Monday, July 26, 2010

What do the votes of incumbents reveal?

If the only things you know about political candidates is what they tell you (about themselves and their opponents), and we presume that they will tell you only what they want you to hear, can you really call yourself an informed voter?

That's why I like voting record scorecards. Typically, they list a large number of key bills and amendments that came before the state legislature or Congress and show how each and every legislator voted. Each vote is given a point value, and each elected official gets a score. A candidate can say anything on the campaign trail, but incumbents should live or die on their voting records.

The specific bills chosen and whether a particular vote is considered "good" or "bad" depends on who's keeping score, yet the scores are objectively calculated in the same way for each legislator. Most voters don't have the time or expertise to track voting records by poring over the journals of the House or Senate over the course of several legislative sessions. Voting scorecards are a fast and methodical way to do your voter due diligence apart from the hue and cry of political parties and candidate campaigns.

So how do SD43 incumbents and gubernatorial candidates fare on three right-leaning scorecards?

Taxpayers League of Minnesota "Friends of the Taxpayer"
  • SD43 Sen. Terri Bonoff (DFL) - 2010: 25%, 2009: 8%, Lifetime: 22%
  • HD43A Rep. Sarah Anderson (R) - 2010: 87%, 2009: 87%, Lifetime: 81%
  • HD43B Rep. John Benson (DFL) - 2010: 6%, 2009: 7%, Lifetime: 9%
  • HD19B Rep. Tom Emmer (R) - 2010: 87%, 2009: 100% "Best Friend of the Taxpayer," Lifetime: 91%
  • HD60A Rep. Margaret Anderson Kelliher (DFL) 2010: 0%, 2009: 0%, Lifetime: 10%
  • HD64A Rep. Matt Entenza (DFL): 2006: 10%, Lifetime (2003-2006): 16%
Minnesota Majority "Heroes and Zeros"
  • SD43 Sen. Terri Bonoff (DFL) - 2009: 11%, Career: 10%
  • HD43A Rep. Sarah Anderson (R) - 2009: 100% "Hero," Career: 94%
  • HD43B Rep. John Benson (DFL) - 2009: 0% "Zero," Career: 9%
  • HD19B Rep. Tom Emmer (R) - 2009: 100% "Hero," Career: 100%
  • HD50A Rep. Margaret Anderson Kelliher (DFL) - 2009: 0% "Zero," Career: 0%
  • HD64A Rep. Matt Entenza (DFL): (data unavailable prior to 2007)
Bills and Votes
  • SD43 Sen. Terri Bonoff (DFL) - 2010: 27%
  • HD43A Rep. Sarah Anderson (R) - 2010: 86%
  • HD43B Rep. John Benson (DFL) - 2010: 13%
  • HD19B Rep. Tom Emmer (R) - 2010: 93%
  • HD50A Rep. Margaret Anderson Kelliher (DFL) - 2010: 12%
  • HD64A Rep. Matt Entenza (DFL): (2010 data only available)
How did these legislators earn each of these scores? What does that tell you about them, given who is keeping score? Which legislators are best representing their districts? We'll look into the details in subsequent blog posts. You can play this game yourself by clicking on the scorecard links or by referring to the list of voting scorecards compiled by the nonpartisan Minnesota Legislative Reference Library.

Share your favorite scorecards with us in the comments section.

UPDATE: Taxpayers League scorecard updated with 2010 scores, which were just released.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Tip credit would boost employment

This image was originally posted to Flickr by jasonlam at It was reviewed on 06:15, 17 April 2009 (UTC) by the FlickreviewR robot and confirmed to be licensed under the terms of the cc-by-2.0.

By Brian Grogan

Recently, Republican candidate for Governor Tom Emmer spoke of the need for a law to relieve restaurant owners from paying the full minimum wage to employees who earn tips. Unfortunately, this debate has been misstated and it is hurting the many small-business restaurant owners who employ over 100,000 Minnesotans. The debate is not about minimum wage for servers but about government regulation and its unintended consequences on small businesses and jobs development.

The mainstream media has been delinquent in reporting the full story. Prior to this story breaking, I had discussions with the Minnesota Restaurant Association and with real estate developers who specialize in developing restaurant properties. Both groups have expressed the frustration they have with a law in Minnesota that forces small business, restaurant owners to pay an additional 15-20 percent in fixed overhead costs.

In particular, if a restaurant generates $1.5 million in revenues, an additional $200,000 to $300,000 in potential profits is spent paying wages to employees typically earning on average $13 or more per hour. Within a restaurant, a majority of the affected, higher paid employees are single, under 26 years old and do not have dependents. They are earning a great wage and a change to the law would not significantly change their annual wage compensation.

Regionally, this law and added business cost is unique to Minnesota. Wisconsin, Iowa, South Dakota, North Dakota, and 39 other states do not force the higher wage cost on restaurants. This is a classic example of how regulations in Minnesota are hurting local businesses.

One real estate developer commented that this law is directly related to the decision by a number of large, national restaurant franchises to cease opening new locations within the state of Minnesota. He estimates that this reflects a loss of as many as 15,000 new jobs in our state. And, this doesn’t account for the lost tax revenues and ancillary spending related to new construction and other wages.

In addition, this law is negatively affecting many small business restaurant owners who today, due to a slow economy, are close to shutting their doors. In response to the adverse effect of this law, the Restaurant Association approached the Minnesota Senate during the 2010 legislative session and asked for relief.

This is what the mainstream media is not telling you. Senator Kathy Saltzman, SD56, the Senate DFL majority whip, took up the cause for small business restaurant owners and authored the Restaurant Recovery Act. According to association leaders, it had fairly significant support within the senate and the likelihood of passage was looking good.

Unfortunately, according to the restaurant association, the unions found out about the bill and used their political clout to make sure the bill never made it to the Senate floor for a final vote. What is significant is that the unions do not have a foothold within the restaurant industry, so not a single union job or wage would have ever been affected by the law.

The DFL withdrew the bill. During the 2010 session, at a time of anemic jobs growth, Democrats were more concerned about pleasing the unions than passing legislation that would have spurred jobs growth and protected jobs.

Did waiters and waitresses support this bill? Yes! During the bill’s hearing in committee, a significant number of waiters and waitresses spoke out and were present to show their support to their employers and the bill. They understand the difficulty their employers are having meeting payroll in this slow economy.

This is a good debate because it is about government intervention within businesses and its unintended consequences, media biases, the union strangle hold on the DFL party and the loss of Minnesota jobs! If elected to the state House, I will introduce this legislation since I am more concerned about saving jobs and spurring jobs growth than pleasing union officials.

Brian Grogan, Minnetonka, is running for the Minnesota House of Representatives in House District 43B.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

The forgotten man

In a thought-provoking podcast interview, Walter Hudson (Fightin' Words blog) interviews Don Allen, an African-American North Minneapolis activist who feels that the Republican Party of Minnesota has for too long written off his neighborhood, and other DFL strongholds, like so much bad debt.

Why doesn't the RPM have more boots on the ground in North Minneapolis, the University of Minnesota, or Lucky Rosenbloom's Dale Street neighborhood? (Rosenbloom should be one of Hudson's next one-hour interviews.) According to Allen, some folks in the urban core think that funding distributed by the city, state, and federal governments (and spent by school districts) should be more accountable and transparent (ahem, are you listening, Pat Anderson?), and that concerns about light rail transit's impact on neighborhoods are falling on deaf DFL ears.

Allen thinks that conservative solutions to urban ills should be heard and discussed within his community. He has invited Republican officials to stop by his town hall meetings at the Sunnyside Cafe, but so far they have been no-shows. Allen wants Republican leadership, not just well-meaning twentysomething "outreach" coordinators, to begin cultivating relationships in his neighborhood.

It will take more activists like Allen and candidates like Eva Ng, who ran for mayor of Saint Paul last year; Barry Hickethier, who is challenging Sen. Larry Pogemeiller (DFL-Minneapolis) in SD59; and Joel Demos, who is challenging Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN5); running year after year, to plant conservative ideas and grow a GOP presence in the cities.

As Hudson suggests, it will likely take more like a decade than an election cycle to change voting habits, and the RPM has some tough return-on-investment decisions to make with limited resources. But with that hopey-changey thing not working out so well, what better time than 2010 to get started?

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Emmer suggests new Minnesota Miracle: jobs

Tom Emmer (photo: North Star Liberty)

After keeping up via the magic of Twitter with the Republican Party of Minnesota's candidate bus tour of twenty Minnesota cities over three days, after work on Friday I headed over to the last stop of the tour to have a grilled hamburger, hobnob with fellow GOP activists, and meet and greet the Republican-endorsed candidates for the Constitutional offices, namely, Governor and Lieutenant Governor (Tom Emmer and Annette Meeks), Secretary of State (Dan Severson), State Auditor (Pat Anderson), and Attorney General (Chris Barden).

The tour was meant to fire up the base across the state, a tactic that is usually saved until October for the home stretch to Election Day. To hear the barnstormers tell it, mission accomplished.

Annette Meeks (photo: North Star Liberty)

By far the number one issue on the minds of the voters is the economy. Gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer called for a new kind of Minnesota Miracle: a business climate that is improved enough for 3M to open a new plant in Minnesota, or for Marvin Windows to expand in Minnesota, or for Minnesota medical device firms like Medtronic to keep the hundreds of millions of dollars in new taxes created by Obamacare and use the money instead for research and development and the creation of new high-tech jobs. Emmer said that we can get the job done by putting partisanship aside and working for the good of Minnesota.

Supporters of Minnesota Majority would be pleased that Secretary of State candidate Dan Severson talked about the problem of convicted felons illegally voting in the 2008, and the common-sense, low-cost reforms needed to restore integrity to Minnesota's elections. Attorney General candidate Chris Barden promised to prosecute cases of election fraud. State Auditor candidate Pat Anderson made the case to get her old "taxpayer watchdog" job back, not a tough sell to this crowd.

Speaking of making a case, Republican-endorsed candidate for the state Supreme Court, Greg Wersal, spoke on meaningful campaigns for those elected judgeships, and encouraged everyone to "flip over the ballot" and vote for the Republican endorsees.

Dan Severson (photo: North Star Liberty)

Several times, the candidates emphasized the importance of electing the entire slate of Republicans, from the governor's office to the House and Senate districts across the state. To underscore the point, many local candidates were also present, including Norann Dillon (SD43), Sen. David Hann (R-Eden Prairie), Sen. Warren Limmer (R-Maple Grove), Emmer campaign chair Rep. Mark Buesgens (R-Jordan), and Congressman Erik Paulsen (R-MN3), and Fifth Congressional District candidate Joel Demos.

I counted four or five Tea Partiers for Emmer buttons, including my own, and a similar number of Women for Emmer buttons, including one worn by former gubernatorial candidate Sue Jeffers. Jeffers received kudos from attendees for her feisty appearance earlier in the day on the Chris Baker show on 100.3 KTLK-FM with guest host Ron Rosenbaum. There was also some buzz about the growing Tea Party movement in many towns in outstate Minnesota. One vocal Tea Partier reiterated the widely-held belief that the movement should emphasize the principles of limited government, fiscal responsibility, and liberty over candidate endorsement.

Among the other conservative activists present were author and blogger Sheila Kihne of The Activist Next Door, and Nancy Laroche and Derek Brigham of Freedom Dogs. Along with SD43 and other BPOU and CD3 volunteers, we took the opportunity to meet party staff and peek inside the GOP's new Cheshire Lane offices.

Jacquie Emmer (photo: North Star Liberty

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Music in Plymouth

Wednesday night, Plymouth residents were treated to perfect summer weather, light breezes, and no mosquitoes, to stage its thirty-eighth annual Music in Plymouth event at the Plymouth city center. Residents literally began staking out their claims with blankets and tarps about twenty-four hours before the event began, according to Plymouth police, who expected over 15,000 to attend.

The Republican-endorsed SD43 Senate candidate Norann Dillon maintained a low-key presence, greeting concert-goers with campaign stickers and business cards. She appeared to be very relaxed and upbeat, and told me that door-knocking neighborhoods was going so well that she almost hesitated to stop doing that to be at Music in Plymouth. Republican HD43B candidate Brian Grogan was also working the hometown crowd energetically but without signage and a big campaign presence.

Dillon's opponent, incumbent DFLer Sen. Terri Bonoff, had numerous t-shirts, balloons, and stickers on display in the crowd. We chatted for a few minutes about her trip to Israel in November last year, an unofficial trip at personal expense taken with some fellow legislators (including Republican HD43A Rep. Sarah Anderson), their spouses, and friends. (Well, why spoil either of our evenings by talking politics!) The campaign of Audrey Britton, Anderson's DFL challenger, was distributing stickers but I did not have a chance to meet the candidate.

I said hello to the stunning (politically incorrect but everyone acknowledges it) Kelli Slavik, mayor of "Money Magazine's 2008 Best Place to Live With Populations of 50,000 to 300,000," as Plymouth residents have been reminded constantly for about a year now. At last night's event, with several thousand residents on blankets and folding chairs, and eating barbecue, roasted corn on the cob, and frozen custard, listening to great music including the Minnesota Orchestra, with the newly-expanded Millennium Gardens just down the path, it sure felt like the magazine's award was well-deserved.

The grand finale of the evening was a concert by the Minnesota Orchestra, a spectacle in itself, topped by a truly awesome fireworks display in the cloudless night sky. Many of the fireworks were new, and the displays were plentiful and well-timed to the music. Speaking of music, it was delivered by the festival's (what I like to think of as) God's Own Stereo System, a megawatt beast with sound so clear and accurate that during Sousa's The Liberty Bell march, I had to look back at the stage to make sure that the Minnesota Orchestra hadn't returned to play it. The most memorable pieces during the fireworks were an inspiring a capella men's choir medley of armed services songs, and Lee Greenwood's God Bless the USA during the thunderous fireworks finale.

Music in Plymouth 2010 was five hours of summer classic, star-spangled community bliss.