Daily Digest: Split in state House GOP

Good morning, and welcome to Monday. Hope you had a good weekend. Here's the Digest.

1. Republican splinter group in state House. A quartet of rural members of the Minnesota House say they will split from fellow Republicans and form their own caucus to oppose the incoming DFL majority. Reps. Steve Drazkowski of Mazeppa, Cal Bahr of East Bethel, Tim Miller of Prinsburg and Jeremy Munson of Lake Crystal notified House leaders Friday of their intentions. Drazkowski told MPR News on Saturday that the split isn’t about ideology. He said the move is in response to infighting and a difficult working culture with the current GOP leadership. “It doesn’t change the fact we’re still Republican. As a matter of fact, our caucus of four is very committed to Republican ideals and values,” he said. “We’ll be working very hard to strengthen our party throughout Minnesota, strengthen party units and conservative organizations throughout the state so that we can win the election in two years instead of continuing on a course that could be very similar to the one (in November’s election) that really just took 25 percent of our Republican membership in the House.” Drazkowski says the break-off group will be known as the “New House Republican Caucus.” (MPR News)

2.  Will Minnesota be the next states to legalize recreational marijuana use? Gov.-elect Tim Walz, who favors ending marijuana prohibition, will replace Gov. Mark Dayton, who doesn’t. A new Democratic House majority will debate proposals to legalize next year and will likely take votes on the issue as soon as 2019 or 2020. And, not one but two legal pot parties — the Grassroots-Legalize Cannabis Party and Legal Marijuana Now Party — emerged with 5 percent of the vote in statewide elections, giving them “major party status,” which means automatic ballot access and the chance for campaign subsidies. “Prohibition doesn’t work,” Walz said in an interview last week. Legalization of marijuana would allow law enforcement to divert resources elsewhere, while taxes from cannabis sales would raise money for new spending initiatives. Finally, Walz said, “There’s a racial justice element to it,” referring to the disproportionately higher numbers of minority group members arrested and caught up in the criminal justice system for marijuana possession. Legalization is far from certain, however. (Star Tribune)

3. Elder abuse once again on legislative agenda. In 2019 the Legislature will again take up reforms aimed at keeping vulnerable and elderly Minnesotans safe and holding accountable those who are charged with their care. Efforts to do so earlier this year failed.  Rep. Liz Olson, DFL-Duluth, who will be the majority whip in the DFL-controlled House when the Legislature convenes in a month, said she's hopeful her chamber and the Republican-controlled Senate will come together to create meaningful change. So are her fellow lawmakers. "We don't have another year to put this issue on the back burner," said Sen. Karin Housley, R-St. Mary's Point. "Everyone has been working on it in the interim here — I think the best ideas come from the grassroots, not from us legislators down." (Duluth News Tribune)

4. Former ag secretary Bergland dies. Former U.S. agriculture secretary and Minnesota congressman Bob Bergland has died at age 90. Bergland's daughter Linda Vatnsdal said he died Sunday at a nursing home in Roseau in northern Minnesota. He had been at the nursing home for about a week after a couple of weeks in a hospital, she said. As agriculture secretary for President Jimmy Carter from 1977 to 1981, Bergland had the difficult job of defending to Midwest farmers Carter's unpopular 1980 decision to embargo grain sales to the Soviet Union after the invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. Vice President Walter Mondale recalled Sunday that both he and Bergland did not like the grain embargo. "I don't think it was good policy," Mondale told the Associated Press. "This is going to mean Russians are going to buy their grain somewhere else. ... I urged the president not to do it. He felt he had to do it." (AP)

5. Evers not expecting that Walker will veto GOP bills. Wisconsin Gov.-elect Tony Evers called on Gov. Scott Walker to veto Republican lame-duck proposals limiting his power Sunday on "Meet the Press" — but Evers added that he's "not particularly encouraged" after talking with the outgoing governor. “I communicated with Governor Walker over the telephone a few days ago, and laid out my position that vetoing the legislation was going to be an important thing not only to make sure that what happened last November — the vote of the people of Wisconsin — is actually upheld, and we’re putting people in front of politics,” Evers said. "But also, it's just bad legislation." Evers said Walker was "noncommittal" during their conversation, adding, "So I’m not particularly encouraged at this point in time. He has a legacy here," Evers said. "We're hopeful that he'll veto the whole thing." (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)


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