Good morning, and welcome to the Friday before Christmas. Here’s the Digest.
1. Attorney General Lori Swanson’s office says one job is better than two. There’s a good legal case that Republican state Senate President Michelle Fischbach can’t hold her legislative job and be Minnesota’s new lieutenant governor, according to an advisory opinion made public Thursday by DFL Attorney General Lori Swanson’s office. “The simultaneous discharge of executive and legislative branch functions implicates the incompatibility doctrine, as well as principles of separation of powers,” Solicitor General Alan Gilbert wrote, while saying final resolution would come from judicial branch. Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said in an interview Thursday that he was bracing for the potential of a 33-33 tie when the 2018 session begins on Feb. 20. That would depend on his party retaining a suburban seat that had been held by Dan Schoen, who resigned last week amid sexual harassment allegations. The special election to fill that seat is set for Feb. 12. “I don’t know how firm [Fischbach] is about wanting to hold both positions, but the way I look at the constitution I’d be very surprised if she could do that,” Bakk said, adding that a lawsuit to remove her would be possible. (MPR News)
2. Will Tim Pawlenty attempt a political comeback in 2018? Some Republicans sure hope so. Long ago, in a seemingly distant political universe, Pawlenty was a fresh-faced Republican star with blue-collar appeal and presidential prospects. Now the former Minnesota governor is a high-powered banking lobbyist, and he’s eyeing a climb back onto the national stage. An unexpected Senate election next year, created by Democrat Al Franken’s resignation after sexual harassment allegations, has created the opening. Some GOP power players are looking expectantly at Pawlenty as their best chance to take a Senate seat in a Democratic-leaning state with an unorthodox streak. A comeback bid could test whether a mild-mannered, establishment Republican and once-vocal critic of President Trump fits into the Trump-era GOP. (AP)
3. 3M wants a judge to dismiss a state lawsuit over water pollution. It’s too late for the state to come after 3M over drinking water contamination in Washington County because the Minnesota attorney general’s office missed the six-year statute of limitations, company attorneys argued in court Thursday. The state’s experts have estimated that in all damages could total up to $5 billion in damages tied to treating drinking water, lost property values, contaminated fish and other wildlife. The company also argued that the state long ago agreed not sue over harm to natural resources that were paid for in an earlier settlement with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, and that should preclude any claim for punitive damages. Attorneys for the state, however, said that the company’s lawyers were reading the statute of limitations law incorrectly. (Star Tribune)
4. Is the Ramsey County sheriff really the sheriff? Vadnais Heights’ mayor has told the Ramsey County board that documents show Ramsey County Sheriff Jack Seier was not living in the county at the time he was appointed, which is a requirement of state law. On Wednesday, Bob Fletcher provided county commissioners with a letter from Matt Bostrom — whom Serier succeeded as sheriff — that was dated Jan. 13. In the letter Bostrom informed his homeowner’s association that his St. Paul home was vacant. Fletcher is a former county sheriff. Serier, who was appointed as sheriff on Jan. 10, previously lived in Stillwater and rented Bostrom’s home before purchasing it in August. (Pioneer Press)
5. The federal tax overhaul will have an impact on University of Minnesota sports programs. The new tax bill awaiting President Trump’s signature would add a tax to nonprofit organizations with employees making more than $1 million per year, meaning the Gophers likely have a new bill coming for football coach P.J. Fleck (whose salary averages $3.5 million) and men’s basketball coach Richard Pitino ($1.7 million). This excise tax on those two salaries would cost the Gophers $672,000 per year. Gophers officials on Thursday were working to grasp the full impact of the federal tax bill, one day after the House gave final approval, with Trump expected to sign it into law Jan. 3. The University of Minnesota and other nonprofit organizations would pay a 21 percent excise tax on annual compensation above $1 million for the five highest paid employees. At Minnesota, the only two athletics department employees making more than $1 million are Fleck and Pitino. (Star Tribune)
I’m thinking the Digest will take next week off, barring big news. It will certainly not be published on Monday or on New Year’s Day, so I will take advantage of this moment to wish you a peaceful and merry Christmas and happy new year.