Daily Digest: Distracted driving, assisted living and hotdish

Good Wednesday morning. Time to catch up on all the political news before the big storm hits.

1. Distracted driving bill inches closer to law. The final version of a cell phone bill affecting Minnesota drivers is halfway home. The Minnesota House voted 107-19 on Tuesday to restrict motorist phone use to hands-free mode. The Senate could vote Wednesday to send the bill to Gov. Tim Walz, who plans to sign it. It gives law enforcement the ability to stop and ticket drivers seen holding a phone. Republican Rep. Paul Torkelson, R-Hanska, said it’s a step toward cutting down on roadway distractions. “We don’t have to text and drive. We don’t have to do anything but drive we when drive. But we choose to do other things when we’re driving,” Torkelson said. “But that’s a choice we each make, and some of us make that choice poorly and we do things in our car we should not be doing.” The bill has been before the Legislature for several years. Supporters say severe injuries and deaths caused by distracted drivers demand that lawmakers do something. (MPR News)

2. Report details assisted-living industry problems. An elderly resident of an assisted-living facility in Burnsville was discovered dead in a pond after wandering away unsupervised. Another died from a painful and untreated hernia after repeatedly crying out for help. Others fell in their rooms and were left on the floor for hours, unnoticed. Those were some of the alarming details in a 30-page report on Minnesota’s assisted-living industry released at the State Capitol Tuesday by a coalition of consumer advocacy groups. The report, which coincides with legislation to improve safeguards for vulnerable adults, uncovered alarming conditions at some senior homes and numerous incidents of preventable deaths. (Star Tribune)

3. Winners spice up congressional hotdish competition. U.S. Reps. Betty McCollum and Ilhan Omar put the heat in hotdish on Tuesday, winning first and second place in the Minnesota delegation’s annual hotdish cook-off with a pair of casseroles with international flair. McCollum, the only member of the delegation who couldn’t make it in person, took home first prize — a custom glass casserole dish — with her homage to her St. Paul-area district’s large Hmong population. “Hotdish A-Hmong Friends” included two pounds of ground beef, a bunch of vegetables, some egg roll wraps and four Thai chiles, among many other ingredients. Omar’s second-place dish, “Little Moga-hot-dishu,” also packed a spicy punch. Maybe too spicy, Omar suggested afterward. (Star Tribune)

4. Former Trump critic Norm Coleman praises the president. Former Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman appears to have had a big change of heart about President Donald Trump. The once fierce critic of Trump is being criticized on social media for now praising the president in an adapted Passover reading. Coleman, the chair of the Republican Jewish Coalition, adapted a Passover “Dayenu” to tout Trump’s support for Israel and his cancellation of the Iranian nuclear deal. Coleman said he hasn’t completely changed his mind about Trump and there are still a things he disagrees with the president about. But when it comes to the relationship between the U.S. and Israel, Coleman says Trump has the best policies of any president. “We judge people by their deeds,” Coleman said. “In terms of the U.S.—Israel relationship, I’m judging Donald Trump by his deeds, in that instance he really has been the best friend Israel has had in the White House.” (Pioneer Press)

5. Renewable energy jobs grow as lawmakers consider future of clean energy legislation. The number of Minnesota jobs in energy efficiency and renewable energy grew by nearly 5 percent from 2017 to 2018, bringing total clean energy jobs to more than 61,000, according to a report released Tuesday at the State Capitol. Clean Energy Economy Minnesota’s annual report shows clean energy jobs make up 2 percent of all jobs in Minnesota. The group, which advocates for companies who manufacture and install renewable energy or energy efficient technologies, expects clean energy jobs will increase 7.3 percent in 2019 from the previous year. State officials said the analysis shows clean energy is a growing economic sector for Minnesota and would get a boost from legislation calling for 100 percent clean energy by 2050. That legislation has received hearings at the Capitol but might not make it through the Republican-controlled Senate. (MPR News)

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