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Capitol Chatter: Group making gay marriage an election issue

ST. PAUL —Some say the gay marriage debate is behind Minnesotans, but it has a way of coming back again and again a year after Minnesotans voted to not ban same-sex marriage and four months after it became legal.

The Minnesota for Marriage organization, which promoted a gay marriage ban, recently sent an email soliciting donations by criticizing Rep. Tim Faust, D-Hinckley, who has said “most people have moved on.”

“Do you agree: Have you ‘moved on?’” the organization asked its supporters.

“Apparently, Rep. Faust thinks that simply because other states have passed same-sex ‘marriage’ since he voted to pass Minnesota’s same-sex ‘marriage’ law in May (even though you, along with the vast majority of his constituents wanted to keep Minnesota as a true marriage state), you will forget about his vote by the time his re-election comes around,” Minnesota for Marriage wrote.

Faust is among a mostly rural group of legislators who voted for same-sex marriage and are targeted by gay marriage opponents in next year’s election.

Pro-gay marriage groups also are seeking money, with proceeds going to help candidates like Faust who could be in electoral trouble.

Gay marriage proponents have enlisted big names such as House Speaker Paul Thissen, D-Minneapolis, and House Majority Leader Erin Murphy, D-St. Paul, to solicit donations.

Wage amendment planned

A northern Minnesota state representative plans to introduce a proposed constitutional amendment next year to raise the state’s minimum wage to $10 per hour and then increase it to match inflation.

Rep. Tom Anzelc, D-Balsam Township, said that letting the people decide the amendment would remove politics from the debate.

If the Legislature approves the amendment next year, it would be up to voters to decide in November 2014.

There is a chance that the Democratic-controlled Legislature next year will pass a bill raising the minimum wage. A plan to boost it to $9.50 an hour is in the works, but earlier this year the Senate balked at that high a wage.

Governor to move

No one is being spared inconvenience as the Minnesota Capitol undergoes an extensive renovation.

Not even the governor.

Gov. Mark Dayton said he and his office staff will move to a vacant floor in the Veterans’ Affairs building, on the south end of the Capitol mall. Northern windows in the building look back uphill at the ornate Capitol, looking a bit less ornate every day.

On the outside, what looks like large white sheets cover some of the walls, with scaffolding behind the sheets allowing workers to repair crumbling marble. Elsewhere, boxes have been built around windows to facilitate work.

Inside, crews are tearing up the basement and beginning other work.

Basement areas, which some want to dub the “terrace,” that had been occupied by organizations ranging from the historical society to the press corps have been demolished as their occupants were moved elsewhere.

After next year’s legislative session ends in late May, work moves upstairs and the governor’s office will be among those leaving the Capitol building.

Renovation is planned to continue through 2016.

‘Repeal the squeal’

Republicans are ramping up their attack on a $63 million state Senate office building and $27 million for Capitol-area parking facilities.

Former U.S. Sen. Norm Colman, chairman of the Minnesota Action Network, is promoting a “repeal the squeal” petition against the $90 million spending plan.

“This is the worst kind of pork-barrel spending Minnesotans can imagine,” Coleman said. “Not only was there no public debate, but the project isn’t needed. If a handful of state senators can’t figure out how to do their part-time jobs without a $90 million building paid for by taxpayers, then maybe they need to look for a different job.”

Coleman criticized spending $2.4 million per state senator.

The five-story building would contain larger public meeting rooms (current meeting rooms often cannot hold everyone who wants in), as well as offices for most senators and Senate staff. It also would include a reflecting pool, which drew laughs on Twitter in the past week.

The building project was slipped into a bill raising taxes $2.1 billion. Usually such a project would go in a public works funding bill, but that would need more votes to pass than a tax bill, and it is unlikely there would have been enough votes to pass a public works bill with the new building in it.

Luger nominated for attorney

President Barack Obama nominated Andrew Luger to be Minnesota’s U.S. attorney.

He has been assistant U.S. attorney and led reviews of several law enforcement situations, including whether St. Paul properly handled demonstrators at the 2008 Republican National Convention.

“Throughout his career he has proven to be a tireless advocate for the people of our state and I’m proud that President Obama has nominated him to this distinguished post,” U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said.

U.S. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., said that Lugar’s experience in both the private and public sectors will benefit the state.

Luger is a partner at the Greene Espel law firm in the Twin Cities.

Opponents a mystery

Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton does not know most Republicans running against him.

Other than Rep. Kurt Zellers of Maple Grove, a former House speaker, Dayton could not recall meeting most of the candidates. Or at least he has not had a chance to get to know the guys who are bashing him, he said in a Forum News Service interview.

In addition to Zellers, those in the race are state Sen. Dave Thompson, businessman Scott Honour, teacher Rob Farnsworth, Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson and former state Rep. Marty Seifert.

When Seifert announced his candidacy Thursday, he said he likely was the last candidate to get into the race.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.