Good morning, and welcome to Monday and the start of another work week. Here’s the Digest.
1. The big question is still the governor’s choice for interim U.S. Senator. Gov. Mark Dayton is due to be in Fargo today, so it doesn’t look as if today is the day he will announce his pick for the person to fill the vacancy created by Sen. Al Franken’s pending resignation. Meanwhile because Franken said last week that he will resign in the coming weeks, there is a push among his supporters on social media for him to change his mind and stay. Former Minnesota Gov. Arne Carlson joined that call yesterday, saying Franken should rescind his resignation until after “a prompt and thorough review of all allegations by the Senate Ethics Committee.” He adds that Franken “was elected by we, the people, and he should continue to serve until a legal determination has been made.” (MPR News)
2. Sen. Amy Klobuchar says qualifications are more important that gender when it comes to replacing Franken. “The governor has made it clear it’s his decision,” Klobuchar said when asked if she had any input in the decision. Dayton said he will decide “in the next few days,” she said. It is important to have two senators, she said, citing the six months she was the lone senator from Minnesota during the recounts and lawsuit in connection with the Franken-Norm Coleman election in 2008-2009. There is major legislation that needs to be worked on regarding taxes, budgets and the farm bill “that would greatly help our state,” Klobuchar said. The children’s health care bill alone, she said, could almost erase the state’s budget deficit. Asked about the appointment of a woman or a woman of color, Klobuchar said, “I think it’s really important that the person is qualified to do the work.” While there is a need for more female senators, “There are plenty of men and women who could fill the seat again.” (Star Tribune)
3. Farmers are closely watching the tax package a congressional conference committee is finalizing in Washington, D.C. Experts say many provisions will benefit agriculture, but some will make farm management more complicated and one provision could cost some farmers thousands of dollars. That provision raising concern across the agriculture sector would end a deduction that will affect cooperatives. The Section 199 deduction, also called the domestic manufacturing deduction, allows deductions for income earned from manufacturing or production. For cooperatives like Moorhead-based American Crystal Sugar, the savings are passed on to 2,800 cooperative members. “For us it’s sort of an unfair situation where we don’t get any benefit of the lower corporate tax rates but we lose the deduction. And that deduction is worth $10,000 to $15,000 a year for our average shareholder, so it’s a significant, significant issue,” said American Crystal President Tom Astrup. (MPR News)
4. Property taxes are on the rise again across the metro area. Double-digit percentage hikes that had drawn complaints in St. Paul are popping up in the suburbs, too — in Columbia Heights and Fridley, where home values are rebounding, and in Dayton, Blaine and Shoreview, too. “It does appear that the value of existing properties is continuing to march upwards,” and that change often triggers higher tax bills, said Gary Carlson, intergovernmental relations director for the League of Minnesota Cities. Hopkins residents also may find themselves inching nearer a 10 percent increase mark after voting in November to approve school spending proposals. Because the cost of those levy votes do not appear on the Truth in Taxation statements sent to individual property owners in November, homeowners in Scott County — where a majority of the school districts had proposals on the ballot — can expect bigger increases when their 2018 bills arrive in March. That will be the case in Roseville, Shoreview and Mounds View as well. (Star Tribune)
5. A plane bound for Somalia carrying deportees, including two Twin Cities men, returned to the United States on Friday, landing in Miami. One of the passengers told his St. Paul attorney that the plane ran out of food, the bathrooms were too full to be used and that, overall, he and the other passengers remained shackled for a total of 46 hours before the plane returned to the United States. According to a statement released by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office, the flight, containing 92 deportees, turned around after stopping in Senegal to refuel. “Upon landing for a refueling and pilot exchange at Dakar, Senegal, ICE was notified that the relief crew was unable to get sufficient crew rest due to issues with their hotel in Dakar,” the statement said. “The aircraft, including the detainees and crew on board, remained parked at the airport to allow the relief crew time to rest. During this time, the aircraft maintained power and air conditioning, and was stocked with sufficient food and water. Various logistical options were explored, and ultimately ICE decided to reschedule the mission to Somalia and return to the United States with all 92 detainees.” (Pioneer Press)