Countdown to the 2017 legislative session

The November 8 elections sent a strong signal from the national level down to the Minnesota Legislature. Republicans grew their majority in the Minnesota House and now control that body by a 76-57 margin (with one vacant seat pending a February special election). They also won control of the Senate for only the second time in nearly five decades, and will hold a one-seat majority (34-33) for the next four years.

What these new majorities will mean for the 2017 legislative session is still a bit unclear. As Governor Mark Dayton seeks to augment his legacy through investments in education and protections for the state’s most vulnerable residents, Republican legislative leadership sees their 2016 electoral success as a mandate to hold the line on spending and reform or repeal the state’s health insurance marketplace, MNsure. Speaker of the House Kurt Daudt and Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka will be charged with leading caucuses that are now, more than ever, comprised of legislators from outside the Twin Cities metropolitan area.

This political landscape is layered with an already growing field of legislators and other elected officialss interested in running for governor in 2018. Two likely candidates make the political nuances of this session particularly interesting – Speaker of the House Kurt Daudt and Lieutenant Governor Tina Smith, who has played an increasingly visible role within the administration. We will be closely watching the direction in which the Speaker leads his caucus and how/when the Lieutenant Governor chooses to engage on higher profile, controversial issues.

For up-to-the-minute analysis and updates from the Capitol, follow our government relations experts on Twitter: Elizabeth Emerson (@ElizabEmerson) and Jake Loesch (@JakeLoesch).


After a $300 million renovation, the Minnesota Capitol will fully reopen for the 2017 legislative session. (Photo courtesy of the Minnesota State Capitol Restoration Project.)

Celebrate the holidays locally

Who else is eagerly awaiting the sights and sounds of the holiday season? Our local favorites include:

Enjoy the internationally renowned St. Olaf Christmas Festival (December 1-4 in Northfield), now available via live video stream for the first time.

Explore handmade holiday crafts while enjoying mulled wine at the European Christmas Market at the Union Depot in Saint Paul or the Holidazzle in Loring Park in Minneapolis.

View holiday lights at the Saint Paul Police Foundation’s Holiday Lights in the Park at Phalen Park or the Minnesota Arboretum.

Practice your axels and spins at free outdoor ice rinks at Rice Park or Southdale Center.

Transport yourself to the early 1900s during a holiday tour of the James J. Hill House or the American Swedish Institute.

Sip a holiday cocktail in the Saint Paul Hotel Lobby Bar while listening to live music.

Support local artists by picking up stocking stuffers at the No Coast Craft-O-Rama at the Midtown Global Market.


Goff Public expands government relations team

Mudiaga (Muddi) Kpohraror has joined Goff Public as a legislative assistant. A member of the Army National Guard, Muddi has worked for U.S. Senator John Hoeven, in the North Dakota State Senate, and with the North Dakota Special Olympics. He is a graduate of North Dakota State University.


St. Olaf Christmas Festival featured on KARE-11

Students from St. Olaf College are preparing once again to present the annual St. Olaf Christmas Festival, one of the oldest musical celebrations of Christmas in the United States. The theme of the 2016 festival, held December 1-4, 2016, in Northfield, Minnesota, is “Light Dawns, Hope Blooms.” Tickets to the highly anticipated concerts are limited and in high demand, but this year the St. Olaf Christmas Festival concert will be available through a live concert stream online.

Choir Director Anton Armstrong and members of the St. Olaf Choir were featured on KARE-11.


Southdale Mall opens outdoor ice rink

The outdoor ice rink at Southdale Center opened for its second season on Saturday, November 19, ushering in a festive season at the mall. The ice rink, which is free to the public, is located in the parking lot near the Edina water tower on the corner of France Avenue and 69th Street. The rink will be open during mall hours through February 19.

FOX-9’s Shayne Wells visited the ice rink at Southdale Center in this segment of The Jason Show.


Tribe donates $125,000 each to Shakopee, Prior Lake-Savage schools

The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC) announced that it will provide $125,000 grants to both the Shakopee and Prior Lake-Savage school districts. For each school district, $25,000 of the donation will be allocated for the district’s Indian Education Program. The Indian Education Programs support opportunities that ensure all American Indian/Alaskan Native students have access to a high-quality, standards-based education that inspires learning, critical thinking, cultural awareness, and self-esteem. Both school districts will determine the best use for the remainder of the funding and share their plans with the SMSC.

Learn more in this Shakopee Valley News article.


Saint Paul gets first glimpse at future for Ford site

The City of Saint Paul released a proposed framework for the redevelopment of the former site of a Ford assembly plant, including a potential land use plan and transportation network for the site. Draft plans include rezoning the property to ensure development of a mixed-use urban village as envisioned by the community and other stakeholders and incorporating a street grid on the site to assist in managing vehicle traffic and provide better connections for pedestrian and cyclists.

Learn more about the plans for the Ford site in this Star Tribune article.