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Capitol Chatter: Greater Minnesota cities' group leads in lobbying costs

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ST. PAUL –  An organization representing greater Minnesota cities continues to lead spending of local government lobbying groups.

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State Auditor Rebecca Otto's office reports that the latest information, for 2013, shows the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities spent $835,674 on lobbying activities during the legislative session that resulted in a two-year, $39 billion budget funded by state taxpayers. The coalition is coordinated by a Twin Cities law firm that provides lobbyists for the group.

The coalition long has been the top spender lobbying for local governments.

The second-biggest spender was the League of Minnesota Cities, which used $628,945 on lobbying. Most members of the coalition also pay dues to the league.

The only other organization to spend more than $500,000 was the Minnesota School Boards Association.

While most local government lobbying money comes via associations, some governments also hire their own lobbyists or have paid staff members do their lobbying work.

Flaherty and Hood law office in St. Paul received $894,740 from the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities and others who hired the firm to lobby state officials. That almost doubled the next highest-earning lobbying organization.

Overall, local governments spent more than $8 million on lobbying last year, up 3.3 percent from a year earlier.

The issue always is controversial in the Capitol because some lawmakers and taxpayers' groups complain about the public paying taxes to one government to lobby another government.

Local governments often pay for more than one association to represent them, and some also hire their own lobbyists.

Take Duluth, for instance. It paid the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities and League of Minnesota Cities a total of $35,343 to lobby. Duluth also paid $46,504 to a lobbying firm.

In the west, Moorhead paid the same two city organizations and the Minnesota Environmental Science and Review Board $62,239 for lobbying and hired two lobbying firms for $35,179.

Willmar, meanwhile, paid the three associations that Moorhead paid $29,278, but did not hire any lobbyists of its own.

Governments often hire lobbyists when legislators are considering a public works project they want funded. Associations are more likely to deal with general items such as bills affecting property taxes or state aid.

Otto's office reported that 84 local governments hired their own lobbyists, with the vast majority relying on associations to represent their interests.

Minnesota 6th for business

CNBC says Minnesota is the sixth best state for business.

Georgia finished first in the survey by the cable television business channel, followed by Texas, Utah, Nebraska and North Carolina.

Minnesota ranked high in overall economy (fifth), infrastructure (fifth), quality of life (fourth), access to capital (11th) and technology and innovation (11th).

CNBC ranked nearby states behind Minnesota, with North Dakota 10th, South Dakota 11th, Iowa 12th and Wisconsin 17th.

Speaker at White House

Minnesota House Speaker Paul Thissen bragged about Minnesota's newly passed Women's Economic Security Act when he spoke at the White House Summit on Working Families.

The Minneapolis Democrat said Minnesota is getting a good reputation for treating women right in the workplace.

“In Minnesota and throughout the United States, we will be more successful if we continue to break down barriers and level the playing field so that women and all Minnesotans have a fair chance at success," Thissen said.

The new Minnesota law gives mothers new rights in the workplace, better access to affordable child care and more time off. It also will improve women's abilities to get better jobs by improving education access.

Learn about Klobuchar

An opinion piece written by Steven Brill for the Reuters news service resurrects U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., as a potential presidential candidate.

In listing a few Democrats who could be presidential material if the pick is not Hillary Clinton, Brill asks: "Or Amy Klobuchar, the highly regarded senator from Minnesota? I’d like to know more about her."

Klobuchar's name had been thrown around, but not so much after Clinton looked more like she will run in two years and after Klobuchar helped Clinton raise campaign cash. However, the Minnesota senator remains a popular speaker at Democratic venues across the country.

Is it Pitt or Mills?

A Politico story from Virginia, Minn., claims Republican U.S. House candidate Stewart Mills "has been anointed the Brad Pitt of the Republican Party."

Both have long hair, something not seen on many GOP candidates, but the resemblance may end there, especially if political views are considered. Pitt is a strong supporter of President Barack Obama; Mills is a conservative cut from an entirely different cloth.

Reporter Katie Glueck wrote about Mills' hair and Pitt.

"Mills, with his jaw-length blond locks and muscular physique, has been compared to the heartthrob movie star by everyone from a national party official to adoring teenage girls," she wrote. "And if it seems a little trivial and objectifying — he is, after all, running in one of the more closely watched, competitive House races in the country — Mills doesn’t mind.”

Mills told the reporter: “Certainly, I stand out in a crowd, like I did today. ... I don’t look like a typical politician.”

The Brainerd-area resident is running against Rick Nolan in northeastern and east-central Minnesota.

Moe's son dies

The son of longtime Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe has died.

Dean Karl Moe, 46, of West Fargo, N.D., died June 22 in Fargo's Sanford Hospital.

Roger Moe, of Erskine, also has three daughters.

Dean Moe was an advocate for conservation, hunting and fishing organizations and recently worked in marketing and retail sales in the Fargo-Moorhead area.

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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.
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