Daily Digest: Probe rips House harassment procedures

Good morning, and let me be the first to wish you a happy Friday. Here is the Digest.

1. House sexual harassment procedures have some major problems. Three months after allegations of sexual misconduct forced the resignation of Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Vernon Center, House leaders Thursday released a “summary of key takeaways” from a $30,000 investigation of the complaints suggesting the sexual harassment review process in the Minnesota House needs fixing. The findings include that there’s a  perception among some House members that they will not be disciplined for violating House policy, and that may chill reports regarding members. Citing a concern for privacy, House Majority Leader Joyce Peppin, R-Rogers, said the full investigation would not be made public. “It was important that we have as few eyes to see it as possible because some of the people involved did not want their names released to the public, and so we are respecting that,” she said. “And it is not necessary that that information comes out because we don’t want that information to chill future people from coming forward with any concerns or complaints that they have.” (MPR News)

2.  21 to smoke? Edina Republican state Rep. Dario Anselmo says he’ll push for Minnesota to raise the smoking age to 21 this session. Anselmo is introducing legislation that would make the age to purchase cigarettes, chewing tobacco and e-cigarettes to age 21, up from age 18. State Sen. Carla Nelson, R-Rochester, introduced similar legislation last year. Both say they have bipartisan support. Anselmo says he thinks his fellow Republicans may be hesitant about tougher regulations overall, but that tobacco use is a valid concern. “This is sort of what government is here for,” he said Thursday. “It’s here for our public safety, national and local. It’s here for our public health, and this is a big one. I tell them if we’re the party that talks about cutting health care costs, its $3 billion direct cost that go to the cost of smoking.” (MPR News)

3. Who do you trust? Minnesota lawmakers could soon find themselves debating the place of God in public schools. A bill introduced Thursday would require school boards to post “a durable poster or framed copy” of the motto “In God We Trust” in every school building. Administrators could solicit private dollars to do it. State Sen. Dan Hall, R-Burnsville, is the chief sponsor. Hall, a chaplain and former Christian school principal, said it’s as much about American history as it is religion. A joint resolution passed by Congress and approved by President Dwight Eisenhower in 1956 made it the nation’s official motto. “This is ‘In God We Trust.’ It’s not ‘In Jesus We Trust’ or ‘In Muhammad We Trust,’” Hall said. “It’s ‘In God We Trust.’ I think it’s time we do some of those things and encourage the people of faith.” But Hall said there are other motivations as well. “It feels like there is a movement that is anti-faith. And people don’t always understand the dynamics between church and state,” Hall said. “And they think it’s supposed to be completely separate. And yet from our founding fathers it was never separate.” (MPR News)

4. Sen. Hall’s got another idea, and this one’s got legs.  Sen. Hall introduced another bill Thursday to recognize racehorse Dan Patch as the official state horse.  Dan Patch was an American Standardbred. He was owned by Marion Willis Savage and stabled in Minnesota. He raced on the national circuit in the early 1900s and set many speed records for the times. The horse died in 1916. Hall, a Republican whose district includes the city of Savage, said the horse has an inspirational story and making it an official symbol would help keep that alive. “I think it’s a big enough deal for the whole state to take a look at Dan Patch being one of the greatest horses, the greatest pacer probably that’s ever been out there,” Hall said. Last year, Hall pushed through a bill to provide $75,000 from the state sales-tax fueled legacy fund to erect a statue of Dan Patch in Savage. The noble beast already has his own street, Dan Patch Avenue, on the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. Minnesota already has 18 state symbols in law, ranging from a drink (milk) to a muffin (blueberry) to a fish (walleye) to a sport (hockey). (MPR News)

5. Another gun bill introduced. Some DFL lawmakers on Thursday proposed raising the minimum age to purchase a semiautomatic assault weapon from 18 to 21. “These are weapons of war,” said Sen. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park. Latz said it does not make sense to him that someone who is not yet allowed to drink alcohol can purchase such guns. He and Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn, DFL-Roseville, authored the bills, which Gov. Mark Dayton said Wednesday he would support. But they face an uphill battle in the Republican-controlled Legislature. Numerous gun control measures have been brought up but have seen little movement so far. “The record isn’t good,” Latz said. But businesses, health professionals and high schools students are putting pressure on lawmakers following last month’s school shooting in Parkland, Fla. “I think we have a real good chance this year,” he said. (Star Tribune)

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