Good morning. Your Wednesday Digest is all about renewed scrutiny — over major projects, convictions and even the pardon process itself.

1. Court, auditor to give Polymet mine project another look. A permit Minnesota regulators issued for the planned PolyMet copper-nickel mine project is under scrutiny from the state’s appeals court and its legislative auditor. The Minnesota Court of Appeals has ordered a hearing on alleged irregularities in how state regulators dealt with federal regulators over a water pollution permit for the mine, which is planned to be built in northern Minnesota. The appeals court on Tuesday ordered a lower court to hold an evidentiary hearing as soon as is practical. The order follows the release of a leaked email sent by a top official at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to her counterparts at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, asking them not to file written comments on PolyMet’s permit during the public comment period. Critics say that kept federal regulators’ criticisms off the public record. The court said in its order that there is “substantial evidence of procedural irregularities” that needs to be examined. (MPR News)

2. Appeal likely after watershed district deals setback to Fargo Moorhead diversion project. The chairwoman of the Metro Diversion Authority will urge her fellow board members to vote to appeal the denial of a local permit that’s required to enable the $2.75 billion flood-control project to proceed. Mary Scherling, a Cass County commissioner and chairwoman of the diversion board, said she will seek approval to appeal the permit denial by the Buffalo-Red River Watershed District when the diversion board meets Thursday, June 27. At a meeting Monday, June 24, the Buffalo-Red board deadlocked 3 to 3 in a vote to approve the permit. Because a majority is required, the proposed permit, which included 10 conditions, failed. “Obviously, I’m disappointed,” Scherling said. “We’ve been working in good faith with the Buffalo-Red board for several months. We’ve just done everything we’ve been asked,” including working to meet the 10 conditions attached to the proposed permit. Members of the Diversion Authority board met with their lawyers Tuesday to discuss their legal options and appeal avenues. (Fargo Forum)

3. Victim makes case for changes to pardon process. Unlike most of the people who appeared before a powerful panel comprised of the governor, attorney general and Supreme Court chief justice, Amy Fredrickson wasn’t asking for a pardon. She was there to stop one. Fredrickson drove from her home in Pelican Rapids to St. Paul to keep the perpetrator of her 1990 assault from getting a clean slate. She was a minor when her then-uncle Thomas Ondov raped her. He pleaded guilty to first-degree sexual assault. “I don’t think it’s fair that I have to relive this,” Fredrickson said. “I can’t erase it. And I don’t think it should be erased for the person that is responsible for causing me so much harm and pain.” Fredrickson said the pardons process brought her trauma back to the fore. “There is no pardon for me,” she said. “That can never be erased.” Gov. Tim Walz told Fredrickson her message was heard. Walz said he’s sympathetic to her pain and would support legislative changes to the pardons process so it is more sensitive to victims. But he stopped short of saying the avenue should be closed off. (MPR News)

4. Woman seeks pardon for killing husband who allegedly abused her. The Minnesota Board of Pardons does not appear likely to grant clemency to a woman convicted of killing her husband after he allegedly abused and raped her. Amreya Shefa, 46, is no longer in prison, but remains jailed while she awaits deportation. Shefa and her attorney asked the board to keep her from having to face violence in her home country. Shefa married Habibi Tesema in Ethiopia in 2006 and joined him in the United States in 2012, settling in Richfield. Shefa has said throughout their marriage, Tesema repeatedly abused her and forced her to perform certain sex acts against her will. After an alleged instance of this behavior in late 2013, Shefa stabbed her husband 30 times. The Hennepin County Medical Examiner said a wound to Tesema’s heart was fatal. (MPR News)

5. Details of the Trump-Twin Metals connection. In the waning months of the Obama administration, a Chilean conglomerate was losing a fight with the United States government over a copper mine that it wanted to build near a pristine wilderness area in Minnesota. The election of President Trump, with his business-friendly bent, turned out to be a game-changer for the project. Beginning in the early weeks of Mr. Trump’s presidency, the administration worked at a high level to remove roadblocks to the proposed mine, government emails and calendars show, overruling concerns that it could harm the Boundary Waters, a vast landscape of federally protected lakes and forests along the border with Canada.For the family of the billionaire Andrónico Luksic, which controls the Chilean conglomerate Antofagasta, the policy reversals could provide a big boost to its mining business. Since the change in administration, the Antofagasta subsidiary Twin Metals Minnesota has significantly ramped up its lobbying in Washington, according to federal disclosures, spending $900,000. But the mining project’s breakthrough, already unpopular with environmentalists, has drawn additional scrutiny and criticism because of an unusual connection between Mr. Luksic and two of Mr. Trump’s family members. (New York Times)

 

 

 

 

Good morning. Time to get Tuesday started with your Daily Digest.

1. Omar joins Sanders in pushing student loan forgiveness. Millions of Americans no matter their family income would see all college debt wiped out under a proposal Monday by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Minnesota U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar. Sanders, a Democratic candidate for president and Omar, a Democrat from Minneapolis, propose clearing some 45 million Americans of a cumulative $1.6 trillion in unpaid college loans. It would be funded by a tax on Wall Street speculation. Critics, including Minnesota U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a rival presidential candidate, call the plan unrealistic and unaffordable. But backers say students are drowning in debt through no fault of their own. “Student debt is not the result of bad choices or behavior,” Omar said at a Capitol Hill news conference with Sanders and several House colleagues. “It is the result of a system that tells students to get an education and go to college in order to have a stable life, but then does not provide the resources to afford that education.” (Star Tribune)

2. Anderson seeks state help to expand Cottage Grove window factory. Window manufacturer Renewal by Andersen is in line for up to $1.25 million in state assistance toward a proposed factory expansion in Cottage Grove. The company has already sought necessary clearance from city officials for the planned 350,000-square foot facility that would include manufacturing, warehouse and office space. Renewal by Anderson, an offshoot of the bigger Andersen Corp., would be doubling its physical presence in Cottage Grove. The $35 million project is expected to lead to 125 more jobs at the plant over three years. A state notice published Monday said the company could be eligible for a few economic awards if it follows through on the building and hiring plans laid out: up to $450,000 through the Minnesota Investment Fund loan program, $387,000 from the job creation fund and $413,000 in a capital investment rebate. (MPR News)

3. Ellison says office will defend state laws restricting abortion. Attorney General Keith Ellison intends to defend a slate of state laws restricting abortion access against a recent legal challenge, despite his personal views on the issue. “My job is to defend the laws of the state of Minnesota without regard to my own personal opinions,” Ellison said during a forum in Fergus Falls, Minn., on Friday. “That’s the job that I have, that’s what I signed up for, and that’s what I’m going to do.” The comments, prompted by a question about how he will approach such cases given his history of supporting abortion access, marked the DFL attorney general’s most definitive public statement on the lawsuit since it was filed in late May. The lawsuit, brought by legal advocacy groups Gender Justice and the Lawyering Project on behalf of two anonymous health professionals and First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis, is aimed at overturning a series of laws supporters say deny women access to constitutionally protected abortion services and “impose burdensome and unnecessary restrictions” on providers. (Star Tribune)

4. St. Paul council member asks for “understanding” for past remarks. A St. Paul City Council member who posted anti-gay comments on his Facebook page several years before he took office responded to calls for a public apology with a statement asking for “understanding and compassion” of his religious beliefs. Kassim Busuri, who represents the city’s Sixth Ward as an interim council member, said in a news release Sunday he believes “there is a fracture within the Muslim community and the LGBTQ community” and that “condemning someone for past comments is not the answer.” “As more members of the Somali community become active in the Democratic Party and process, a level of understanding and compassion should be reached for those who fully practice Islam,” he said. “Equally, there should be a level of understanding and compassion to be reached for those from the LGBTQ community.” Busuri, who is Muslim, is St. Paul’s only Somali council member. (Star Tribune)

5. Craig seeks limits on lobbying by former members of Congress. Rep. Angie Craig said that after she leaves Congress, she’s never going to become a lobbyist. And if she has her way, neither will any other member. On Friday, Craig introduced the Halt Unchecked Member Benefits with Lobbying Elimination  — or HUMBLE — Act. The bill is a grab bag of anti-corruption and accountability reforms: It would ban members from holding individual stock, ban them from purchasing first-class airline tickets with office travel expenses, ban former members of Congress from using congressional facilities, and perhaps most critically, ban members from becoming lobbyists. “At the end of the day, the only influence I want is the influence I have when doing town halls,” Craig said in an interview. “The only influence I want are from the panels that I host back in the Second Congressional District, where we have advocates, and patients and doctors talking about the cost of prescription drugs.” (MinnPost)

 

 

 

Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., left, and Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., the sponsors of legislation to cancel all student loan debt, hold a news conference at the Capitol in Washington, Monday, June 24, 2019. AP Photo | J. Scott Applewhite

Minnesota DFL U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar joined Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders and others Monday to highlight legislation that would erase the student debt of millions of Americans.

The proposal would cancel $1.6 trillion in student debt for about 45 million people, regardless of their income. The plan would also make tuition free at public colleges and universities. The estimated cost of the program would be $2.2 trillion over 10 years.

“Let’s end this crisis entirely once and for all,” Omar said during a Washington, D.C. news conference.

Omar, a House sponsor of the bill, said the mechanism to pay for it is a new tax on Wall Street transactions. The tax would be 0.5 percent on stock trades, 0.1 percent on bonds and 0.005 percent on derivatives.

“The American people bailed out Wall Street. It’s time for Wall Street to bail out the American people,” she said.

Sanders, the Senate author, said the legislation would allow all Americans, regardless of economic status, to get the education they need. He said the elimination of college debt would help boost the economy.

“We have a generation of people who are drowning in debt, can’t get married, can’t have kids, can’t buy their own home,” Sanders said.