Welcome back from the holiday hiatus. Time to catch up on some stories you may have missed.
1. Flanagan has high ambitions for traditionally low profile office. Minnesota's lieutenant governor has only a short list of duties prescribed in state law. They include serving on a handful of committees related to Capitol planning and security. The only responsibility spelled out in the state constitution is to succeed the governor, if necessary. Peggy Flanagan has a lot more in mind. "I think my role will be to be Gov. Walz's top advisor and to work on issues around public engagement, family economic security, some of those issues that I focused on in the Legislature," she said. (MPR News)
2. Omar embodies crosscurrents around race, religion and immigration. As a 12-year-old refugee from Somalia adjusting to life in the Virginia suburbs, Ilhan Omar fended off bullies who stuck gum on her scarf, knocked her down stairs and jumped her when she changed clothes for gym class. Her father “sat me down, and he said, ‘Listen, these people who are doing all of these things to you, they’re not doing something to you because they dislike you,’” Ms. Omar recalled in a recent interview. “They are doing something to you because they feel threatened in some way by your existence.” Now Ms. Omar is Representative-elect Ilhan Omar, Democrat of Minnesota, and her father’s words still hold. Nearly a quarter-century later, as Democrats prepare to assume control of the House with an extraordinarily diverse freshman class, she is perhaps Washington’s most glorified and vilified newcomer — a vehicle for the hopes of millions of Muslims and others touched by her life story, and for the fears of those who feel threatened by her. (New York Times)
3. Education a top agenda item in legislative session. With a projected $1.5 billion surplus, a new cast of lawmakers and a former teacher in the governor’s office, Minnesota education leaders are hopeful the 2019 legislative session will be a particularly fruitful one for the state’s K-12 schools. Advocates have a long list of pressing issues. There are growing funding shortfalls for special education, gaps in student mental health services and safety improvements needed for school buildings. Many like what they heard on the campaign trail, where candidates pledged to prioritize early education funding, tackle the state’s teacher shortage and finally put a dent in Minnesota’s persistent achievement gap. Now, education groups and school district leaders from around the state are preparing to spend five months lobbying legislators to ensure they follow through on those promises — and hoping their priorities don’t get lost amid broader political battles. (Star Tribune)
4. New life for gun control at the Capitol? Emboldened by solid gains on election night, Minnesota Democrats plan to push hard for stricter gun laws at the Capitol this year. Expanding criminal background checks for sales and creating “red flag” protective orders will be near the top of their agenda when they take control of the House on Jan. 8. Democratic Gov.-elect Tim Walz, a gun owner once backed by the NRA, also supports the proposals. A Republican-led Senate, though, could stand in the way. (Pioneer Press)
5. Judge says Commons park deal violates Minneapolis charter. Come Jan. 21, it’s unclear who will operate the downtown Minneapolis park adjacent to U.S. Bank Stadium. On Monday, a Hennepin County judge ruled the city violated its charter by entering into an agreement with the Park and Recreation Board to operate the Commons park. The decision marks a significant victory for two local activists who have mounted an ambitious pro se legal battle against the city over its ownership agreement of the Commons, arguing the contract violates the Minneapolis charter and gives a sweetheart deal to the Vikings on the backs of taxpayers. (Star Tribune)