Good morning and welcome to Tuesday. Here’s the Digest.
1. Minnesota House Republicans put out a budget blueprint Monday that seeks hefty tax cuts and aims to cut back projected spending in health and welfare programs. GOP leaders said their framework would deliver long-overdue tax relief given a sizable state budget surplus. The plan would make $1.35 billion in tax cuts the next two years with the details to come later. It means all of the major players — Gov. Mark Dayton, Senate majority Republicans and the House leaders — have now put out at least some detail of how they would set a new two-year budget and divvy up the $1.65 billion projected surplus. Dayton, by law, had to deliver a line-by-line plan in January, and he updated it last week. (MPR News)
2. Minnesota Senate Republicans outlined a transportation funding plan Monday that relies heavily on existing resources to pay for road and bridge projects. The proposal would spend an additional $1.3 billion over the next two years without raising the gas tax. The Senate GOP plan uses sales tax revenue from auto parts, car rentals and leases and taps money from existing Minnesota Department of Transportation accounts. It also increases trunk highway bonding and books federal transportation grants already heading to the state. (MPR News)
3. A breakdown in communication from City Hall down to cops on the streets hindered the proper response to an 18-day occupation of a north Minneapolis police station following the police shooting of Jamar Clark, concluded a new federal report which also lauded their commitment to “peaceful, measured response” to prevent protest from escalating. The report, released Monday by the U.S. Department of Justice’s COPS Office, also put forth a long list of recommendations focused on use-of-force, communication, training and tools “for managing demonstrations, officer safety, and community engagement.” “The City of Minneapolis lacked a coordinated political, tactical, and operational response to the protests, demonstrations, and occupation of the Fourth Precinct police station,” the report said. (Star Tribune)
4. The confirmation hearings of President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Neil Gorsuch, began with Senate Judiciary Republicans praising his qualifications and legal philosophy. “His grasp on the separation of powers — including judicial independence –enlivens his body of work,” committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said of the federal appeals court judge. Democrats, however, wanted to talk about the man they believed should have been sitting there instead: former President Barack Obama’s nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, who was denied a hearing by Senate Republicans. Garland and Gorsuch were nominated to replace Justice Antonin Scalia, who passed away suddenly in February 2016. “I am deeply disappointed that it is under these circumstances that we begin these hearings,” said Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. (NPR)
5. F.B.I. Director James B. Comey, took the extraordinary step on Monday of announcing that the F.B.I. is investigating whether members of President Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election. Trump has insisted that “Russia is fake news” that was cooked up by his political opponents to undermine his presidency, but Comey placed a criminal investigation at the doorstep of the White House and said agents would pursue it “no matter how long that takes.” Comey also dismissed Trump’s claim that he was wiretapped by his predecessor during the campaign, a sensational but unfounded accusation. (New York Times)