Good morning, and welcome to Thursday and the start of the second month of the year. Here’s the Digest.
1. State officials say they need another $43 million soon to resolve problems with the Minnesota Licensing and Registration System and to upgrade customer service. The computer system used for tab purchases, title transfers and other transactions has been troubled by glitches since its launch last summer and has already cost $93 million. They say it will take at least five months to fix “high-priority defects”. “It’s a necessary number, and unfortunately it is, at this point, our only option. There is no product to buy off of the shelf,” said Dana Bailey, executive director of projects and initiatives at Minnesota IT Services. She said during a state Capitol news conference Wednesday the funding request will be a tough sell to lawmakers. Republican House Transportation chair Paul Torkelson agreed. He called the request mind-boggling. (MPR News)
2. A chartered train carrying dozens of GOP lawmakers to a Republican policy retreat in West Virginia struck a garbage truck in a rural Virginia town on Wednesday. No lawmakers or aides were reported seriously injured, but the White House said one person was killed and another was seriously injured. Lawmakers said the fatality appeared to be someone who was in the truck. Minnesota Rep. Jason Lewis was on the train and hit his head during the impact. Lewis suffered a concussion but later said he was fine. Minnesota’s two other Republican members of Congress, Tom Emmer and Erik Paulsen, were also aboard the train but uninjured. Lewis said it was a “very tragic day,” and said he was praying for the family of the person who lost his life. (AP via MPR News)
3. Johnson seems to back Muslim “infiltrating” comments. Jeff Johnson, a leading Republican candidate for governor, was pressed in a podcast interview this week to defend GOP lawmakers who have warned of Muslim-Americans “infiltrating” the upcoming precinct caucuses. Reps. Cindy Pugh and Kathy Lohmer were criticized by fellow Republicans and civic groups after they claimed there is a plan to “mobilize Muslims to infiltrate our Republican caucuses on Feb. 6.” Johnson, who is the lone Republican Hennepin County Commissioner, applauded Pugh during a conservative podcast Wednesday: “Putting Republicans on notice,” he said, is “a good thing.” “I think (Pugh) raises very legitimate issues. I think there’s a huge cultural issue we’re talking about here. Not just showing up at caucus. But there are some here who are trying to change what America is. And we can’t allow that,” he said on the “Living Free” podcast hosted by Jack Rogers and Jake Dusenberg. (Star Tribune)
4. Police say they’re ready for the Super Bowl. “We’ve planned, we’ve trained. It’s game time for us, and we are ready to do what we need to do and take care of anything that comes our way,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge in Minneapolis, Richard Thornton. “We are all eagerly anticipating this Sunday, and our chance to do our part to make this a safe, secure and enjoyable event for everybody.” There are vehicle screenings, perimeter guards, explosive detection units, special response teams, mobile command centers, links to the federal intelligence community, sex trafficking teams and anti-counterfeiting efforts. NFL Security chief Cathy Lanier suggested there may be one real threat for fans: a subzero cold snap that may chill Super Sunday. She urged fans to go through the security screening offered at the Mall of America, to come early and dress warm. (MPR News)
5. Mothers of people killed by police officers will meet in Minneapolis on Super Bowl weekend. They’re coming not to watch the big game or visit the attractions. They’ll be here for the Take a Knee Conference — a two-day event that aims to take advantage of the national spotlight that has focused on the NFL ever since quarterback Colin Kaepernick went down on one knee to protest police violence. Organizers expect 150 people to attend. The purpose of the conference is to deepen the public’s understanding of police shootings, racism and the right to protest. The event starts Saturday and ends with a rally on Super Bowl Sunday. Organizer Mel Reeves said the workshops will examine racial disparities but also the systemic issues brought to light through police shootings. (MPR News)