Good morning and welcome to Tuesday. We’re two weeks out from primary election day and later this morning will get a look at how much money candidates have raised and spent. In the meantime, let’s take a look at the Digest.
1. Freeman won’t charge officers who shot Thurman Blevins. Hennepin County prosecutors will not charge the two police officers who fatally shot Thurman Blevins, a decision announced Monday hours after just-released body camera footage showed the deadly encounter in a north Minneapolis alley. Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said that the officers’ actions were justified after a foot chase in which an armed Blevins led them into an alley. Officers encountered Blevins after a 911 caller reported that someone fitting his description appeared to be intoxicated and was firing a gun at the ground and into the air. The release of the video did not defuse some of the tensions that have erupted over the case, as a small group of protesters overtook Freeman’s news conference Monday to demand greater police accountability. (Star Tribune)
2. Omar to return speaking fees after GOP colleague cries foul. A prominent state legislator’s paid speeches at Minnesota public colleges have prompted accusations of ethics violations and orders by the university chancellor to halt similar payments. Rep. Ihan Omar, DFL-Minneapolis, was paid $2,000 in February of 2017 to serve as a keynote speaker at Normandale Community College, and another $500 a few months later for a speaking engagement at Inver Hills Community College, according to public records. In a press conference on Monday, state Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, said accepting those payments violates a House policy that bars members from taking honoraria from groups that have business before the Legislature. Both schools are part of the Minnesota State system of public colleges, which receive state funds, and Omar is a member of the House’s higher education finance committee. Omar, a first-term state legislator, is running for Congress in the 5th Congressional District. In a statement, Omar said she planned to return the fees to the institutions. “A number of speaking engagements, including these, were scheduled and confirmed prior to my election, swearing-in, and instruction on Minnesota House rules. In the transition, we didn’t realize that we would need to look back and apply these rules to previously confirmed engagements,” Omar said. “It’s regrettable that Rep. Drazkowski didn’t approach me directly with his concern so I could address this oversight.” (MPR News)
3. Johnson wants work requirement for public assistance. Two candidates for Minnesota governor released proposals Monday they said would improve the state’s workforce as companies struggle to hire and retain employees. Republican Jeff Johnson said he would push to add a work requirement for people on public assistance programs. DFLer Lori Swanson said she would create a new post in state government to better coordinate vocational education programs that feed industries expected to face skilled worker shortages. Both Johnson, a Hennepin County commissioner, and Swanson, the three-term attorney general, are competing in Aug. 14 primaries that will determine whether their campaigns move on to the fall. Johnson faces former Gov. Tim Pawlenty in the Republican race while Swanson’s opponents are state Rep. Erin Murphy and U.S. Rep. Tim Walz. Johnson said Minnesota’s reputation as having a strong safety net for vulnerable citizens needs to come with an expectation of work for those who are able. “Not as a punishment, but because work is intrinsically good,” he said. “And it is the only-surefire way to pull people out of poverty, which is what we want for everyone.” Johnson’s plan would require that adults receiving food stamps or Medicaid benefits be working, looking for work, training or volunteering. He didn’t provide details about how many work hours would satisfy the requirement or how it would be enforced. (MPR News)
4. Franken won’t rule out another run for office. Sen. Al Franken returned to Minnesota for his first public appearance here since resigning from the U.S. Senate. In an exclusive interview with WCCO-TV, he talked about how much he misses his old job. Franken resigned from the Senate in January after #MeToo allegations from more than half a dozen women alleging unwanted touching. Franken was joined by three Minnesota members of Congress at the dedication of the new Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig High School on the Leech Lake Indian Reservation. The old school campus was comprised of tin buildings that leaked, were rodent-infested, had heat that often failed in the winter, and plumbing that led to frequent sewage backups. When asked whether he plans to run for office again, Franken responded, “Well, see, if I say anything there you will put it in the story. I don’t know. I haven’t ruled it out, and I haven’t ruled it in.” Franni Franken admitted her husband’s abrupt departure from the Senate has been difficult for both of them. “It has been a challenge, but we do get to spend more time together, and I think there are times that both us would like spend less time together,” she said, laughing. (WCCO TV)
5. Appeals court upholds frac sand mining ban. The Minnesota Court of Appeals on Monday affirmed the decision of the district court and upheld Winona County’s ban on the mining of silica sand for hydraulic fracturing. The countywide frac sand ban, the first of its kind in the nation, prohibits the mining, processing and transportation of silica sand for the purpose of fracking. The ban, which was formally adopted on Nov. 22, 2016, on a 3-2 vote by the county’s board of commissioners. In its support of the ban, the appeals court said the zoning ordinance amendment neither violates the dormant Commerce Clause nor does the county owe Minnesota Sands compensation for its property interest – leases to mine silica sand. Minnesota Sands, the appellant in the case, released a statement saying the company is “extremely disappointed by the ruling and we are reviewing the decision to determine our options that could include appealing this decision.” (Rochester Post Bulletin)