Daily Digest: Harassment claims rock Capitol

Good morning and happy Friday. Here’s the Digest.

1. Another state lawmaker came under scrutiny Thursday when a lobbyist and a lawmaker accused Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Vernon Center, of sexual harassment. Cornish is  is a powerful member of the Minnesota House Republican majority who chairs the public safety policy and finance committee. A former police officer, he is serving his eighth term in the House and has often led the coalition that supports Second Amendment rights. One of his accusers is Rep. Erin Maye Quade, a first term Democrat from Apple Valley. She said a text from Cornish led her to complain to the House DFL leader, but Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt says he was never provided with enough specifics to take action. Cornish denied the allegations and said he would fight them. Late Thursday Daudt suspended Cornish from his committee chairmanship. (MPR News)

2. Meanwhile Sen. Dan Schoen, DFL- St. Paul Park, resisted growing pressure to resign over claims he harassed more than one women. Schoen has denied the allegations and hired a lawyer to help fight them. By Thursday, the calls for him to leave included DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and DFL Party Chair Ken Martin, who praised the women who stepped forward, saying there is “no room in our party for sexual harassment.” Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, also called for Schoen to step down and raised the possibility of an ethics investigation if he refused. The city of Cottage Grove, where Schoen works as a police officer, said Thursday that Schoen will be placed on administrative duty until the allegations are investigated; officials will also review whether any city policies were violated. (MPR News)

3. The University of Minnesota should combat campus sexual assault with widespread training in “bystander intervention,” a special advisory group says. In a report released Thursday, a team of university leaders recommended a concerted effort to teach students how to recognize and intervene in “situations in which sexual assault may occur” to help prevent the kind of sexual assault that rocked the Twin Cities campus last year. It also lays out a series of new steps designed to curb a problem that is bedeviling campuses nationwide. “The model aims at fundamentally shifting the way we think and talk about sexual assault and harassment,” according to the report of the President’s Initiative to Prevent Sexual Misconduct, which was led by John Finnegan, the dean of public health. (Star Tribune)

4. Three years after the Veterans Choice Program began, federal lawmakers are racing to overhaul the troubled, multibillion-dollar health care effort before it runs out of money. That could happen as early as December, following the approval of $2.1 billion in emergency funding in August. Stakes are high for elected officials, including President Trump, who repeatedly promised as a candidate that veterans would get better treatment than under the previous administration. In an Op-Ed in the Hill to honor Veterans Day, Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin noted that he was working with Congress on a replacement called the CARE Act as part of a series of reforms at the agency. At least a third of the people enrolled in the VA health care system live in rural areas and are more likely to be older and face medical problems that require costlier care. (Star Tribune)

5. Dean Phillips, who is seeking the DFL nomination to run for Congress in Minnesota’s 3rd District, has apologized to Arizona Sen. John McCain  for saying the veteran senator only had the courage to stand up to President Trump because of his brain cancer diagnosis.  “First and foremost, I apologize to Sen. McCain for referencing his health, which I should not have done,” Phillips said. “I greatly admire Sen. McCain’s service to our country as well as his courage, and have for a long time,” he continued. (The Hill)

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