Daily Digest: School safety becomes key issue

Good morning, and welcome to Tuesday. Sorry there was no Digest yesterday. I got walloped by a virus over the weekend, but I think I’ve turned the corner. Let’s check the Digest.

1. Dayton says he’s open to school safety measures. Gov. Mark Dayton said Monday that he’s willing to consider any proposals that could protect Minnesota children from future school shootings — up to and including arming school staff. Dayton, in Washington for a gathering of the National Governors Association, said he would meet Tuesday back in Minnesota with his agency heads to discuss how to make schools more safe. “I asked my cabinet members to put their thinking caps on,” Dayton said in an interview, after he and 38 other governors met with President Donald Trump at the White House. “Everybody agrees we want schools to be safe for students, for teachers … I’m open to anything and everything at this point.” At the White House, the president pitched his own ideas, ranging from a ban on bump stocks to arming teachers, coaches and other school staff. “I don’t rule anything out,” said Dayton, speaking by phone after the meeting. “I’d want to talk to the teachers and educators in Minnesota, see what their perspective is on it.” (Star Tribune)

2. State Senate Republicans say school safety is a top session priority. Minnesota Senate Republicans are responding to the recent school shooting deaths in Florida with a plan to fund school security improvements throughout the state. Sen. Carla Nelson, R-Rochester, introduced legislation Monday that would establish a safe schools revenue program to provide general fund allocations to school districts. Nelson, the chair of the Senate education finance committee, said the funding would be separate from the existing safe schools levy that district can impose on local taxpayers. “We must have safe and secure schools. That is essential,” Nelson said. Nelson, who is a candidate for Congress in Minnesota’s 1st District, doesn’t yet know how much money would be needed to get the program underway. She said she is waiting until the release later this week of the new state budget forecast. (MPR News)

3. Forest Lake council delays vote on mental health facility. More than 100 people packed a Forest Lake City Council hearing Monday night to support a controversial psychiatric residential treatment center for children and adolescents. “We desperately need mental health facilities in this state and around the region,” said Marisa Gotsch, whose adult brother never received adequate treatment as a child for his mental illness and is now committed to a state mental hospital. Despite the show of support, the proposal faces an uphill battle. The 40-acre site is zoned for multifamily residential use and does not currently allow for a large treatment facility. The project’s fate was debated Monday night, when members of the Forest Lake City Council decided to postpone a vote until they researched the impact of a zoning change on the entire community. (Star Tribune)

4.  New committee looks for ways to address sexual harassment at the Minnesota Capitol. Minnesota House leaders expect revisions this year to an internal policy for handling sexual harassment complaints, although it’s not yet clear if people alleging mistreatment could eventually come forward anonymously or if lawmakers found to be at fault would be publicly identified. The formal conversation around possible changes began Monday in a new House subcommittee formed to examine workplace conditions in the wake of two legislative resignations last fall. House Majority Leader Joyce Peppin, who is chairing the panel, said she doesn’t have a preconceived outcome in mind. She said the first step is to seek input from staff with expertise in human resources issues as well as get a clearer sense of what is happening in other state capitols. “Clearly this is not a new issue, but it’s something we need to get better at handling,” Peppin, R-Rogers, said. (MPR News)

5. Lawmakers prepare to honor Minnesota medalists. Several athletes with Minnesota ties scooped up medals in the just-closed Winter Games in South Korea,  including some who took home surprise gold. Their area legislators are anxious to show their appreciation. State Sen. David Tomassoni, a Chisholm Democrat, rose Monday to share a blow-by-blow account of the gold medalist curling team, led by John Shuster. “One for the ages,” the senator said. Tomassoni was sure to point out that it’s comprised mostly of Minnesotans and that Shuster honed his skill at the Chisholm Curling Club “a half a block from my house” and that he’s the son of a former Tomassoni high school classmate. “Hence, this gold medal is special,” Tomassoni told his colleagues. “So special in fact that I tried to send my first-ever tweet to wish the team good luck and I stayed up until 3:30 a.m. to send my second-ever tweet to congratulate them on winning the gold medal.” He added, “I have no idea if they ever received these tweets and I’m sure no one confused my tweets with the other Mr. T.” (MPR News)

 

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