Daily Digest: PUC stands by Line 3 decision

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

1. PUC upholds approval of Line 3 pipeline. The contentious Line 3 oil pipeline took one more incremental step toward construction Monday. Without any debate or questions, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission unanimously reaffirmed its earlier support for the pipeline and denied requests from environmental groups, Indian tribes and the state Department of Commerce to reconsider its June decision to approve the project. The commission also finalized plans for Enbridge to comply with several different conditions they had imposed on the company as part of that initial approval, including guidelines for over $1 billion worth of insurance coverage in the event of a major spill, and a plan to remove the abandoned pipeline at the request of landowners. The votes were expected — it’s rare for commissioners to reverse their decisions. Still, it’s another step forward for Canada-based Enbridge in its years-long bid to replace its aging and deteriorating pipeline that carries hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil from Canada every day across the state. (MPR News)

2. Number of legislators of Hmong descent will triple next year. When the new class of state representatives is sworn into the Minnesota House in January, there will be more Xiongs than Johnsons. Or Olsons. Or Andersons. In fact, Xiong will be tied with Carlson for the most common last name among state  reps (two each). That’s definitely a first for a state known for lutefisk, lefse and having governors named Elmer: C. Elmer Anderson and Elmer Andersen. It’s a big year of milestones when it comes to racial and ethnic diversity at the Capitol. The number of legislators of color increased from 16 in 2017 to 21, according to data self-reported by legislators and legislators-elect to the Legislative Reference Library. That represents the largest increase in members of color from one biennium to the next ever. The most significant change came in the number of legislators of Hmong descent. After the last election, there were only two. In 2019, there will be six. “My story is the continuation of the long history of Minnesota, where the Johnsons and Olsons were once new immigrants to the state,” said Jay Xiong, whose parents came to Minnesota as refugees from Laos. He was elected to the House this month to represent 67B, a district centered on St. Paul’s Eastside. “It speaks more about America than about any individual. I’m really proud to be a part of it,” said Tou Xiong, a member of the Maplewood City Council newly elected to represent District 53A in the House. (MinnPost)

3. Did capping a popular tax deduction hurt Republicans in the election? President Trump’s $1.5 trillion tax cut was supposed to be a big selling point for congressional Republicans in the midterm elections. Instead, it appears to have done more to hurt, than help, Republicans in high-tax districts across California, New Jersey, Virginia and other states. House Republicans suffered heavy Election Day losses in districts where large concentrations of taxpayers claim a popular tax break — the state and local tax deduction — which the law capped at $10,000 per household. The new limit resulted in an effective tax increase for high-earning residents of high-tax states who claim more than $10,000 per year in SALT. Democrats swept four Republican-held districts in Orange County, Calif., where at least 40 percent of taxpayers claim the SALT tax break, defeating a pair of Republican incumbents and winning seats vacated by Representatives Ed Royce and Darrell Issa. Those districts include longtime Republican strongholds, like Newport Beach, and rank among the country’s largest users of the state and local tax break. Representative Barbara Comstock lost a seat in Northern Virginia, where more than half of taxpayers claim the SALT deduction, by nearly 13 points. Representative Erik Paulsen of Minnesota, a huge champion of the tax bill, lost by about the same margin in a district where 40 percent of taxpayers claim the deduction. (New York Times)

4. Page gets warm welcome at school bearing his name. Wide-eyed students at Justice Page Middle School in Minneapolis packed the school’s auditorium, clapping and cheering loudly Monday morning as retired Justice Alan Page — their school’s namesake and a Minnesota icon — appeared on stage. The school held a celebration ceremony for Page, who recently was named one of seven recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. On Friday, the retired Minnesota Supreme Court justice and Minnesota Vikings Hall of Famer was presented with the award in Washington, D.C. Page received the medal based on his career accomplishments and charitable work through the Page Education Foundation, which has given out more than $15 million in scholarships to nearly 7,000 Minnesota students of color in the past 30 years. At Monday’s school celebration, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey presented a proclamation from Gov. Mark Dayton declaring Nov. 19 as “Justice Page Day.” (Star Tribune)

5. What do they mean by a ‘Green New Deal?’  A growing contingent of congressional Democrats — including Minnesota Rep.-elect Ilhan Omar — are pushing for a Green New Deal. The proposal calls for a new House select committee to draft broad legislation that would make the United States economy carbon-neutral and remove greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere and oceans. “The Green New Deal is a recognition that the scope and scale of our response to preventing damage to our climate has not been enough,” said Brett Benson of MN350, a climate activism group supporting the plan. This proposal likely faces gargantuan roadblocks in Congress — from wealthy oil-industry lobbyists to climate-science-denying members of Congress to moderate Democrats who don’t believe the plan is necessary. However, scientists can’t seem to sound the climate alarm bells loud enough. The United Nations international climate science panel released a report last month showing that deadly consequences of climate change will become widespread as soon as 2030 without rapid action. (MPR News)

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