WASHINGTON — A five-year farm and food bill that would revamp the federal safety net for farmers and eliminate direct government payments for idle crop fields took its first step toward passage Thursday in the Senate.
A 90-8 vote to officially begin debate opens the way for what could be several weeks of attempts to amend proposed legislation that spends some $100 billion a year on crop insurance, conservation and nutrition programs.
The measure would save $23 billion over a 10-year period from current spending levels. Some of those savings would come from eliminating the current system where farmers get direct payments from the government regardless of whether they actually plant a crop.
“This is not your father’s farm bill,” said Senate Agriculture Committee chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., who crafted the legislation with the top Republican on the committee, Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas.
The old direct farm subsidy program would be replaced by a new plan that places greater stress on subsidized crop insurance and a new program that compensates farmers when revenues from planted fields fall below levels as determined by a five-year average.
Roberts said the bill cuts or streamlines more than 100 programs, including combining four commodity protection plans into one and reducing conservation programs from 23 to 13.
SAN FRANCISCO — The three-year legal showdown over California’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage is headed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton says he’s won’t fight a court ruling that blocked a unionization vote he called for home-based child care workers.
Dayton said Tuesday that he disagrees with the April decision but opted not to appeal it. A Ramsey County judge said the Democratic governor had overstepped his bounds by calling the election via an executive order rather than going through the Legislature.
The development further stalls a collective bargaining push by unions trying to organize child care providers. The election was supposed to take place in December, but a judge first halted balloting and later quashed the Dayton order altogether.
Republicans who control the Legislature are opposed to the unionization push so it would require a change of power for Dayton to successfully advance a bill.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar has accepted the her party’s endorsement for another term at the party’s state convention being held this weekend in Rochester.
President Barack Obama will announce a new initiative to help military service members qualify for jobs during a visit to Minnesota Friday, June 1.
Air Force One landed at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport just after 10:45 a.m. He is in Minnesota to talk about helping military members with manufacturing and related skills receive civilian credentials and licenses. He is scheduled to speak at Honeywell’s Golden Valley plant around noon.
The president reportedly will also attend three private lunches in Minneapolis to raise money for the Democratic Party and its candidates.
MILWAUKEE — Former President Bill Clinton aimed to fire up Democrats in Milwaukee on Friday, just four days before a recall election targeting Republican Gov. Scott Walker.
Clinton’s visit to the Democratic stronghold and home city of Walker’s challenger, Milwaukee’s Mayor Tom Barrett, marks the latest in a string of high-profile Democrats who have campaigned on his behalf in recent days.
Clinton told the crowd at a downtown riverfront park that Tuesday’s election is about much more than the state of Wisconsin and what’s best for its residents.
He said people nationwide are looking to Wisconsin as an American battleground, and states that are recovering economically have embraced “creative cooperation,” not “constant conflict,” a reference to Walker’s proposal last year that effectively ended collective bargaining for most state workers. The recall was spurred by anger over that move.
Walker was campaigning Friday with South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who has called herself a “union buster” and considers her state’s low union membership rate an economic development tool.
MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota’s former Republican governor, Tim Pawlenty, is criticizing at President Barack Obama’s economic record as he arrives in Minnesota to talk about jobs for veterans.
Obama is speaking at noon Friday at Honeywell’s International Campus in Golden Valley. Pawlenty pointed to the news that U.S. employers added only 69,000 jobs in May, the smallest number in a year, as evidence that Obama’s economic policies are stifling job creation.
Pawlenty spoke to the press on behalf of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Asked about vice presidential ambitions, Pawlenty said again he’s not interested in the job but wouldn’t decline if asked to serve.
After the Honeywell event, Obama is attending a trio of Democratic fundraisers in downtown Minneapolis.
ST. PAUL, Minn. — Republican U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack says there’s little difference between the three Democrats competing to challenge him in one of the country’s battlegrounds for control of Congress.
Cravaack filed paperwork to run for re-election on Wednesday in St. Paul.
He is a top target for Democrats after upsetting former Rep. Jim Oberstar two years ago in a northeastern Minnesota House district that had long been considered safely Democratic.
Cravaack says Democrats Rick Nolan, Tarryl Clark and Jeff Anderson all represent “more taxes, bigger government, more regulation.”
He says he won’t engage in the campaign until after their Aug. 14 primary, but already has doubled his campaign team from last time and aims to raise “as much as I can” to fund his re-election effort.
Two former mayors from southeastern Minnesota have filed to run for the state House of Representatives with hopes of bumping the incumbents.