Good morning and happy Tuesday. Here’s the Digest.
1. Driven by the recent resignations of two state legislators over sexual misconduct allegations, Rep. John Lesch and Rep. Marion O’Neill on Monday unveiled a plan to remake the Capitol’s sexual harassment reporting system. .Under their proposal, a complaint made with specific factual evidence would automatically be referred to the House Ethics Committee. That panel, with equal members from both parties, would have to decide within 30 days if probable cause exists. If it doesn’t, nothing would become public. If there is a probable cause determination, a full-blown investigation that includes a public hearing would be held and a ruling would come within two months of that. Confidentiality would be provided and that complaints could come from anyone with a tie to the Capitol, including staff, lobbyists and visitors from the public. (MPR News)
2. Lake Crystal Mayor Brad Ahrenstorff has bowed out of the legislative race for District 23B. Ahrenstorff said Monday morning he was suspending his campaign in part because of the short turnaround between now and the Feb. 12 special election. “It just wasn’t working out with my family and my work.” Ahrenstorff has been mayor of Lake Crystal for 14 years. His exit leaves one Republican left, rural Lake Crystal businessman Jeremy Munson. Munson has been active in local Republican politics for a decade and was elected chair of the 1st Congressional District GOP in April. Lake Crystal social worker Melissa Wagner says she’ll run as a Democrat. Local DFL and GOP officials are setting up endorsing conventions over the next few weeks. Candidates can file to run from Jan. 8-11. Tony Cornish, of Vernon Center, resigned from the seat at the end of November after multiple women accused him of sexual harassment. (Mankato Free Press)
3. The task force headed by Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum identified some major changes to the stalled Fargo-Moorhead flood diversion project in its final meeting on Monday. However, many legal, technical and financial questions remain to revive the more than $2 billion plan for diverting the Red River and hold back flood waters around the two cities. And changes to the project will likely bring significant cost increases. The task force began work this fall after a judge halted construction on the project, saying the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources needed to permit work any work affecting the state’s waters. The group did not reach consensus on a specific plan, but agreed on some parameters, including that the project should provide protection for a 100-year flood event. (MPR News)
4. 2018 could see a big slowdown in the number of refugees coming to Minnesota. President Donald Trump this fall set the maximum number of refugees nationally at 45,000 for the fiscal year, slashing that ceiling by more than half. But more recent administration guidelines could mean an especially marked slowdown in Minnesota, traditionally one of the country’s key resettlement destinations. Even as it rolls out more intense vetting for all refugees, the United States is extending a pause on arrivals from 11 countries, including Somalia, a top country for refugees coming to this state. The administration also suspended indefinitely a program known as “follow-to-join,” used by many refugees resettled here to reunite with spouses and children. (Star Tribune)
5. The latest DFL candidate to join the 2018 race for Minnesota state auditor says she wants to be a resource for local government officials. Julie Blaha, a former math teacher and the current secretary-treasurer of the Minnesota AFL-CIO, announced her candidacy over the weekend. She said she will seek the DFL party endorsement and abide by the result. Blaha said as state auditor she would highlight and support the work of cities, townships and counties. “Regular people need somebody to help them out while they’re doing great things,” Blaha said. I would love to be that person who can provide the information, the accountability to ensure that their solutions turn into reality.” So far, no Republican has announced a run for state auditor. (MPR News)