Good morning, and happy Friday. Here’s the last Digest of the week.
1. New Legislature hopes to start next session where last one ended. When lawmakers return to St. Paul next month, Rep. Laurie Halverson is ready to move quickly on a key issue. Halverson, DFL-Eagan, wants to head off a pending budget cut for programs that help disabled Minnesotans. “Home and community-based services are facing a 7 percent cut because of some interpretation of laws at the state and federal level. So, we need to make sure that we’re protecting home and community-based service workers.” Secretary of State Steve Simon is imploring lawmakers to allow his office to spend federal money already allocated to improve election security in Minnesota. “All we need is two sentences of permission slip language from the Legislature. We’re asking for no money. It’s federal money. We’re asking for permission to use the money.” Lawmakers passed both measures last session with broad support. But they were included in a 989-page supplemental budget bill that Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed. Dayton scolded Republican House and Senate leaders at the time for putting good provisions in the bill with many things he found objectionable. With a new DFL majority taking charge in the House, incoming Speaker Melissa Hortman says she wants to resurrect the good parts. “In the last four years, we saw really bad legislative process, where many unrelated items were shoved together at the end of session. It put things that are noncontroversial at risk with things that were very controversial.” (MPR News)
2. Walz skips D.C. meeting with Trump. Minnesota Gov.-elect Tim Walz declined a White House invitation to meet President Donald Trump on Thursday, citing his work assembling his new administration.“The governor-elect is in Minnesota building his incoming administration and is unable to attend the meeting at the White House,” Walz spokeswoman Kayla Castaneda said Thursday. Walz and his transition team are in the process of vetting at least 1,500 applicants for for appointed positions in state government, including 500 applicants for 23 state commissioner posts. On Thursday afternoon, Trump, a Republican, met with 13 newly elected governors of states and U.S. territories from both parties, as well as several cabinet members and Vice President Mike Pence. Trump’s office had invited 22 men and women elected for the first time as governors in November’s general election, including Walz, a Democrat. Among those attending were Governors-elect Tony Evers, a Wisconsin Democrat, and Kristi Noem, a South Dakota Republican. (Pioneer Press)
3. State presses utilities to get ready for electric cars. Minnesota’s electric utilities will be required to file detailed plans next year on how they will help increase electric vehicle adoption in the state, according to a unanimous decision Thursday by the Public Utilities Commission. Those plans, to be filed by June 30, 2019, must include initiatives to raise awareness of public charging stations for electric vehicles and residential charging options for EV owners. The PUC says utilities have to outline ways they plan to encourage the growth of charging stations. Utilities must also include information on how they plan to educate consumers on the benefits of EVs, and assist in the electrification of large fleets of vehicles owned by governmental agencies or businesses. “I think they took really bold action to spur electric vehicle growth,” said Andrew Twite with renewable energy advocacy group Fresh Energy. “This is a really important framework for electrification moving forward.” (MPR News)
4. PUC won’t reconsider pipeline route. State utility regulators denied requests Thursday morning to reconsider a route permit they granted earlier this year to Enbridge Energy to replace its Line 3 oil pipeline. With little discussion, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission unanimously rejected the request, which had come from landowners, environmental groups and the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe. The five-member commission voted unanimously in June to allow Enbridge to replace its aging Line 3 pipeline, which has been in operation since the 1960s. Enbridge says the replacement is necessary because the current Line 3 is corroded and cracked, which means it is more prone to leaking and can’t transport as much oil as it has in the past. When regulators denied their request Thursday morning, commissioner Katie Sieben said the replacement was for the good of the state. “The project will replace a pipeline that’s in terrible shape with a new one that will get oil off roads and train tracks,” she said. “I believe that’s in Minnesota’s best interest.” Sieben had originally opposed the route permit when the Commission approved it in June. But she said she supports it now because of several developments that have happened since then. Prime among them was an agreement that Enbridge reached with the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa to route a stretch of the new pipeline across the tribe’s reservation. (MPR News)
5. Former candidate charged with felony. The former St. Paul City Council candidate whose erratic behavior landed him in jail several times this year was charged Wednesday with allegedly posting a nude photo of his estranged wife online. David Martinez, 39, was charged in Ramsey County District Court with one felony count of nonconsensual dissemination of private sexual images. According to the complaint: Martinez’s estranged wife reported on July 14 that he had posted a nude photo of her on his WordPress.com page. A neighbor had alerted her to the image, which was accompanied by a link to an order for protection that the estranged wife had filed against Martinez. It had been served on him “a short time” prior to the image being posted. Martinez’s alleged post, entitled “Transparency,” included text that claimed the allegations in the order for protection were fabricated. (Star Tribune)