…”strong.” You probably guessed as much. But, of course, there’s more, and you can read about it via your Thursday Digest.
1. Walz describes state of state through stories of Minnesotans. Mary Ingman lost her husband Charlie in a head-on car collision on a notoriously dangerous stretch of a highway in southern Minnesota. Amanda Fjeld is a math teacher whose northern Minnesota school district is facing layoffs if a voter referendum doesn’t pass next week. Dairy farmers Debora and Kent Mills lived for a time without health insurance because they couldn’t afford coverage. In an anecdote-heavy address to the Minnesota Legislature Wednesday night, DFL Gov. Tim Walz used the stories from nearly a dozen hand-picked guests to make the case that lawmakers should support his plan to pump funding into state transportation projects, classrooms and access to affordable healthcare. “Behind every one of the debates we have here, we have real people being impacted by this,” Walz said. “Real people.” (MPR News)
2. With victims in mind, Minneapolis promises better sexual assault investigations. Minneapolis city leaders unveiled a broad overhaul of sexual assault investigations Wednesday morning, promising to improve police response and place a new emphasis on victims’ needs. The policy embraces a set of training and investigation protocols recently adopted by the state’s top police oversight body, the Peace Officer Standards and Training Board. It will also emphasize an approach known “trauma-informed” interviewing, which recognizes that sexual assault victims experience the crimes in a way that can alter their behaviors and recollections. A similar approach was adopted by a Utah police department following concerns in that state, and produced a dramatic increase in prosecutions and convictions. At a briefing Wednesday morning, Mayor Jacob Frey and Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said they have been working on the reforms since last year, when a Star Tribune series exposed widespread failures in the investigation and prosecution of sexual assaults across Minnesota. (Star Tribune)
3. Legislature considering ban on flame-retardant chemicals. A bipartisan bill at the Minnesota Legislature would ban flame-retardant chemicals believed to be a health threat to firefighters and children. It would also restrict the use of a certain firefighting foam that has contaminated drinking water supplies around the country, including in Minnesota. But the bill has run into opposition from chemical manufacturers, who say the flame retardants are important for suppressing fires. They argue that Minnesota shouldn’t take action until the federal government weighs in on their safety and sets regulations. (MPR News)
4. Engaging the next generation. Amy Anderson thinks civics is cool. And she wants kids to think so, too. To get them engaged, she’s doing everything from helping to recruit teens to work as election judges to teaching them how to have respectful conversations in an era of increasingly polarizing politics and decreasing civility. “It’s more important than ever to not take for granted we need to teach kids these things,” she said. Anderson is the executive director of Minnesota Civic Youth, a St. Paul nonprofit that’s merging this spring with the YMCA’s Youth in Government program to create the Center for Youth Voice, a new statewide hub for civic engagement. It’s yet another nonpartisan effort aimed at teaching students to go beyond protests and rallies to create lasting change in government. (Star Tribune)
5. GOP ad pressures Phillips over Omar comments. A digital ad campaign launched Wednesday by a Republican advocacy group calls on U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips to demand the resignation of his fellow Minnesota Democrat, U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, from the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “Omar’s anti-Semitism has no place on the Foreign Affairs Committee and Dean Phillips should say so,” said former Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman. He is chairman of the board and co-founder of the D.C.-based American Action Network, which is funding what it described as a “six-figure campaign encouraging members to do the right thing after Omar’s repeated anti-Semitic remarks.” Omar and Phillips are both freshman members of the House. Omar angered fellow Democrats and drew attacks from Republicans after a tweet and later a public comment, both in February, that many prominent Democrats and Jewish leaders criticized as raising anti-Semitic tropes. In response, the House passed a resolution broadly condemning bigotry. (Star Tribune)