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Don Davis, Forum News Service, Published May 04 2013

Unionization measure on track for passage

St. Paul - An effort to allow child care workers and personal care assistants to join unions appears on the verge of a partisan victory.

Republicans oppose the Democrat-written measure, saying self-employed people such as those two groups should not be unionized. Democrats like the concept because, they say, it would allow the workers to negotiate better deals with the state.

The bill would apply to family child care providers, those who run day cares in their homes and receive state subsidies. Also included would be individuals who provide services covered by Medical Assistance (Minnesota’s term for Medicare).

While Republicans claim that money from the state would be used to pay union dues, Democrats counter with the argument that the providers can decide how to use the money the state pays them.

No one would be forced to join unions.

The measure awaits a full House vote.

The Senate Finance Committee discussed the bill Friday, but did not vote on it. It will come up again soon.

“Freedom-loving day care providers need to get down here next week,” Sen. Dave Thompson, R-Lakeville, tweeted.

Gov. Mark Dayton tried to allow the unionization on his own, but it was struck down by the courts. Democrats took over the House and Senate this year and immediately brought back the plan.

A sweet theft

Don’t ask Rep. Deb Kiel of Crookston to swipe something for you.

Before the House went into session Friday, while the House chamber was nearly empty, Kiel sat at the desk of Rep. Nick Zerwas of Elk River, summarily emptying a drawer of his infamous stash of candy. In its place, she placed bags packed with fruits and vegetables.

But if this was supposed to be a quiet caper, Kiel failed. More than a dozen news reporters and photographers, waiting for a briefing about a minimum wage increase bill, watched the whole episode from the House gallery.

After the briefing, some reporters stayed in the gallery to see Zerwas’ reaction.

The victim walked into the chamber, toting a bag of Lay’s potato chips, candy bars and a couple of cans of carbonated beverages. When he opened the drawer, expecting to top off his storehouse of sugar-based goodies, he saw the veggies.

Zerwas picked up a couple bags of the healthy food, held them up and began a long laugh. Then, he took the veggies to a back room to share with other lawmakers.

All the while, Kiel was trying to contain her own laugh while talking to House officials in the front of the chamber, keeping her back to Zerwas to conceal her amusement.

Hollywood helps

The Hill newspaper reports: “A slew of Hollywood celebrities, including Tim Meadows, Carl Reiner and Lily Tomlin, have donated this year to Sen. Al Franken’s re-election campaign.”

The Minnesota Democrat also got help from Minnesota’s Garrison Keillor, as well as “MacGyver” star Richard Dean Anderson and songwriter Paul Williams.

The former “Saturday Night Live” star’s campaign recently gave away a dinner with late-night television host Conan O’Brien.

Franken already has more than $2 million built up for his 2014 re-election campaign.

More online time

Minnesota education officials are giving school districts more time to complete online testing after glitches have slowed tests in Minnesota and other states.

Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius sent a memorandum to districts with her decision, saying it will ensure enough time for all students to complete all required tests.

“Every student deserves a fair and accurate assessment of their performance,” Cassellius said. “And every teacher, every school and every parent should have confidence in the information the tests provide.”

Blog to help

A new Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development blog is designed to give “practical guidance for aspiring entrepreneurs and new business owners.”

The weekly blog, at http://mnbusiness101.wordpress.com, will deal with topics such as how to organize and register a business, licensing, regulations and financing.

“This new blog is just one tool we are using to connect those hoping to start a small business with the expertise and resources we offer at DEED,” department Commissioner Katie Clark Sieben said.