Daily Digest: Police accountability, tariff costs, budget trims

Good morning and welcome to the start of a new week. Yes, the Mueller report dominated the weekend news cycle, but here’s some political news from the region you might have missed.

1. How will Klobuchar record on police accountability go over with Democrats? Violence was a dark feature of law enforcement in Minnesota’s largest county 20 years ago. Amy Klobuchar saw it firsthand as the Hennepin County prosecutor, though she kept a distance. Over eight years beginning in 1999, the city of Minneapolis paid $4.8 million in legal settlements related to 122 police misconduct incidents. And police officers and county sheriffs were involved in 29 deaths of civilians. Klobuchar, however, routinely chose not to criminally charge fatalities involving law enforcement. Instead, she put the decision to a grand jury, a process widely criticized for its secrecy and for mostly allowing the police version of events. As Klobuchar — a U.S. Senator from Minnesota – begins a run for president, her past decisions to not use the power of her office to punish bad cops or stand up for the communities she otherwise protected will contrast with a more diverse, more progressive Democratic electorate calling for greater police accountability. (MPR News)

2. Tariff costs spike for Minnesota businesses. In September 2018, Minnesota companies that imported Chinese-made vacuum cleaners spent no money on tariffs. A month later they spent $2 million. President Donald Trump’s 10 percent protective tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports took effect Sept. 24, 2018. Since then, those tariffs have added to the acquisition costs of thousands of U.S. businesses in hundreds of product categories, a new study commissioned by the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) shows. CTA is a trade group whose 2,500 members include Minnesota-based 3M and Best Buy. Its study found U.S. companies paid tariffs totaling $1.5 billion on Chinese imports in December 2018. A year earlier, they spent just $168 million. Minnesota businesses fared a little better. They spent roughly $32 million in tariffs on Chinese-made products in December 2018. A year earlier, the figure was around $4 million. (Star Tribune)

3. Walz trims budget proposal. Gov. Tim Walz scaled back his budget Friday to account for a shrinking pot of money, although even those revisions leave a plan legislative Republicans still see as too rich. Overall Walz’s revised budget totals $49.35 billion for the coming biennium, $121 million less than his original proposal. “We went through this line by line to maintain a balanced budget,” Walz said. “At the end we are in a fiscally solid place for One Minnesota.” Walz acknowledged that he wasn’t recommending cuts to any existing spending rather trimming some of the proposed increases he had put forward earlier. (MPR News)

4. Student push for more ed money pays off in Walz budget. When Janet Nguyen first heard that Gov. Tim Walz’s budget would give the University of Minnesota far less than it requested this year, the sophomore student deployed her six roommates. They each called the governor’s office to tell him to put up more money. A first-generation college student and campus government representative, Nguyen said she is personally worried about a potential tuition increase. She believes that for some classmates, it could determine whether they can stay in school. Nguyen and other student leaders at Minnesota’s public colleges and universities called Walz’s original budget plan in February a disappointment, saying it continues a troublesome saga of lower state spending per student in higher education. Walz responded Friday with a revised budget adding another $13 million for Minnesota State and $12 million for the University of Minnesota. (Star Tribune)

5. A move to bring back the parole board. After decades behind bars, Minnesota inmates serving life sentences must pin their hopes for freedom on just one man. Paul Schnell, the newly appointed Department of Corrections commissioner who determines which offenders are granted supervised release, isn’t sure that’s fair — or wise. “Should justice be dependent on who sits in the commissioner of Corrections role?” he said recently. “It’s a huge responsibility. I certainly don’t want to release anybody that’s going to pose a public safety risk.” Schnell believes that responsibility should be shared. He’s endorsing a bill now being debated in the Legislature to establish a five-member, bipartisan review board tasked with deciding lifers’ fates. If approved, it would roll back sole discretionary powers awarded to the DOC commissioner in 1982, when Minnesota abolished its formal parole board system. (Star Tribune)



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