Daily Digest: House Democrats set their agenda

Good morning, and welcome to Thursday. Here’s the Digest.

1. House Democrats lay out their priorities. Members of the new DFL majority in the Minnesota House released a package of legislative proposals Wednesday that they say are designed to improve peoples’ lives. Their first 10 bills of the 2019 session include a MinnesotaCare buy-in option for health care coverage, paid family leave, and criminal background checks for all gun purchases. There are also bills related to aimed reducing prescription drug prices, public education, wage theft, sexual harassment and rural broadband expansion. House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, described the bills as a “snapshot” of issues that need additional work in the months ahead. “We are talking about the needs of Minnesotans, regardless of whether or not it can pass this session or this biennium, in the next two years, four years, six years, eight years,” Winkler said. “These are the needs of Minnesotans. And that is why we are bringing this agenda forward.” House DFL leaders say their “Minnesota Values Agenda” was developed last year after a series of listening sessions throughout the state and what they heard from voters during the campaign. (MPR News)

2. Walz speaks to business leaders. In his first address to the business community since he was sworn in DFL Gov. Tim Walz said he understands worries about overtaxation and wants to make sure tax dollars are spent effectively. He also said his administration will listen to business owners’ concerns about onerous regulations. “We, as government, need to not see you as coming to us to try to get around something,” Walz told the crowd at an annual Minnesota Chamber of Commerce event Wednesday. “You are bringing those things up because you feel that they’re not effective, burdensome and costly to your business, without improving the lives of workers or the environment.” While the state’s major business groups largely supported Republican candidates this election season, members of the business community said they are optimistic about working with Walz, whom they described as pragmatic. (Star Tribune)

3. Walz signs order on diversity, inclusion and equity. The first official action of Gov. Tim Walz’s administration was to renew a promise the state will strive to be more equitable and inclusive and for the first time making geography a focus of those efforts. “In Minnesota, we all know we are better off when we are in it together,” Walz said. “The state must be a leader in ensuring everyone has an opportunity to thrive.” Walz signed an executive order creating the “One Minnesota Council on Diversity, Inclusion and Equity,” Wednesday at the Capitol. The governor will lead the council that Walz said builds on the work of former Gov. Mark Dayton’s administration. “Disparities in Minnesota, including those based on race, geography (and) economic status keep our entire state from reaching its full potential,” Walz said. “As long as these inequities impact Minnesotans ability to be successful, we’ve got more work to do.” (Pioneer Press)

4. Shutdown hits home in Rochester. While correctional officer Heidi Wiplinger has gone through three government shutdowns in her 12 years at the Federal Medical Center, this one feels different. This time she and her husband, Nick, have their 4-year-old triplet sons to think about as finances get tight. “I have a really bad feeling that it’s going to last a lot longer than anybody is prepared for. This one has felt different all along,” she said as her three sons played in the background. “There is a lot of uncertainty… Everybody’s worried.”  She and the other 320 members of the Local 3447 labor union who work at Rochester’s FMC are still going to work every day. About a dozen couples work there, with both incomes for the family coming from the prison. Wiplinger, who is a union steward, works a six day on, two days off schedule as she juggles family responsibilities. She received a partial paycheck on Dec. 31, though no check is expected for the work she has done since the shutdown began. That means Rochester businesses, such as child care centers, grocery stores and gas stations, will soon find many customers have a lot less money to spend, if the shutdown continues. (Rochester Post Bulletin)

5. No GOP primary for Senate district 11 seat. There will be no primary on the Republican side of the special election in Minnesota Senate District 11, where party members endorsed state Rep. Jason Rarick on Tuesday in Hinckley.  “I feel energized,” Rarick said. “It was such an incredible turnout, and right from the beginning we knew we were going to come out with one candidate. It means so much to me to be supported. I’m going to hit it hard for the next 28 days.” The Senate District 11 seat was vacated last week when Tony Lourey was appointed to Gov. Tim Walz’s cabinet as human services commissioner. Other Republican candidates who had sought the endorsement dropped out Wednesday. Senate District 11 represents all of Carlton and Pine counties, eastern Kanabec County and a portion of southern St. Louis County. The special general election will be held Feb. 5. On the DFL side, Stu Lourey and Michelle Lee are headed for a primary, which will be held Jan. 22. (Duluth News Tribune)

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