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The Morning Digest from the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce

by | Aug 28, 2014 | Firm News, Posted in Uncategorized. |

Big wheels line up in transportation push

From FINANCE AND COMMERCE: When Minnesota Republicans took control of the state Legislature in 2010, the proposed Southwest Light Rail Transit line was one of the first targets to draw fire. The new leadership argued it was unwise to build a new line when roads and bridges needed so much work. As the years went by, the line between Eden Prairie and Minneapolis picked up new critics. … Despite this friction, organizers in January assembled transportation advocates of all stripes into a unified coalition pushing for an overarching funding package. The Move MN alliance has since grown to more than 160 members representing roads and bridges, transit, bicyclists and pedestrians – as well as businesses and social activist organizations. Move MN was unsuccessful in its bid for more funding during the 2014 session- in part because the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, a key supporter in earlier transportation efforts, was more focused on repealing a battery of tax increases and ensuring existing money is being spent wisely.

With an economy on the upswing, Dayton is tough target

From the MINNEAPOLIS STAR TRIBUNE: Minnesota Republicans hoping to seize control of the governor’s residence have a problem when it comes to the economy: The news is too good. With business on the upswing and a state unemployment rate that’s among the lowest in the nation, Republicans lack a key issue voters often gravitate to during election season. … With fewer than three months until the general election, the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce Leadership Fund, the political arm of the state chamber, has not yet decided whether it will make an endorsement in the gubernatorial race, said interim president Bill Blazar. Its priority this fall is to help elect candidates who are “pro-business, pro-jobs,” Blazar said.

Gov. Dayton pushes education, labor-force agenda for 2nd term (MPR)

From the FARGO (N.D.) FORUM: When Mark Dayton ran for governor in 2010, he said he wanted to improve the state’s economy, spend more on schools, make the tax system fairer and end the cycle of recurring state budget deficits. Two years ago, Dayton followed through by raising income taxes on Minnesota’s top earners. He used the money from the tax increase to balance the state budget, fund statewide all-day kindergarten and increase spending for schools. During this year’s session, Dayton pushed a billion-dollar public works construction bill. Lately, he’s been taking a victory lap to promote some of the projects it pays for.

Opinions & Editorials…

Editorial: Transportation should be a topic on the campaign trail in Minnesota

The MINNEAPOLIS STAR TRIBUNE says: Traffic congestion, crumbling roadway pavement and insufficient transit options have almost replaced the weather as Minnesotans’ most frequent complaints. But unlike the weather, there’s a good deal that Minnesotans can do to remedy their transportation problems – provided they don’t wait so long that improvement becomes unaffordable. That’s why we’re rooting for focus on transportation in the 10 weeks and two days before the Nov. 4 election, particularly from candidates for governor and the state House. … There’s much to dislike about the gas tax. It’s regressive, falling hardest on Minnesotans who drive long distances to jobs that pay not quite enough to secure their hold on the middle class. It fails to keep up with inflation and falls as vehicle fuel economy increases. It’s become a political hot potato. That’s why only one Legislature in the past 26 years had the gumption to raise it, and that 2008 move required a gubernatorial veto override and a push from the state Chamber of Commerce.

Editorial: Minnesota: Better ways to budget — and consider tradeoffs

The ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS says: There’s too little talk in Minnesota about how state spending continues to grow. That has to change. “Smart Budgeting” recommendations released last week — part of this summer’s Minnesota Policy Blueprint series from the Center of the American Experiment — are a good place to start the conversation. The proposals should help a needed discussion in a state where total spending in the current fiscal-year budget grew by 9.8 percent over the previous budget, when you adjust for both population and inflation. That translates to $1,130 for every Minnesotan during the 2014-15 biennium.

Editorial: Is GOP unity possible? Governor’s race says yes

The ROCHESTER POST-BULLETIN says: When Republican gubernatorial candidates visited the Post-Bulletin in recent weeks, one of the questions we asked them was this: With three credible contenders challenging the party-endorsed candidate on the ballot, what will unify the party after the primary election? “Mark Dayton is the unifying factor,” said Rep. Kurt Zellers, who gave the most concise response. We liked that answer because it looked beyond the perceived disharmony within the party that had its first seriously contested gubernatorial primary since 1994.

Editorial: Judicial politics

The NEW ULM JOURNAL says: Minnesota’s constitution states that judges are to be elected, just like any other political officer. But in practice, judges in Minnesota usually attain the bench by appointment and rarely face much opposition in succeeding elections. Most are re-elected until they reach retirement age in mid-term. Then they resign and a successor is appointed, starting the process over again. It is a system that works well. Judicial candidates undergo scrutiny by a knowledgeable, non-partisan panel, which recommends three finalists to the governor, who interviews the finalists and almost always selects the judge from among the three.

Around the nation…

New jitters over Russian entry into Ukraine send US stocks lower in early trading; Eye on Fed

From Fox News: Stocks are little edging lower in early trading amid concerns of an escalation in the Ukrainian crisis after a Russian aid convoy entered the country. Investors are also looking ahead to a meeting of central bankers for clues about when the U.S. Federal Reserve might start raising interest rates.


Bishop: Slain US journalist Foley opened our eyes

From the Chicago Sun-Time: Slain U.S. journalist James Foley was living his faith by bringing images to the world of people suffering from war and oppressive regimes, a Roman Catholic bishop said Sunday at a Mass in his honor. Bishop Peter Libasci said even after Foley was captured for the first time in Libya in 2011, he “went back again that we might open our eyes.”

Around the world…

Islamic authority: Extremists no ‘Islamic State’

From the Chicago Sun-Time: The top Islamic authority in Egypt, revered by many Muslims worldwide, launched an Internet-based campaign Sunday challenging an extremist group in Syria and Iraq by saying it should not be called an “Islamic State.”


Russia Lashes Out At U.S. ‘Monopoly’ on Humanitarianism With Aid Convoy to Ukraine

From Time: On Friday morning, as hundreds of Russian trucks trundled across the border into Ukraine, Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin gave a briefing to explain why Moscow was sending the convoy without permission from the government in Kiev. The decision had caused such panic in the West that an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council had been scheduled Friday afternoon to discuss what Ukraine called a “direct invasion.” Churkin batted these concerns away, and only once gave a hint as to convoy’s larger purpose.

The economy…

Roche to buy U.S. biotech firm InterMune for $8.3 billion

From Reuters: Roche Holding AG has agreed to buy U.S. biotech company InterMune Inc for $8.3 billion in cash, marking the latest multibillion-dollar deal in a consolidating pharmaceutical sector. The Swiss drugmaker said on Sunday it would pay $74.00 a share through a tender offer for InterMune, representing a premium of 38 percent to the closing price on Aug. 22.


Mortgage rates hit 2014 low

From CNN: The average rate for a 30-year loan now stands at 4.1%, according to Freddie Mac. That matched its lowest level since June 2013, when it stood at 3.93%. The average 15-year fixed was 3.23%. The government’s stimulus program has helped keep borrowing costs down. The Federal Reserve has been purchasing Treasury Bonds and mortgaged-backed securities for years, providing a steady market for mortgages.

In Human Resources now…

No silver bullet, but HR seen as key to solving talent shortage

From HR Hero: More and more employers are suffering from a shortage of talent at the same time jobseekers are struggling to find work. That seemingly implausible situation has become the reality in many fields as the world of work deals with a still-struggling economy and epic change brought on by rapid technological advances.


Noncompetes need consideration when executed after employment starts

From In March 2007, Mid-Atlantic Systems of CPA, Inc., hired David Socko as a salesman. Mid-Atlantic and Socko entered into an employment agreement containing a two-year covenant not to compete. Socko resigned in February 2009, but Mid-Atlantic rehired him several months later. The parties entered into another employment agreement with a two-year noncompete provision. On December 28, 2010, Mid-Atlantic had Socko sign a third employment agreement. The agreement prohibited him from competing with Mid-Atlantic in Pennsylvania and several other mid-Atlantic states for two years after the end of his employment.