Welcome to a frigid Wednesday. It’s cold enough to put a chill on business at the Legislature, but never fear, your Digest is here.
1. Examining violence against Native American women. In tribal communities across Minnesota and the nation, women and girls go missing or are murdered at staggering rates. Despite making up less than 1 percent of the Minnesota population, homicide rates for Native American women in Minnesota were seven times higher than for white women between 1990 and 2016, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. On Tuesday, the House public safety committee heard testimony on a proposal to create a task force on missing and murdered indigenous women. Under bills in both the House and Senate, the statewide task force would dig into the underlying factors and systemic causes that explain why higher levels of violence occur against Native American women. (MPR News)
2. For these ballots, late might as well be never. More than 400 mail-in ballots went uncounted in the special election primary in Senate District 11 earlier this month. The ballots were returned following the Jan. 22 primary and arrived too late to be counted. Most of the late ballots came in Carlton County, where 250 ballots arrived Friday — days after the election, said Auditor Paul Gassert, who added that ballots continued to trickle in Monday with 12 more. “If I’m a voter,” Gassert said, “it’s frustrating.” Stu Lourey defeated Michelle Lee, 1,932 to 1,699, in the Democratic-Farmer-Labor primary. Lee outpointed Lourey in Carlton County, 1,161 to 896, but was roundly defeated in Pine County. (Duluth News Tribune)
3. Dog days of the session already?! Minnesota lawmaker says she wants to bring some joy and humor to the state Capitol this session by getting people talking about dogs. State Sen. Carrie Ruud, R-Breezy Point, unveiled legislation Tuesday to designate the Labrador retriever as Minnesota’s official dog breed. During a news conference with some fellow lawmakers and some dogs, Ruud said the bill can help build relationships. “We look at the dogs down here and they’re having a good time getting along together and maybe we should take that as our example,” Ruud said. (MPR News)
4. Adapting adoption law for same-sex marriages. Half of married gay women in Minnesota are forced to adopt their own children under Minnesota law. That inequity — man-woman married couples don’t have this hurdle — is a paradox, since same-sex married couples are supposed to have the same rights in the state. In 2013, same-sex marriage became legal. The legal inequity is the result of other laws — with gender-specific language — that were never changed when same-sex marriage was legalized. Outside of gay-rights advocates and the affected parents themselves, the situation appears to have received little public attention, until now. Several Democrats at the state Capitol are leading a push to change state law, but it’s unclear if it will pass the Republican-controlled Senate. (Pioneer Press)
5. Range lawmakers OK with keeping Essar out of state. Essar Global’s involvement with the state of Minnesota may be no more. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources wrote to Mesabi Metallics CEO Gary Heasley on Monday telling him the agency was moving forward on a process to exclude Essar Global and its affiliates from working in the state. Further, the letter says that the DNR is continuing its review of whether Mesabi Metallics is in compliance with the terms of state permits and mineral leases awarded to the company in July 2018 for the former Essar Steel Minnesota project in Nashwauk. DNR officials met with the Iron Range Delegation on Monday, when the decision to pursue an Essar ban was supported. (Mesabi Daily News)