Daily Digest: Republicans hope to change Dayton’s mind

Good morning, and happy Tuesday. Here’s the Digest.

1. The battle over the narrative of the session is just beginning. You’ll hear a lot of this from Minnesota Republicans in coming days. Here’s House Speaker Kurt Daudt. “This was a long legislative session where we accomplished some really important things. And today begins the pressure on our governor to do what’s right and sign these bills.” And you’ll hear a lot of this from Democrats, such as House Minority Leader Melissa Hortman. “The reason why this legislative session will wind up in a heap of ashes, likely, is because of the Republicans’ decision to put everything in the last week and to not engage in any meaningful compromise with the governor.” As Gov. Dayton prepares to make decisions on the bills passed in the closing days of the session, Republicans went into full lobby mode. They brought out regular Minnesotans who have much to gain — or lose — depending on how it all shakes out. Kent Edwards was there on behalf of his mother, who died last year in a senior care center. Edwards says the budget bill includes vital accountability measures around elder abuse. “Not everything we want and need is in this bill. But it’s a start and a start in the right direction.” (MPR News)

2. Some say elder care fixes fall short. In a blow to Gov. Mark Dayton and families of elder abuse victims, the 2018 Legislature adjourned without adopting a series of broad-based reforms to Minnesota’s flawed system for protecting vulnerable seniors from maltreatment. Weeks of intense negotiation involving the Dayton administration, Republican legislators and a coalition of senior organizations over a bipartisan deal collapsed over the weekend, leaving few new protections for the estimated 85,000 Minnesotans who live in senior care facilities across the state. All the major reforms sought by Dayton, including a licensing framework for the state’s fast-growing assisted-living industry and protections against arbitrary evictions, failed to survive the legislative gantlet and stiff opposition from the nursing home industry. Instead, legislators adopted several modest provisions that delay reform and, in some cases, actually weaken senior protections, elder advocates said. These provisions were included in the Legislature’s budget bill, which Dayton has pledged to veto. “This was a train wreck,” said Kristine Sundberg, president of Elder Voice Family Advocates, a coalition of relatives of abuse victims. (Star Tribune)

3. Money for schools is still a question mark. School leaders are in wait-and-see mode after the end of the legislative session. Several wide-ranging bills include one-time funds for school district safety improvements and other uses, but the bills have also drawn a veto threat from Gov. Mark Dayton. Tax and spending bills passed over the weekend would set aside $50 million that districts could use for any purpose, and about $20 million for school safety improvements. There is also money for other safety-related items like mental health programs, security audits and school police officer training. Minnesota School Boards Association director Kirk Schneidawind said schools need the funds, although advocates had hoped for $138 million in one-time school money Dayton proposed earlier this month. “The [bill] provides districts flexibility, there’s no question about it, but the dollar amounts — it’s a difference,” Schneidawind said. (MPR News)

4. Colleges and universities get money for construction but not as much as they wanted. At session’s end, it appears that money for capital improvements at the state’s college and university systems came through, but at less than half of what colleges and universities originally requested. Inside the $825 million bonding bill passed by the state Legislature, there’s around $208 million for construction, renovation and maintenance for public higher education systems — $129 million for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system and about $79 million for the University of Minnesota. The biggest gap between what the Legislature approved and what schools wanted was in Higher Education Asset Preservation and Replacement, a pool that pays for maintenance projects on buildings and infrastructure. Each system received $45 million for maintenance — that’s $85 million less than the Minnesota State requested, and about a third of what the U of M system hoped for. “Any support is always appreciated,” said Matt Kramer, University of Minnesota’s vice president for university and government relations. (MPR News)

5. Otto says she’s trying to make history with running mate choice. State Auditor Rebecca Otto on Monday named her running mate in her bid for the DFL endorsement in this year’s gubernatorial race. Zarina Baber is an information technology and management consultant and a human rights advocate. She lives in Andover. Otto said Baber would be the first Muslim woman in American history to hold a statewide office. “She understands how we could transform lives in Minnesota,” the three-term Democrat said as she introduced Baber at the State Office Building in St. Paul. “We’re going to work to renew Minnesota, and I have someone who is tried, tested and true, and is a bold leader as well.” Baber grew up in Hyderabad, India, and has been in the U.S. since 1976. She said she got her start in politics working as a volunteer for the campaign of former Minnesota DFL U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone. (MPR News)

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