Daily Digest: Minnesota lawmakers’ eyes on federal shutdown

Happy Tuesday. The federal shutdown continues and Minnesota lawmakers are taking notice.

1. State services potentially impacted by federal shutdown. Gov. Tim Walz plans to outline a short-term state response Tuesday to a partial government shutdown now in its fourth week. “This is serious,” Walz said Monday at a Capitol briefing, referring to federal dollars that have been tied up and other fallout from the impasse in Washington. Walz budget chief Myron Frans separately fielded questions from a House committee about the shutdown’s effect on the state. Frans said state government officials are assessing the status of state workers whose paychecks are covered at least in part by shuttered areas of the federal government. (MPR News)

2. Walz, legislative leaders preview session goals. Believing early action will help build momentum for more contentious budget debates to come later, Gov. Tim Walz and top legislative leaders pledged Monday to reach agreement quickly this session on some noncontroversial bills and pass them into law. “I think that’s the right thing to do,” Walz said during a briefing with reporters hosted by Forum News Service. Walz said the potential candidates for early action include provisions aimed at fighting elder abuse and opioid addiction that were left unresolved last session. A measure to free up money earmarked for election security is also on the list. (MPR News)

3. Hands-free cellphone legislation coming. Minnesota legislators and advocates unfurled a new effort Monday to ban cellphone use without a hands-free device and increase penalties for texting while driving, in the face of rising concerns about distracted motoring. “I pray you do not have to go through what I’ve had to go through this past year,” said Joanne Lofgren Ploetz at a Capitol news conference, wearing her husband’s military jacket. Her husband John Ploetz was killed in December 2017 by a woman who was texting when she hit his car. Between 2013 and 2017, distracted driving contributed to 20 percent of Minnesota crashes, killing an average 53 people every year, according to the Department of Public Safety. Measures to require hands-free devices when using a cellphone while driving previously stalled out, most recently last year when a flurry of activity late in the legislative session came up short. (Star Tribune)

4. Complaints against Minneapolis cops spike. Nearly 400 complaints against Minneapolis police officers were filed with the city’s Office of Police Conduct Review in 2018. That’s a big jump over the 220 filed in 2016 and a similar number filed in 2017 — the same two-year period in which the department outfitted all of its patrol officers with body cameras. Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said the spike in complaints may be part of a nationwide public push for more police accountability. And he said he’s encouraged people to file complaints if they feel mistreated by his officers. “I think there are also more venues for our communities to file complaints,” said Arradondo. “Several years ago, someone would literally have to come into a police precinct and talk to a desk sergeant or an officer to file a complaint.” (MPR News)

5. Push is on for gun control legislationGun control activists and DFL legislators are expressing a newfound optimism that Democratic electoral gains in the suburbs will apply enough pressure on Republicans in those districts to pass a pair of proposed gun restrictions this year.“Minnesotans have been very loud and clear on asking for this,” House Speaker Melissa Hortman, D-Brooklyn Park, said Monday, a week after Democrats included a pair of gun measures among their first 10 initiatives introduced at the start of session.The bills are part of an ongoing effort led by DFL lawmakers to expand criminal background checks for all gun sales — closing a “loophole” where buyers can obtain firearms through private sales without a check. A second House proposal would enact a “red flag” law that would allow law enforcement or relatives to petition to take guns away from someone suspected of posing a threat to themselves or others. Similar measures are being prepared in the Senate. (Star Tribune)

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