Good morning. It’s Thursday already, so here’s the Digest.
1. Dayton lays out school safety plan. Gov. Mark Dayton on Wednesday proposed a $20.9 million spending package intended to boost school safety including $5 million in grants for schools to provide mental health services to students who need help. Dayton also urged the Legislature to work together to pass legislation this session to reduce gun violence and make it harder for criminals to access guns. “Our mission is to prevent every school shooting. To succeed, we must take action now,” Dayton said in a statement, citing press reports indicating at least 21 threats have been made against Minnesota schools since last month’s high school shooting in Parkland, Fla. Dayton on Wednesday also made a pitch to change the state’s gun control laws, including expanding background checks, requiring a minimum age of 21 to buy an assault rifle and a “red flag” law that would let family members and police ask a judge to temporarily suspend a person’s access to firearms if they’re concerned the person poses a threat. He stressed that the gun-related proposals were less likely to pass this year and were separate from his school safety plan. (MPR News)
2. Students marched to the state Capitol demanding gun control. St. Paul police estimated the crowd at 5,000. “We’ve sat through many school shootings, and we’ve watched, and we’ve listened and we’ve waited for something to change, and nothing has changed,” said one of the organizers, Clare Fitzpatrick, a 18-year-old senior from Cretin-Derham Hall High School in St. Paul. She said students at her school started talking after a 19-year-old gunman killed 17 people at a high school in Parkland, Fla., in February. “We just started by having conversations about gun control, and having conversations about these school shootings and what we wanted to do about it,” Fitzpatrick said. When students at her school realized that students at St. Paul Central High School had been planning a march for Wednesday, they joined forces and spread the word on social media. (Star Tribune)
3, Doctors call for assault weapons ban. Minnesota’s largest physicians’ organization has entered the debate over gun control, calling for a ban on assault weapons and more research on gun violence, in reaction to last month’s Florida high school shooting. While the stance risks political fallout, including the defection of pro-gun doctors, leaders of the Minnesota Medical Association said they felt compelled to confront gun violence as a public health issue. “Few threats to our health and safety can be eliminated, but failure to intervene in the face of this significant epidemic is not an option,” the association said in a statement set for statewide distribution Thursday morning. (Star Tribune)
4. Painter still fuzzy on the details of a possible campaign. Richard Painter, a former White House ethics lawyer who has become a go-to commentator for cable TV, said he is considering a campaign for U.S. Senate in Minnesota, but he hasn’t decided yet whether he would run as a Republican, Democrat or independent. The University of Minnesota law professor said he is weighing a challenge to Democratic Sen. Tina Smith, who went to Washington in January after Democratic Sen. Al Franken resigned. In November, voters will decide whether Smith or someone else fills the final two years of Franken’s unexpired term. Painter was a White House ethics lawyer under Republican President George W. Bush. He’s gained fame over the past year as a sharp critic of Republican President Donald Trump, appearing routinely on cable television and joining legal actions against Trump’s administration. State Sen. Karin Housley, R-St. Marys Point, is seeking the Republican nomination. Both she and Smith have nominal opposition in their hunt for the party endorsements but both are heavily favored to square off in November. (MPR News)
5. Sen. Fischbach situation has some at Capitol looking for other ways to pick a lieutenant governor. “We are in a mess right now that we shouldn’t be in,” said Sen. John Marty, DFL-Roseville, who is part of a bipartisan group of lawmakers in the Legislature lining up behind a proposed constitutional amendment to address the issue — a move that would put a relatively simple question to the voters this fall: Should the governor be able to pick who replaces the lieutenant governor? If approved by voters, the proposed constitutional amendment would allow the governor to pick a replacement to the lieutenant governor if there’s a vacancy in that office for any reason, be it a resignation or something worse, like death or severe illness. That appointment would be subject to confirmation by the state Senate, much like any agency appointment in the governor’s office. Yet Marty is open to negotiate that portion of the bill if some feel making the lieutenant governor appointment open to confirmation could get too political. (MinnPost)
6. Who says government can’t do anything anymore? The Department of Administration announced Wednesday that the Minnesota State Capitol Restoration Project was completed more than $8 million under budget. The project—which was completed in 2017 prior to a widely attended State Capitol Grand Opening celebration in August—received $310.17 million in bonding and legacy funds from the Legislature. After completion of all approved restoration scope, total project costs tallied $301.5 million. The restoration project also met workforce and subcontracting diversity goals. The Department of Administration set a goal of at least 12 percent of the general contractor’s subcontracts were with minority or woman-owned businesses. The Capitol project saw nearly 30 percent of the workforce was minority workers and 12.5 percent were women. (Minnesota Dept. of Administration)