Good morning, and welcome to Wednesday. Here’s the Digest.
1. Suspects charged in Mosque bombing. Federal authorities on Tuesday charged three men from rural central Illinois with the bombing of a Minnesota mosque last year and said one of the suspects told an investigator the goal of the attack was to “scare” Muslims out of the United States. A statement from the U.S. attorney’s office in Springfield, Illinois, says the men also are suspected in the attempted bombing of a clinic in November. The Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington, Minnesota, was bombed just before morning prayers on Aug. 5, causing a fire and extensive damage although no one was injured or killed. There was an attempted bombing of the Champaign, Illinois, Women’s Health Practice on Nov. 7. The three men are identified as Michael B. Hari, 47; Joe Morris, 22; Michael McWhorter, 29. All are from Clarence, a rural community 35 miles north of Champaign-Urbana. A fourth man was charged with a gun offense, but he was not identified as a suspect in the bombing or attempted bombing. (AP)
2. Dayton’s State of State begins long goodbye. Mark Dayton is nine months from leaving office. His departure will mark the end of a political career that spans four decades and three elective offices — auditor, U.S. senator and governor. Without question, his eight years as governor have had high points and low points. There is no single way to grade a governor’s tenure, but one is to compare what Dayton said he’d do to what he did. “I’m the one who said it first, I’ve been saying it the most and I’m the one who really means it: That I will raise taxes on the richest Minnesotans,” Dayton said as he was running for governor eight years ago. And he did. It took Dayton a few years, but he eventually enacted a new 4th income tax bracket of nearly 10 percent. He also imposed higher tobacco taxes, which he had campaigned against. (MPR News)
3. Dayton announces bipartisan plan to stem elder abuse. Gov. Mark Dayton is backing legislation that would make major changes to the state’s oversight of senior care facilities. Recommendations from a Legislative Auditor’s report, as well as those brought forward by a working group that Dayton appointed last year, are included in a $15 million package of legislation the governor announced Tuesday with lawmakers from both parties. Under the bipartisan legislation that Dayton supports, the state would step up inspections and investigations. There would be new licensing requirements for assisted living and dementia care facilities. In addition, employees who threaten or abuse those in their care would face tougher criminal and civil penalties. Will Phillips, state director for AARP Minnesota, and the head of Dayton’s working group said abusers must be pursued aggressively. “We’re still seeing 400 cases of abuse being reported each week in our state. So, we can’t stop here. We must get to the root of this problem, and we must do it as soon as possible.” (MPR News)
4. Hands-free cellphone requirement clears committee. Minnesota is closer to joining states where it is illegal for drivers to use phones without hands-free capability while in traffic. The House Public Safety and Security Policy Committee voted Tuesday to advance a bill restricting phone calls behind the wheel. It has other committees to clear at the Capitol before final votes. Gov. Mark Dayton said he would sign it. Relatives of Minnesotans killed by distracted drivers held photographs of their loved ones while pressing lawmakers for the crackdown. Greg Tikalsky of New Prague spoke about the anguish his family has felt and the obligation to do something about it. Tikalsky’s father was struck and killed in 2015 as he was retrieving his newspaper. The driver was using a phone. “Before we bury another Minnesotan, let’s bury the political hatchet that is dividing passage of this bill,” he said. “Before we send one more death and funeral notice, let’s send out a birth announcement, of a new law that is going to save lives.” No one testified in opposition before the voice vote to send the bill to the House Ways and Means Committee for further consideration. (MPR News)
5. The commissioner of Minnesota IT services is fighting a new battle. Johanna Clyborne has been making the rounds at the Minnesota Capitol building over the last several weeks, and she’s committed her opening lines to memory. Nearly every day, she sits in front of a different group of lawmakers in legislative committees, where she briefly runs through her résumé: a law degree, a partnership in her own firm, 28 years of military experience, including a combat tour in the Iraq War. But it’s her newest job — the commissioner overseeing all Minnesota government IT services — that brings her here. “While I do not have experience coding or running the software personally, I do have experience in leadership operations in high-pressure environments,” Clyborne told legislators at a recent hearing, peppering phrases like “on the ground” into her testimony and regularly referring to her “mission.” It’s a strange position in which to see Clyborne, who most recently served in a top post in the Minnesota National Guard, and where she was the first ever female Brigadier General. But — as long as we’re not sugar coating things — the state’s IT department is in a state of crisis, after the botched roll-out of the vehicle licensing and registration system. (MinnPost)