Daily Digest: A big settlement over water pollution

Good morning, and happy Wednesday. Here’s the Digest.

1.  3M and Swanson settle water pollution case. Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson on Tuesday announced an $850 million settlement in the state’s lawsuit against 3M over water contamination by perflurochemicals, or PFCs, in several east Twin Cities suburbs. A trial in the case had been set to begin with jury selection. The state had been seeking $5 billion in punitive damages from 3M. The settlement fund will be used for drinking water and water sustainability projects in areas affected by the contamination. Swanson said the money will come shortly in a single payment from 3M. The deal has been in the works for weeks, she said. The money from 3M will go toward remedying the problems caused by PFCs in the east metro, Swanson said, which could include constructing new wells, connecting people on private wells to municipal water sources, or cleaning up existing water supplies. (MPR News)

2. Walz shifts position on guns.  Minnesota U.S Rep. Tim Walz, a DFL candidate for governor this year, said Tuesday he’s backing an assault-weapons ban in Minnesota and other “common sense solutions” to stop gun violence. Walz has touted his support from the NRA in prior campaigns, donning a camouflaged NRA hat while running in a southern Minnesota district filled with rural towns. But the mass shooting at a Florida high school last week by a young gunman with an AR-15 assault rifle laid bare what has been a simmering divide as DFL candidates combined their condolences with calls to action. On Tuesday, Walz posted a statement saying that after hearing the “anger, grief and frustration” of people across Minnesota over gun violence, “I get it.” When asked if his change in position is because of heat he’s taking during the contest for the DFL endorsement for governor, Walz said he’s always learning. “As a legislator I’ve always been proud to say if the facts dispute our ideology, we change the ideology. And I have done that on numerous issues and this is one that I think I’m moving where the country is moving.” (MPR News)

3. Pawlenty says he’s still undecided. Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty said he’s still weighing a jump into the 2018 governor’s race. But he also acknowledged that it’s still “an uphill climb” for Republican to win statewide office in Minnesota. “I’m still actively considering it and should have some further announcements and decisions about all of that in the coming weeks,” Pawlenty said in an impromptu interview with MPR News Tuesday at the state Capitol. Asked about the factors he’s weighing in deciding, he said there were many things to think about. “This is a state that I love, but it does tend towards the blue (Democrat) side of things and I’m a Republican, and so that’s an uphill climb for any Republican candidate who might choose to run in a statewide race,” he said. (MPR News)

4. Fischbach challenged on first day of the session.  As she has done in the past, Sen. Michelle Fischbach gaveled the Senate into session Tuesday and presided over its first day’s business. The difference this year is Fischbach is also Minnesota’s lieutenant governor, an office she ascended under the constitution when DFL Gov. Mark Dayton appointed Tina Smith to replace Al Franken as U.S. Senator. Sen. Ron Latz, DFL- St. Louis Park stood on the Senate floor to note that the constitution also expressly prohibits a legislator from holding another office. He believes Fischbach is no longer an authorized member of the Senate. “We want the record to reflect my objection to Lt. Gov. Fischbach presiding over the Senate,” he said.   “So noted,” Fischbach responded.  If Fischbach is forced to resign her Paynesville-area Senate seat, the vacancy would create a 33-33 tie in the Senate until a special election could be held.  Democrats hope for the chance to pick up that GOP-leaning district and win majority control. (MPR News)

5. Lawmakers head into sexual harassment training. Minnesota House members were ready to file into a room Wednesday for a private, daylong training session designed to ensure they are all aware of expectations about implicit bias, discrimination and sexual harassment. Attendance is a must. House Speaker Kurt Daudt said he’ll station staff at the committee room doors — not only to keep reporters and others out, but to keep legislators in. “I’ve told members that if you leave for more than 10 minutes, we’re going to mark you absent,” said Daudt, R-Zimmerman. And being absent will result in a type of public shaming — removal from all committee assignments. “Members can’t come in, check in and run up to their office for a 45-minute coffee break,” he said. “This is going to be something we are going to do all together as a team whether we think we need it or not.” (MPR News)

I’ll be talking with Gov. Mark Dayton on the radio this morning at 11. I hope you can listen on the radio or online.

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