Good morning and welcome to Thursday. Let’s take a look at the Digest.
1. Federal lawmakers, including Minnesota’s U.S. senators, are pushing United Airlines to better explain its forced removal of a man from a plane after viral videos of the incident sparked an uproar over protections for passengers on overbooked flights. “Air travel has gotten more and more difficult, and people have to keep some sense of dignity when they’re paying to be on a plane,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said Wednesday. Klobuchar called for the Senate Commerce Committee to hold a hearing “to examine current airline passenger protections and needed improvements.” Also this week, the committee’s Republican and Democratic leaders sent letters to United demanding that the airline provide a “full accounting of the incident” by April 20. (Star Tribune)
2. St. Paul’s universities, museums, parks, hospitals, government buildings and countless nonprofits draw workers and visitors from across the state, but they don’t pay property taxes. The mayor and the city council will ask the Citizens League to convene a committee of experts to explore the possibility of a “payment in lieu of taxes” program. The program would encourage owners of non-taxable properties to agree to voluntarily contribute toward the cost of services such as police, fire, street maintenance, parks and libraries. About a third of the property in the city is off the tax roles, and financial pressure is building. After a recent Minnesota Supreme Court decision, the city altered how it assesses $32 million in routine street maintenance fees, and will now largely exempt nonprofit institutions. (Pioneer Press)
3. DFL Gov. Mark Dayton is urging President Trump’s transportation chief to support the Southwest Corridor light rail project between Minneapolis and Eden Prairie when the state soon applies for federal funding. Dayton sent a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao in which he stressed the project’s broad support among business and community leaders. He also countered a recent letter from letter sent by Republican state lawmakers that criticized SWLRT. In that March 17 letter, House Speaker Kurt Daudt and 83 other GOP legislators asked Chao to deny a full-funding agreement with the Federal Transit Administration that would provide nearly $900 million to build the line. They described Southwest light rail as a “grossly wasteful project” that would be “counter-productive” to state interests. (MPR News)
4. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with Russian President Vladimir Putin for nearly two hours Wednesday, but the two men appeared unable to agree on the facts involving the deadly chemical weapons assault on Syrian civilians or Russian interference in the American election — much less move toward an improvement in basic relations. “There is a low level of trust between our countries,” Tillerson told reporters at a joint news conference with his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, after the first face-to-face meetings between Russian leaders and a top emissary of the Trump administration. “The world’s two foremost nuclear powers cannot have this kind of relationship,” Tillerson said. (New York Times)
5. President Trump on Wednesday, threatened to withhold payments to insurers to force Democrats to the negotiating table on a health care bill. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal Trump said the White House may lack authority to make the payments established under his predecessor to reduce copayments and deductibles for some of the poorest customers who buy insurance under the 2010 Affordable Care Act. Cutting off the payments could trigger turmoil in insurance markets. “I don’t want people to get hurt,” Mr. Trump said. “What I think should happen—and will happen—is the Democrats will start calling me and negotiating.” In the interview he also referred to Steve Bannon as “a guy who works for me” and noted that he was his own “strategist,” even though that’s Bannon’s title. (Wall Street Journal)