Good morning, and happy Wednesday. Vice President Mike Pence is in Minneapolis today. Here’s the Digest.
1. Liberians get one year reprieve from Trump Administration. President Trump has extended immigration protections for Liberians living in the United States, but only for a year. A memorandum issued Tuesday by the White House says the Deferred Enforced Departure program, known as DED, which has been in place since 2007, will end next March. “Liberia is no longer experiencing armed conflict and has made significant progress in restoring stability and democratic governance. Liberia has also concluded reconstruction from prior conflicts, which has contributed significantly to an environment that is able to handle adequately the return of its nationals,” Trump wrote in a memo. He writes that he finds conditions in Liberia “no longer warrant a further extension of DED,” but says in the interest of an orderly “wind down” of the program and to allow Liberians to make arrangements to leave, he’s extending the program through March of 2019. Republican U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen, who represents the state’s 3rd District and many of the cities with high numbers of Liberians in Minnesota, called the move a reprieve and said it gives Congress an additional year to come up with a more permanent solution. (MPR News)
2. Dayton pushes again for pre-K money. Gov. Mark Dayton wants the Legislature to guarantee money for pre-kindergarten programs in Minnesota schools comes through in the future, because a $50 million infusion approved last year is no sure bet to continue. While 74 school districts do have some dollars locked in, Education Commissioner Brenda Casselius said there are 59 that would see some or all of their pre-K aid expire. “It’s just not fair for these other 59 not to have ongoing funding after they’ve changed their facilities, hired their teachers, gotten new resources, made promises to families to the pull the rug out from underneath these families,” Dayton said. Dayton said it would be a shame. “It’s the best strategy we know for closing the achievement gap before it gets started, before it gets locked in. So why wouldn’t we do everything we possibly can? There are other states, states like Oklahoma, which we consider to be not at Minnesota’s level of education quality. They’ve had universal pre-K for a decade. I mean, we’re behind.” The debate is something of a repeat. Republicans who lead the Legislature have been reluctant for years to meet Dayton’s pre-kindergarten requests. Some argue the program favors public schools over other options and creates an expectation that all four-year-olds will move into the system. (MPR News)
3. Xcel wants new process for nuclear plant costs. Xcel Energy is asking lawmakers for help anticipating how it will pay for the high costs of maintaining nuclear power plants that date back to the early 1970s, and on Tuesday the utility’s plea got a positive reception from a state Senate committee. But the plan that’s now heading to the Senate floor faces stiff opposition, including from Gov. Mark Dayton. Xcel wants to keep running its Monticello and Prairie Island nuclear plants for another 12 to 15 years, which utility officials say is critical to its goal to generate 85 percent of its electricity from carbon-free sources by 2030. The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Andrew Mathews, R-Milaca, would give Xcel a new way to recover the costs of operating Prairie Island and Monticello from its electricity customers. (MPR News)
4. Lawmaker says she didn’t mean to compare marching students to Hitler Youth. Rep. Mary Franson, R-Alexandria, appeared to link students involved in the March for Our Lives to Hitler Youth in a series of Facebook posts last weekend, but said Tuesday that was not her intent. “I did not intend for one Facebook post about those who are pushing for gun control to be connected to another, separate post I shared from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum about ‘Indoctrinating Youth’. I’ve deleted the post to clear up any confusion,” Franson said in an e-mail Tuesday. But Douglas County DFL Chairman Jon Koll said he was not surprised to see the series of posts, and noted a situation last year when Franson declined requests to meet with the Alexandria Area High School Democratic Club. After pressure mounted she met with the students, but was “blatantly rude” and “condescending,” he said. “Her behavior with this whole Nazi stuff about the kids is really consistent with her unenlightened view of the world,” Koll said. (Star Tribune)
5. Farm Bill may again get hung up over food stamps. In the last Farm Bill, Republicans advanced controversial proposals to cut and rework SNAP, sinking the bill on the floor of the House of Representatives in 2013, and delaying final passage of the bill for months. Similar proposals are being floated now, as Congress faces a six-month deadline to pass a Farm Bill before funding for the previous one runs out when the current fiscal year ends in September. With an official bill expected to be rolled out imminently, Republicans and Democrats on the House agriculture panel aren’t even sitting at the table together: Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota’s 7th District, the ranking Democrat on the committee, pulled his members from negotiations when the GOP chairman, Rep. Mike Conaway of Texas, wouldn’t budge on his SNAP proposals. The rerun of nasty Farm Bill politics in Congress is doing little to assuage advocates for farm country and for hungry and low-income Americans, who count on a bipartisan Farm Bill process that may now be past its sell-by date. (MinnPost)