Good morning, and welcome to Wednesday. Here’s the Digest.
1. House Republicans put their tax bill on fast track. With less than a month to go in session, Republican lawmakers were still short on specifics of how their tax plans would work. The Senate GOP has still not released a proposal, while House Republicans couldn’t say specifically who might pay less — or more — under their bill. Despite their best efforts, House Tax Committee Chairman Greg Davids and House Research analysts confirmed some 180,000 taxpayers would likely see a larger tax bill next year. “We’re not going to be able to get everything put back the way it was because we are a high-tax state,” Davids said. While the House plan cuts the tax rate in the second bracket, that could be offset for some earners by the loss of lucrative tax deductions on work-related expenses, charitable deductions and property loss expenses from fires and some other natural disasters. Minnesota Department of Revenue Commissioner Cynthia Bauerly said the House proposal would give businesses larger tax cuts over people. “Unfortunately, this bill, like the federal tax law passed last year, provides more for businesses than for working Minnesota families when it comes to the rate reduction,” she told lawmakers Tuesday. (AP)
2. Lawmaker stages sit-in over gun legislation. A DFL lawmaker is holding a 24-hour sit-in on the Minnesota House floor to protest the lack of action on gun legislation this year. State Rep. Erin Maye Quade began the protest Tuesday morning. Several Democratic colleagues and one suburban Republican joined at the start to share stories of Minnesotans who were fatally shot. Maye Quade is a first-term lawmaker from Apple Valley. She hopes to call attention to the need for stronger gun restrictions after bills stalled out earlier in the session. Maye Quade and others are calling for expanded background checks and a legal path for family members or police to temporarily restrict a loved one’s gun access. (MinnPost)
3. Which party can claim the F and the L? Four Republican state lawmakers have formed an informal caucus to discuss rural issues, but the name and logo they’re using have seriously irked the Minnesota Democratic Farmer Labor Party, more commonly known as the DFL. The GOP lawmakers call their project the Republican Farmer Labor Caucus, or RFL. Their logo is strikingly similar to the DFL logo. Rep. Jeremy Munson, R-Lake Crystal, is one of the RFL instigators. “It was intended to highlight how the Republicans are out there fighting for farmers, and that Democrats, even though they have ‘farmer’ in their party name, actually aren’t out there supporting farmers,” Munson said. Munson, along with House colleagues Rep Jeff Backer, Rep. Jason Rarick and Rep. Tim Miller, received a cease and desist letter Monday from Charles Nauen, a lawyer representing the Minnesota DFL, who demanded they stop using the logo. Nauen said the name and the logo are confusing to the public. “If you continue such use despite this notification, we will consider all available legal means to protect the marks and goodwill of the Minnesota DFL Party,” Nauen wrote. (MPR News)
4. Court will consider camera policy. The Minnesota Supreme Court will hold a public hearing Wednesday on whether it should make permanent a pilot project that has allowed news cameras in criminal courtrooms in limited circumstances. Media groups say cameras promote transparency and public access to legal proceedings. But opponents, including the Minnesota State Bar Association, say cameras can make victims and witnesses reluctant to testify. The court authorized the pilot project in 2015. It allows audio, video and still-photo coverage in criminal proceedings after the defendant is convicted or pleads guilty, such as sentencing hearings. Still prohibited are sexual assault and domestic violence cases, and statements by victims unless they consent. Cameras aren’t allowed earlier during a trial except in rare circumstances. (AP via Star Tribune)
5. Now we’re stuck with our real sports teams. A bill to recognize daily fantasy sports betting sites in Minnesota as games of skill not as gambling went down Tuesday to a surprise and resounding defeat. The bill would have given the sites more legitimacy and subjected them to some regulations, including registration fees and fines for various violations. But opponents argued fantasy sports is gambling by another name and would support an industry where they say insiders do better than the typical player. Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, questioned the motivations behind the bill, saying no constituents had asked him to support it. “And the reality is this is full of swamp water,” he said. “We have moneyed interests bringing this forward to support their future and they’re going to fence out everyone else.” The bill failed on a 74-48 vote only two years after a similar version passed off the floor with 100 votes behind it only to stall in the Senate. Legislative leaders seldom bring bills to the floor that lack the votes to pass. (MPR News)