 41st. Neighboring South Dakota ranked 11th and Iowa 12th.
“The Forbes magazine study is fantastic recognition of our state’s strong economic climate and thriving business community,” said Commissioner Katie Clark Sieben of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.
Republican state Chairman Keith Downey tweeted: “Gov. Dayton now glad he accepted GOP budget in 2011.”
Forbes pointed out that 92.5 percent of Minnesotans have high school degrees, the country’s second-best figure, and mentioned state’s good schools and quality of life.
Dahlberg ‘another name’
It does not appear the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party considers
St. Louis County Commissioner Chris Dahlberg a serious U.S. Senate candidate.
“There are now six Republicans competing to see who will be more extreme in the contested primary for U.S. Senate,” DFL Chairman Ken Martin said. “Dahlberg is just another name on a growing list.”
The DFL has sent out several e-mails attacking Mike McFadden, a wealthy businessman who could finance his own campaign against incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Al Franken.
One of the latest attacks was McFadden’s absence from a GOP Senate candidate forum so he could attend a fundraiser and coach his son’s football game. The DFL frequently has written about what it perceives as
McFadden’s lack of public appearances.
Stadium money smokin’
Money to build a new Vikings stadium is coming in as scheduled, at least for Plan B.
After electronic pull tabs failed to bring in any money to help build a stadium, a backup plan passed earlier this year appears successful.
Revenue Commissioner Myron Frans announced a one-time cigarette tax brought in nearly $30.5 million, with $26.5 million headed to stadium construction payments.
“The collection figure released today ensures that the state has the revenue to cover its portion of the Vikings stadium financing.” Frans said. “This one-time revenue is the only portion of the cigarette and tobacco tax that will go to finance the Vikings stadium.”
Other money to fund construction is to come from closing what many politicians see as corporate tax loopholes.
Lowest costs, but...
Backers of Minnesota’s health insurance exchange, known as
MNsure, cheered when the federal government said the state came in with the lowest costs in the country.
“Health care is a significant part of a family’s budget,” said Rep. Jay
McNamar, DFL-Elbow Lake. “The fact that we will have the most affordable coverage in the country is huge for Minnesotans.”
However, one fact was little reported. The list the White House and others distributed listed premium prices only for the Twin Cities, which will have five insurance companies selling via the online marketplace. Other parts of the state will have less competition and many Minnesotans will pay more for insurance than those in the Twin Cities area north to
St. Louis County.
Some in the Twin Cities and western Minnesota (where four companies will sell insurance via MNsure) may pay less than $200, in some instances much less, for the lowest cost (and lowest coverage) plans, As a comparison, the lowest-cost policy in the state of Wyoming will be $489 a month.
The Minnesota Commerce Department looked over rates and concluded that a Minnesotan probably will pay 20 percent to
43 percent less than in its bordering states.
No tax reciprocity
It appears the Tuesday deadline will pass for Minnesota and Wisconsin to reach a deal allowing people living in one state and working in the other to pay taxes in just one state.
The “tax reciprocity” agreement that expired a few years ago was supposed to be rewritten this fall, but that has not happened and at last report no meetings were scheduled before Tuesday’s deadline.
Don Davis covers the Minnesota Legislature for Forum News Service.