Daily Digest: Calendars, IRRRB grants, impeachment talk

Welcome to a new week. Time to catch up on politics news you may have missed over the weekend.

1. Much of Walz calendar to remain off-limits. DFL Gov. Tim Walz intends to release more self-selected information about his daily doings, although he won’t make public full details about meetings and events he attends, his office said Friday. Under the new approach, Walz plans to disclose more appearances before groups even if those aren’t public speeches. Currently, only public events are included on the daily listing produced by his office, which sometimes show nothing about his plans for that day. “Gov. Walz has decided that he will provide more information than legally required under the Data Practices Act,” Walz’s deputy general counsel Emily Parks said Friday in denying a request for complete disclosure of his calendar. “Going forward, we will be including more information in the daily public schedules.” It’s still shy of the new level of transparency he spoke of as a candidate and new governor. (MPR News)

2. Pattern of IRRRB aid raises concerns. A state economic development program intended to foster economic growth on northern Minnesota’s Iron Range has given more money per capita in the past five years for projects in influential state Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk’s district than any other — by about one-third, according to a Star Tribune review of public records. The pattern of grants distributed by the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board, known as the IRRRB, has opened the agency to new allegations of political favoritism, three years after a state audit questioned its governance structure and oversight of grants and loans. “It doesn’t seem right. I’m just going to put it like that. It does not seem right. Or equitable,” said Rep. Julie Sandstede, DFL-Hibbing. Rep. Sandy Layman, R-Cohasset, a former IRRRB commissioner, called the split in per capita spending “extraordinary.” (Star Tribune)

3. Phillips plays down impeachment talk, plays up bipartisanship. Outside a town hall meeting in the western Twin Cities suburb of Mound on Saturday, U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips was greeted by a group handing out peaches, a man dressed as Uncle Sam and a sign that said “IMPEACH.” Amid a wide-ranging discussion, many of the more than 200 people on hand Saturday were eager to know the Democratic congressman’s take on whether to pursue impeachment of President Trump. To date, Phillips has said he does not support that move. Phillips told constituents that he’d rather spend the next few weeks working with Senate Republicans on a fix to the Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) program that affects many Liberians living in Minnesota, as well as a long-term solution to the system for those who seek asylum in the United States. The first-term congressman also said he’d like to consider Republican-led proposals intended to protect the 2020 elections. That bipartisan work, he said, would be put on hold if impeachment proceedings begin. (MPR News)

4. Seeking insurance help from the Legislature. Parker Barnes was recovering from strep throat a couple of years ago when, almost overnight, his body launched an attack on his brain. The otherwise happy and healthy 10-year-old boy was suddenly prone to bouts of rage. He experienced hallucinations and seizures, and he developed a throat-clearing tic and obsessive compulsive tendencies that he’d never shown before. “It’s ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ stuff, it’s ‘Wes Craven’ stuff,” said Parker’s dad, Brian. “It’s like, how does someone I know so well suddenly become this?”Then one day, Parker’s younger brother found him in the upstairs bathroom clutching a kitchen knife, threatening to kill himself. He was taken to an inpatient psychiatric facility and evaluated by a psychiatrist. That’s when a medical professional mentioned PANDAS for the first time. It’s short for pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders associated with streptococcal infections, a little-known diagnosis that could be more common than medical professionals realized. The diagnosis was a relief, but it was just the beginning of years of expensive treatment and battles with insurance companies to get it covered. The ordeal landed Parker’s parents at the testifiers table this Legislative session, pushing for a bill to require insurers operating in the state to cover PANDAS, and a related illness, pediatric acute-onset neuropsychiatric syndrome, or PANS. (MPR News)

5. Will cameras in sentencing hearings lead to broader use in courts? For decades, Minnesota has resisted allowing cameras in courtrooms for the usual arguments — lawyers would grandstand, witnesses would be intimidated, decorum would be disrupted if public proceedings were recorded and broadcast. Under rules that allowed the judge, prosecutors or defense attorneys to veto camera coverage during the trial phase, seeing a Minnesota trial on TV “would be as common as running into a unicorn in deer hunting season,” as media attorney Mark Anfinson put it. But video coverage of high-profile sentencings — which don’t require approval from the parties involved — is giving a more frequent glimpse inside Minnesota courts. That’s cheered advocates of openness in the court system, even as they wish for easier access at the trial phase. “It’s a definite first step. It’s not the finish line,” said Anfinson, who has seen an increasing number of video requests from news organizations since the state court system launched a pilot project in 2015. (Associated Press)

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