Daily Digest: Trains and electric automobiles

Good morning and congratulations for making it to the first Wednesday of spring. Let’s take a look at the Digest.

1. Republicans in the Minnesota House released the outlines of a transportation plan that looks a lot like their proposal last session to dedicate some general fund money and use bonding for road and bridge projects. They also are going hard after the proposed Southwest Light Rail Transit line. More than 80 legislators have written to the transportation secretary asking her to hold up necessary federal money for the project. (MPR News)

2. The House and Senate Republican transportation plans also include a new fee on owners of electric cars. The fee would cover vehicles that are all-electric and plug-in hybrids based on electric motors, but exclude gasoline-electric hybrids. State governments across the country are increasingly seeking to slap fees on electric vehicles, some tallying over $150 per year. Minnesota’s fee is aimed at making electric vehicle drivers pay their fair share of road maintenance costs, which are partly funded by gasoline taxes, said Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington. (Star Tribune)

3. State officials said Tuesday they’ll shut down Lake Mille Lacs to walleye fishing for three weeks in mid-summer, in addition to another season of catch-and-release, to help rebuild the fishery. The restrictions became necessary after a higher than expected harvest during the winter fishing season, according to Department of Natural Resources officials. “Ice anglers fished more on Mille Lacs in 2017 and caught more and larger walleye than expected,” Don Pereira, DNR fisheries section chief, said in a statement. “As a result, ice fishing this winter accounted for about one-third of the total amount of walleye state anglers can harvest from Mille Lacs in 2017.” (MPR News)

4. Following a series of threats nationwide and in Minnesota, members of several Minnesota Jewish organizations asked legislators to approve funding for enhanced security at their institutions. Jewish community centers in St. Paul and St. Louis Park were evacuated and temporarily shut down after bomb threats earlier this year. A House bill asks for an unspecified appropriation to fund grants, up to $75,000, to tighten security at nonprofits that have been vetted at the federal level as being at risk. (Pioneer Press)

5. Minnesota U.S. Rep. Tim Walz is close to making a decision about running for governor in 2018, which would leave open a congressional seat Democrats barely won in 2016.  “I am interested in doing it, I feel very strongly about it, am passionate about Minnesota. I believe the issues that are coming up are going to be fought at the state level, and so I expect to make a decision in the very, very near future,” Walz told Roll Call on Monday.  When pressed about whether “near future” meant within a week, Walz said, “I think so.” His goal has been to make a decision by April. Lt. Gov. Tina Smith recently announced she wouldn’t seek the DFL nomination for governor, turning the attention on Walz. Rep. Rick Nolan is also considering a run.  (Roll Call)

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