Daily Digest: In Iowa, Klobuchar lays out rural agenda

Good morning. Kick off your week with some of the political stories you may have missed over the weekend.

1. Does Klobuchar Iowa visit hint at aspirations? Several dozen Iowa Farmers Union members applauded Saturday as a special guest prepared to speak at their annual convention: U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. “It is great to be back here,” Klobuchar said, joking: “As I’ve said many times, I can see Iowa from my porch.” It was a warm welcome back to a state that Minnesota’s senior senator has visited numerous times over her 12 years in office. But those visits are getting more attention now that Klobuchar has acknowledged — however tight-lipped — that she’s mulling a campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020. (MPR News)

2. Could passenger rail end up on a fast track? Plans for a second daily passenger train from St. Paul to Chicago could chug forward with Democrats in control of the House and the governor’s office. Will talks for a high-speed service also be revived? Gov.-elect Tim Walz is on board. He says passenger-rail expansion could help accommodate a growing population and reduce carbon emissions. “There’s a desire to make sure that we’re moving to a transportation system that serves us into the next century,” Walz told the Pioneer Press. “I think those who see … a renewed opportunity here, or renewed interest, that’s real.” But a high-speed rail connecting the Twin Cities to Milwaukee and Chicago would require a lot of buy-in.  (Pioneer Press)

3. Wisconsin lawmakers ready for unusual lame-duck session. Democrats in Wisconsin girded for a fight and encouraged voters to speak out as Republicans prepared to move ahead quickly this week with a highly unusual and sweeping lame-duck session to pass a series of proposals that would weaken both Democratic Gov.-elect Tony Evers and Attorney General-elect Josh Kaul. The bills up for a public hearing and committee vote Monday, setting the stage for legislative action Tuesday, would move the 2020 presidential primary to help a conservative Wisconsin Supreme Court justice, restrict early voting in way a federal court already disallowed and give the GOP-controlled Legislature the power to sidestep Kaul in legal fights. The moves give Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who leaves office on Jan. 7, one more chance to reshape state government before his term ends. (Associated Press via MPR News)

4. Hortman’s new role requires strategic balance. DFL state Rep. Melissa Hortman’s fight to put her party in control of the House required a sharp tone in St. Paul and a relentless campaign to get Democrats elected across the state. Now poised to become House speaker, Hortman will hold the second most powerful position in state government, one that will test her political skills like never before. She must quickly figure out how to work with the new Democratic governor and Senate Republican leaders and navigate the demands of emboldened House DFLers looking to make big changes after four years of GOP legislative control. The stakes could not be higher for Hortman, who will hold a fragile eight-seat majority when legislators convene in January. Failing to deliver for Democrats, or pushing too far and alienating suburban and rural swing voters, could send her party back into the minority in two years, when President Donald Trump will likely be on the ballot. (Star Tribune)

5. Opioids adding to strain on state’s child welfare system. The number of Minnesota children being removed from drug-addicted parents has reached crisis levels, flooding a state child welfare system that was already operating under heavy strains. As the opioid epidemic has tightened its grip on the Upper Midwest, drug abuse by parents has emerged as the leading reason why children are taken from their parents. Children have been removed from their families because of parental drug abuse on more than 6,000 occasions from 2015 to 2017, according to new data from the Minnesota Department of Human Services. Parents’ substance abuse now accounts for nearly one of three children being removed from their homes statewide, compared to just over one in 10 a decade ago. (Star Tribune)

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