Good morning, and happy Thursday. Here’s the Digest.
1. Some female lawmakers say sexual harassment training was offensive. Several Democratic women representatives — Jamie Becker-Finn, Peggy Flanagan and Ilhan Omar — walked out at the end of Wednesday’s all-day mandatory training session and described a sexual harassment presentation that they said cast the issue backward: sympathy for the harasser, and skepticism toward the harassed. “It was immensely disappointing,” said Becker-Finn, an attorney from Roseville who has prosecuted cases of abuse. “I have a victim-centric lens for things. This was the opposite.” Becker-Finn roughly quoted a particular slide during the presentation that stuck with her: ” ‘The most horrifying thing would be to be accused of being a harasser.’ To me, the most horrifying thing is to be assaulted.” “It was cruel,” said Rep. Erin Maye Quade later said as she offered sharp criticism of what House leaders had billed as a first step toward changing a male-dominated culture perceived by some as hallowed in chauvinism. “We shouldn’t have to go to work and tell every single person, ‘Do not flirt with me.’ And that’s how it felt.” (Pioneer Press)
2. Last year’s fights at the Minnesota Capitol aren’t over. Gov. Mark Dayton said Wednesday he’ll push again this session to allow unauthorized immigrants to obtain Minnesota drivers licenses. Lawmakers passed a measure last year that prohibits the administration from taking such a step. Dayton argued at the time that the move was unnecessary, because legislative approval would be needed to make the change. During an appearance on MPR News Wednesday, Dayton said licensing unauthorized immigrants to drive would improve public safety. He said the prohibition is unwise and a wedge between immigrants and other Minnesotans. “It’s spiteful, it’s racist, and it just feeds into this just very, very destructive attitude right now toward people coming here from other countries,” he said. The governor also intends to try to repeal some tax changes that he objected to in the tax bill the Legislature passed last year. Dayton wants to repeal tax breaks for tobacco, business property and estates. His objections to those provisions last year led to his veto of House and Senate funding and a months-long court fight. (MPR News)
3. How can the 3M settlement money be spent? The settlement agreement Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson reached with 3M this week gives state officials broad authority in how the $850 million will be spent. While the settlement calls for the money to first go toward addressing contamination from perfluorochemicals, or PFCs, in the eastern Twin Cities suburbs, secondary uses for the money range from addressing the depletion of groundwater aquifers to building fishing piers to allow Washington County residents to fish on lakes not contaminated with PFCs. “This is fundamentally a natural resources damage lawsuit,” Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Landwehr told reporters Wednesday. “We sell over 50,000 fishing licenses a year in Washington County.” Landwehr said those anglers are limited to catch and release in some areas because of the contamination. He said $20 million of the settlement will be set aside for immediate projects to address PFC contamination affecting fish and wildlife, and additional funds could be available for things like fishing piers on lakes not affected by PFC fish consumption warnings. (MPR News)
4. The student movement against school shootings has spread to Minnesota. A couple hundred students walked out of school in Minneapolis Wednesday to call for stricter gun control. The students gathered just after midday in Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Park in south Minneapolis. Their rally happened on the same day as a demonstration in Washington, D.C. by students from the Parkland, Florida, high school where a gunman killed 17 people last week. The Minneapolis students brought signs reading “Not one more” and “What about my right to safety?” They chanted, “What do we want? Gun control. When do we want it? Now.” Washburn freshman Isabel Kleckner helped organize students from her school to attend. “It’s completely unreasonable that civilians should have access to assault rifles where they can go into schools and continue to shoot students who are there trying to learn. It just keeps happening, and after Parkland, students really took this movement.” (MPR News)
5. Calls for action on elder abuse. Dozens of elder abuse victims and their family members urged lawmakers on Wednesday to overhaul the state’s system for regulating senior care homes, saying current laws are poorly enforced and perpetrators are not adequately punished. Their calls for action came during an emotional, two-hour Senate committee hearing on the state’s handling of elder abuse complaints in senior homes. Leaders of the committee called the hearing to give victims and their relatives an opportunity to tell their stories of abuse. The hearing follows reports of multiple breakdowns in the state’s system for investigating maltreatment at senior care facilities that serve about 85,000 Minnesotans. A five-part Star Tribune series last November documented that hundreds of incidents of criminal abuse, including physical and sexual assaults, go uninvestigated each year by the state agency charged with protecting the elderly in senior homes. (Star Tribune)