Daily Digest: New faces at the Capitol

Good morning, and happy Thursday. Can you believe Thanksgiving was just a week ago? Here’s the Digest:

1. New state House members start getting up to speed. There will be a lot of new faces at the Minnesota Capitol come January, when Democrats take control of the state House for the first time in four years. In total, there will be 39 new House members. Five are Republicans and 34 are Democrats. Twenty are men and 19 are women.  The new House members bring varied professional backgrounds and will also add to the racial and ethnic diversity of the Capitol. African-American, Asian-American, Hispanic and Somali-American lawmakers are among the incoming class. Four of the new members of Hmong decent. Tou Xiong is one of them. He’s a DFLer from Maplewood. “It speaks more to America, about America, than any individual, and I’m just really glad and honored to be part of that. Thinking about the journey to get us here, 20 years ago we never thought this would be possible.” The DFL will have a 75-59 advantage next year, pending a recount next week in the Bemidji area. DFL Speaker-Designate Melissa Hortman said she advised the new members to take off their partisan jerseys for now. “We will be governing together. So, they should be purposeful about reaching out to people on the other side of and aisle developing relationships and getting to know people, because now it is our job to work together.” (MPR News)

2. Craig among those speaking up for Pelosi. Nancy Pelosi is one step closer to a historic return to the speakership, having handily won her party’s nomination to lead the House in the 116th Congress. But she’s not there yet. Pelosi will still have to pick up roughly 15 votes to get back to the speaker’s chair, although the California Democrat, her allies, and aides are increasingly confident she will get there after Wednesday’s session. The vote was 203-32, with three blank ballots and one absent. Anti-Pelosi Democrats had been downplaying expectations heading into Wednesday’s closed-door meeting. They said they had hoped to get roughly 20 votes opposing Pelosi inside the Democratic Caucus. Inside the room, Pelosi was nominated by Massachusetts Rep. Joe Kennedy, while a group of eight lawmakers — that includes incoming freshmen Angie Craig of Minnesota, Veronica Escobar of Texas, and Rep.-elect Katie Hill of California — seconded the nomination. Civil rights icon John Lewis of Georgia also spoke on Pelosi’s behalf. (Politico)

3. St. Paul confronts dated public art at city hall.  As the capital city has grown and diversified, four murals in the St. Paul City Council chambers from the 1930s depicting a voyageur, a steamboat captain, a railroad surveyor and a laborer, all of them white, have become outdated, local leaders and residents say. Next month, the City Council and Ramsey County Board are expected to vote to start the process of commissioning new murals to temporarily cover the old ones. The new murals will rotate in and out of the chambers, allowing visitors to view them alongside the original pieces. The goal, officials say, is to honor the past while also ensuring that visitors feel welcome at City Hall. The murals “seem to reflect a specific time in the history of St. Paul, and a specific perspective that is really very white and very male,” said City Council President Amy Brendmoen. “There is something that’s sort of contradictory about the feeling we want people to have when they’re in the chamber, and what the murals portray.” (Star Tribune)

4. Report says climate change already hitting home. Climate change is already wreaking havoc in Minnesota — from making people sicker to threatening the wild rice crop. That’s according to the latest National Climate Assessment, a congressionally mandated report released last Friday. Thirteen federal agencies worked on the document, the fourth of its kind, to analyze the best available information into an over 1,000-page document. Overall, the Midwest will experience greater warm-season temperature increases than any other region in the U.S., a reality that will lead to more temperature-related premature deaths, the report says. Extreme heat can cause “dangerous living conditions” in the Twin Cities, the report adds, noting that rural populations in the Midwest have also had high rates of heat-related illness. And that’s just one area the report discusses. (MPR News)

5. Nothing rhymes with orange, but the line is still getting funded. The Orange Line bus rapid transit is on track for completion in 2021 with funding from the federal government that was announced Wednesday.  The funding culminates the resuscitation of the line between Minneapolis and Burnsville, which was imperiled at times by funding snags at the state and county levels. The new federal money covers half the $150 million cost. The other half has already been approved and came from a variety of sources closer to home, including Hennepin and Dakota counties as well as the state’s bonding bills. The 17-mile Orange Line will run along Interstate 35W, the region’s busiest express bus corridor that now sees more than 200,000 cars and trucks daily. The corridor sees 14,000 transit rides per day, a number projected to surpass 25,000 as options increase, according to the Metropolitan Council. Bus-rapid transit service is similar to light rail. Passengers pay before boarding. Buses arrive frequently — every 10 minutes during peak times. The buses also use dedicated transitways to avoid traffic. Unlike light rail, the Orange Line BRT has seen bipartisan support. (Star Tribune)

The Digest will take a break Friday and be back Monday. 

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