Good morning, and happy Valentine’s Day. Here’s the Digest.
1. Lots of cooperation at the Capitol…for now. Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican legislative leaders made their first joint public appearance Tuesday since last year’s bitter court fight over the governor’s veto of money for the House and Senate. Both sides said they’re moving on from that episode and plan to work together when the 2018 session begins next week. “There are areas where the people have a right to expect us to work together. I’m prepared to do that. I think the leaders have indicted the same. We should proceed on that basis,” Dayton said. But there are already differences between Republicans and Democrats over what should be in the bill to restore funding for the House and Senate. (MPR News)
2. St. Paul schools face a deficit. The St. Paul school district is projecting a $17 million budget gap for next year. The budget projection presented at a board meeting Tuesday is preliminary because it simply rolls over the current year’s spending with adjustments for inflation and expected changes in revenue. Marie Schrul, the chief financial officer for St. Paul schools, said the estimated gap will likely shrink with one-time spending from the current year removed. Still, filling the projected gap will likely require cuts. Schrul said district officials will make choices about cuts in the coming months, as they aim to create a balanced budget. “We fund the schools first, and we create the budgets for the schools making sure they’re viable then we do the allocations for the programs. The programs are where we look at other ways for efficiencies,” Schrul said. “We’ve been very lean the past few years.” (MPR News)
3. Police are catching people with large amounts of marijuana. Police officers are Officials in Minnesota and North Dakota say nationally, drugs have become more readily available, leading to the increasing drug traffic they’re seeing on the region’s roads. Drug arrests in North Dakota rose 60 percent from 2012 to 2017 with the same level of enforcement, said North Dakota Highway Patrol Lt. Michael Roark. The Minnesota State Patrol seized 2,600 pounds of marijuana last year, more than a six-fold increase from the 390 pounds seized in 2016. Most of it is coming from Oregon, Colorado and California, all states where there is a legal marijuana industry, he said. Beyond marijuana, Minnesota is seeing “huge amounts of methamphetamine, marijuana, marijuana concentrate and now cocaine being transported in to the state,” Brian Marquart of the state patrol said. (MPR News)
4. Lawmaker with personal experience to chair addiction task force. The Minnesota House is creating a new Task Force on Addiction and Recovery to study the growing drug and alcohol abuse crisis in the state. At its helm is a state lawmaker who is now publicly revealing his own lifetime struggle with addiction. “I like to think that it was fate,” said Republican state Rep. Keith Franke of St. Paul Park. Life could have turned out much differently for Franke. As a young man, he was convicted of multiple DWIs, was in and out of jail, and returned again and again to drug and alcohol treatment programs. “Trouble always seemed to find me,” Franke said. “Or I was always looking for it. I don’t know which one.” Franke’s clean and sober 20 years now. (WCCO TV)
5. Minneapolis is without a chief resilience officer. The chief resilience officer of Minneapolis, Kate Knuth, has stepped down after seven months on the job. Hired for the grant-funded position in June, Knuth brought a background in sustainability to the position, which was defined broadly as responding to “challenges” facing the city. She had not delivered any work product before she resigned. Mychal Vlatkovich, a spokesman for Mayor Jacob Frey, said they’ve begun looking for a replacement and hope to hire someone by the end of March, who will focus specifically on the mayor’s priorities. He said Knuth was not asked to step down, but declined to answer whether she was allowed to continue in the position. “The position is designed to reflect the priorities of the administration, and in this case we’re going to be focused more narrowly on expanding access to affordable housing, and the impact that would have on our other goals, including building an inclusive economy and strenthening police-community relations,” Vlatkovich said. (Star Tribune)