Good morning and welcome Friday. Here’s the Digest.
1. Guns become an issue in the DFL governor campaign. The mass shooting at a Florida high school Wednesday laid bare what has been a simmering divide as candidates combined their condolences with calls to action. State Rep. Erin Murphy, a former House majority leader from St. Paul, went the furthest. She outlined a six-point plan that includes limits on sales of certain ammunition, expanded background checks and a ban on sales of AR-15 rifles in Minnesota. She spoke proudly of the failing grade she received from the National Rifle Association for her past votes and positions on gun legislation, a not-so-subtle criticism of the race frontrunner, Tim Walz. The Democratic congressman has touted his support from the NRA in prior campaigns, donning a camouflaged NRA hat while running in a southern Minnesota district filled with rural towns. “I do have an ‘F’ rating. He has an ‘A+’ rating,” Murphy said of Walz during a telephone interview Thursday. “That means he’s done their work plus the extra credit to get the plus. Minnesotans will have to judge for themselves what that means for Minnesota and their future. I think it’s important to draw the contrast.” Walz, an avid hunter, defended his record and said he hasn’t been shy about breaking with the lobby for gun manufacturers and owners. (MPR News)
2. A deep dive into Tim Pawlenty’s record as CEO of the Financial Services Roundtable. If the last year has been any indication, Pawlenty’s efforts have paid off: as he exits the the organization that lobbies in D.C. on behalf of the country’s largest and most powerful banks and financial institutions. Wall Street is celebrating passage of a sweeping GOP tax cut, as well as efforts from President Donald Trump’s White House and the Republican-led Congress to repeal or undermine regulations put into place by Democrats. Those efforts have also paid off for Pawlenty: as CEO, he earned a salary of over $2.7 million in 2016 — his best compensation yet — and was paid an average of $2.2 million per year during his prior three years at FSR. As Pawlenty begins to seriously explore a repeat run for the governor’s mansion, his work at the FSR will be a point of focus for his supporters — as well as his rivals in the GOP and Democratic camps. (MinnPost)
3. St. Paul teachers didn’t get everything they wanted in contract offer. St. Paul teachers’ new tentative contract agreement, the details of which were released Thursday afternoon, would increase support staffing for some students and boost teacher wages, but it leaves many of the demands union leaders pushed for at the bargaining table unfulfilled. The two-year tentative agreement that union and district leaders reached Monday gives teachers a 1 percent pay increase each year on top of scheduled raises for years of experience and education. District and union leaders agreed those raises will only apply to the second half of this year, rather than the entire year. That move saved the district just over $1 million, according to district human resources director Laurin Cathey. With the savings, district leaders agreed to add 30 teachers for students learning English. The contract agreement would also add 23 paraprofessionals for special education students. The agreement does not include the lowered limits on class sizes teachers had sought. Instead, it would raise allowable average sizes for middle and high school classes while setting an upper limit on the number of students in any one class. Union members are set to vote on the offer next week. (MPR News)
4. Minneapolis public official pay raise was deliberately kept quiet for months. The $10,000 mayoral and City Council salary increases approved in December by the Minneapolis City Council had been in the works for six months and were signed off on by then mayor-elect Jacob Frey 10 days before the vote. The pay hike was also intentionally kept off of the public agenda at the request of then Council President Barb Johnson, in her final days in office. Johnson first broached the subject with city staff as early as June, floated a $5,000 increase for City Council salaries, and asked for research comparing salaries of council members in Minneapolis to those in other cities, according to emails obtained from the city by a Minneapolis taxpayer through a public records request. (Star Tribune)
5. Tobacco use is up among kids because of vaping. The embrace of e-cigarettes and vaping by Minnesota youth is reversing the state’s long-term trend of declining teen tobacco use, the Minnesota Health Department said Thursday. Minnesota youth tobacco use is rising for the first time in 17 years, with 26 percent of high school students using some form of tobacco or nicotine, up from 24 percent in 2014, the agency said as it released its annual survey on young people and tobacco. Youth e-cigarette use is up 50 percent since 2014, the agency said. E-cigarettes “threaten to reverse our success in preventing youth from using tobacco products,” Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said in a statement. The tobacco industry, she added, has “responded with new products designed to get youth addicted to nicotine.” (MPR News)
NOTE: The Digest is going to take Monday off to celebrate President’s Day, but I will be talking to legislative leaders on the radio Monday at 11 a.m. to preview the start of the session on Tuesday. I hope you can tune in.