Daily Digest: Walz tries new approach

Good morning, and welcome to Thursday. Gov. Tim Walz is due to be in Washington today to testify about infrastructure needs. Let’s start the Digest with the governor.

1. Walz tries for ‘fresh start’ with lawmakers. The newcomer in the Minnesota Capitol’s corner office is busy studying lawmaker biographies, getting up to speed on pressing issues facing the Legislature and trying to project an open-door policy even on the thorniest of issues. For good or bad, DFL Gov. Tim Walz came in without much history in state-level affairs despite a dozen years serving in Congress. That means few of the deep-rooted relationships or long-held grudges that can propel a governor’s agenda forward or hold it back. Now a month into his new job, Walz prefers to see it as an advantage in a place where breakdowns and standoffs had become the norm. “It gives us the chance at resets and fresh starts,” he said in a recent interview with MPR News. Starting Tuesday, Walz will bring waves of Minnesota House and Senate members to the official Summit Avenue residence to mingle with him, wife Gwen and a few agency commissioners. The receptions, including 30 lawmakers each and a guest of their choice, are meant to be informal get-to-know-you events. The guest lists won’t be based on seniority, party affiliation or anything strategic. “We’re just going to go alphabetical,” Walz said. (MPR News)

2. Unnamed former Klobuchar staffers say she was a bad boss. Some former staffers of Sen. Amy Klobuchar, all of whom spoke to HuffPost on condition of anonymity, describe Klobuchar as habitually demeaning and prone to bursts of cruelty that make it difficult to work in her office for long. It is common for staff to wake up to multiple emails from Klobuchar characterizing one’s work as “the worst” briefing or press release she’d seen in her decades of public service, according to two former aides and emails seen by HuffPost. Others who worked for Klobuchar say they valued the experience. Those employees described working for her as a challenge, but an exhilarating one that caused them to grow and perform their best work. They question whether former co-workers who thought she was abusive were falling for sexist stereotypes about female leaders with high standards. Reached for comment, Klobuchar’s office referred HuffPost to multiple ex-staffers who shared glowing statements about working for her. “I’ve heard people say she’s tough to work for and I sometimes cringe when I hear it because I rarely hear that said about male bosses in Congress despite the fact that half of Congress is tough to work for,” said Tristan Brown, a former legislative aide who called Klobuchar “probably the most brilliant, hardworking person I’ve had the privilege to work for.” (HuffPost)

3. Wage theft a top priority for state House Democrats. Robin Pikala, a personal care assistant from Fridley, said she worked 45 days without pay in 2004 as her employer approached bankruptcy. “I kept working, hoping for the best. But as all too often is the case, the harm was never made right. The owners got off unpunished.” Rep. Tim Mahoney, DFL-St. Paul, said most employers are not cheating workers. But he said those who do are criminals that need to be held accountable. “I represent an area that has people who live on a paycheck-to-paycheck basis. When they don’t get paid, when they get stolen from, their lives spiral out of control, whether it’s they can’t pay their rent or they can’t put food on the table for their kids. That’s wrong.” Under a bill authored by Mahoney and approved on a voice vote by the House Labor Committee Wednesday, employers would need to keep detailed records on employee pay. They would face tougher penalties for failing to meet any pay requirements. The Department of Labor and Industry would also get additional authority to enforce wage laws, including subpoena power. Some committee members question how big of a problem wage theft is and whether the legislation would put too big a burden on employers. (MPR News)

4. Lawmakers form United Black Legislative Caucus. Six metro-area DFL legislators are pledging to elevate and advocate for issues important to Minnesota’s black communities, including education equity and job opportunities. They held a news conference Wednesday to announce the formation of the United Black Legislative Caucus. Three veteran lawmakers: Sens. Bobby Joe Champion and Jeff Hayden of Minneapolis and Rep. Rena Moran of St. Paul have joined forces with three newly-elected state representatives: Hodan Hassan and Mohamud Noor of Minneapolis and Ruth Richardson of Mendota Heights. “It has taken generations to achieve the level of representation our community now has at the Capitol,” said Moran, who is serving her fifth term in the House. “The six of us all represent different communities, different constituencies and have our own backgrounds and life experiences. But we come from one foundation that unites us all,” she added. The lawmakers said they plan to address economic, education and criminal justice issues and the disparities between black and white Minnesotans. (MPR News)

5. Group says tariffs will kill jobs. Tariffs applied to imports by the Trump administration and retaliation to them will kill hundreds of thousands of U.S. jobs, raise household expenses by hundreds to thousands of dollars a year and slow national economic growth if they continue. That’s the message of a newly released study commissioned by tariff opponents. The Tariffs Hurt the Heartland campaign released the study on Capitol Hill Wednesday with support from four U.S. Senators, two Republicans and two Democrats. It was another volley in an escalating economic policy fight pitting American multinational businesses that believe in a global economy against an administration using punitive levies on foreign companies to get U.S. businesses and consumers to buy American. Tariffs Hurt the Heartland is a coalition of trade groups and agriculture groups whose member companies include such major Minnesota businesses as 3M, Cargill, Target Corp. and Best Buy, as well as Farmers for Free Trade, which includes Minnesota members, and the Minnesota Retail Association. The study predicted a net loss of more than 934,000 U.S. jobs — including 16,100 in Minnesota — over the next one to three years if current tariffs stay in place and certain threatened escalations occur. (Star Tribune)

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