Good Monday morning. It’s time to catch up on some of the political news from the weekend.
1. Still disagreement over taking federal election security money. As the release of the Mueller report this week made clear, Russia interfered with the 2016 presidential election. In Illinois, Russian hackers made it into the state’s voter registration database. Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon, a Democrat, is trying to ward off similar attacks. But he says he needs access to federal money already allocated to Minnesota by the federal government for that specific purpose. The DFL House has authorized him to use all $6.6 million Congress allowed, while the Republican Senate agreed to just $1.5 million. “We’re the only state in the country that has not gotten clearance to use this money,” Simon said. “It’s being blocked, it’s being impeded, it’s being limited by the Minnesota Senate right now, for reasons that they won’t even articulate.” (MPR News)
2. #MeToo changing dynamics at the Capitol. The shift is often subtle: A legislator pauses at the start of an inappropriate joke or before a hug, then thinks better of it. A year and a half after reports of sexual harassment rocked the Legislature and prompted two resignations, lawmakers and lobbyists describe a changed atmosphere at the State Capitol. People are more cautious and aware of what crosses the line. “It’s very, very different,” said Speaker of the House Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park. “I think there’s an absolutely zero-tolerance environment.” There is also a new group of House members, many of them younger women, who are outspoken about addressing harassment and gender equality. But some at the Capitol say they worry that the good behavior and awareness will fall by the wayside if the energy of the #MeToo movement fades from the spotlight. “It’s lurking and in hiding. … It’s not just like this one shining, glowing moment changes everything. It’s a long walk to the end of it,” lobbyist Nancy Hylden said. (Star Tribune)
3. The judge overseeing the Noor trial. When Kathryn Quaintance became a judge more than 18 years ago, she suspected she wouldn’t be quite the active participant she had been as a tough-as-nails prosecutor the decade before. She couldn’t have been more wrong. “I had some apprehension about sitting and listening a lot as opposed to being sort of a player in the situation,” she said a 2001 interview on Minneapolis public access TV. “And I find it way more fascinating than I thought it was going to be. “Nothing is ever, ever dull,” she added. “There’s always incredibly compelling stories.” Now, a major story is unfurling in her tiny Hennepin County courtroom as former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor is on trial in the 2017 on-duty shooting death of Justine Ruszczyk. Quaintance’s demeanor, rulings and decisions are being closely watched across the globe. They also are likely to be reviewed even after a jury hands down its decision in the case, and could be used if attorneys appeal the case. And those who have watched her work — in private practice, in the Hennepin County Attorney’s office, then on the county’s juvenile court bench and as a district court judge — said there’s no one better to preside over the case. (MPR News)
4. As legislative clock ticks, negotiations should ramp up. The Minnesota Legislature reconvenes for the homestretch of the 2019 session on Tuesday, with no agreements yet on any of the big issues involving taxes and spending, while the deadline looms just four weeks away. Nevertheless, Democratic Gov. Tim Walz and legislative leaders from both parties say there’s still plenty of time to finish the main job of the session by May 20 — passing a two-year budget likely to be somewhere between the $47.6 billion Senate Republicans have proposed and the $49.4 billion Walz proposed. The fundamental challenge is that while the governor and the Democratic-controlled House are closely aligned, Republicans who control the Senate firmly oppose raising taxes while the state has a projected $1 billion surplus . The partisan split also shows up on spending. All three sides have to agree, so expect some difficult negotiations. (Associated Press)
5. Some Democrats distancing themselves from Omar. While embattled Minnesota U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar fends off attacks from President Donald Trump, two fellow Democrats, including a fellow House freshman, have declined political contributions from her campaign. The campaign of Rep. Lucy McBath of Georgia told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that she was not accepting a $2,000 contribution from Omar. McBath represents a suburban Atlanta district. Dan McCready, a Democratic candidate for Congress in North Carolina, also refused a $2,000 donation. McCready explained on Twitter: “I did this weeks ago because I vigorously disagree with any anti-Semitic comments.” (Star Tribune)