Good morning and welcome to Friday. Here’s the Digest.
1. Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority Executive Director Ted Mondale resigned Thursday, hours after chair Michele Kelm-Helgen stepped down amid criticism of the agency’s use of suites for family and friends at U.S. Bank Stadium. “I feel good about my work, but it is time to move on,” Mondale said in a statement. Mondale and Kelm-Helgen had been in the crosshairs for weeks following media reports that agency friends and family members were enjoying Vikings games, concerts and other perks in the authority’s suites. (MPR News) (Star Tribune)
2. Several dozen restaurants in the Twin Cities were closed or short-staffed Thursday because of a nationwide rally designed to show how important immigrants are to daily life. Workers in other industries and school children also took the day off. Protest leaders said “A Day Without Immigrants” was a response to President Trump’s immigration agenda, which includes a pledge to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border and toughen the federal government’s approach to people who enter the country illegally. The day culminated in a protest march from the Mexican consulate in St. Paul to the State Capitol, which included more than 1,000 people by the time it ended. (Pioneer Press)
3. Minnesota 3rd District Republican Congressman Erik Paulsen is facing some problems despite Republican control in Washington. As a member of the influential House Ways and Means Committee, Paulsen is in the middle of a heated debate over a sweeping tax overhaul plan put forward by the committee’s Republican chairman — who also happens to be Paulsen’s Washington, D.C. roommate. The plan would raise taxes on imported goods, which Minnesota retailers Best Buy and Target say would be a huge blow to their business. The CEOs of Target and Best Buy were among retail leaders who met with President Trump privately on Wednesday to criticize the plan. At the same time, Paulsen doesn’t support other parts of the president’s agenda. (Star Tribune)
4. A bill allowing Xcel Energy to build a natural gas power plant in Becker is closer to becoming law. The Senate passed the bill Thursday on a 39-25 vote, with Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk and several other Democrats joining Republicans in supporting it. Gov. Mark Dayton has said he would sign the Senate version, which contains more protections for Xcel ratepayers than the version that passed the House. The bill is aimed at replacing part of the capacity of the Sherco coal plant within the next 10 years. Xcel plans to retire the plant’s two older units by 2026. Supporters say the natural gas plant will help preserve Becker and surrounding communities, which rely heavily on property tax revenue from Xcel. (MPR News)
5. Former national security adviser Michael Flynn denied to FBI agents in an interview last month that he had discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia with that country’s ambassador to the United States before President Trump took office, contradicting the contents of intercepted communications collected by intelligence agencies, current and former U.S. officials said. The Jan. 24 interview potentially puts Flynn in legal jeopardy, as lying to the FBI is a felony, but any decision to prosecute would ultimately lie with the Justice Department. Some officials said bringing a case could prove difficult. A spokesman for Flynn said he had no response. The FBI declined to comment. (Washington Post)
A couple of notes.
I asked for feedback yesterday, and boy, did I get feedback. Thanks for all the messages, which pretty much overwhelmed my email. I read all of them and have a few responses. The Digest is NOT going away! Most people seem to prefer it in the morning, so I will keep sending it then. There is some division about whether it should be all Minnesota news or the current mix of state and national. I’ve been splitting it 60-40 local to national, but I may tweak that in coming weeks. And there were a few emails suggesting that I shouldn’t take vacations. Sorry folks, that’s non-negotiable!
And finally, I’ve been doing a program on the radio the past few Fridays from the MPR News bureau at the state Capitol. I’ll be there again today at 11 a.m.. It’s turned into an informative hour about Minnesota politics and policy, and I hope you find it fun to listen to because it’s fun to do. I invite you to tune in today at 11.