Good morning, and welcome to Thursday. Here's the Digest.
1. Democrats in Washington split over Omar. House Democrats on Wednesday postponed indefinitely a vote on a resolution condemning anti-Semitism after a contentious meeting in which some new members confronted leaders over their push to rebuke Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota. In the party's weekly closed meeting, Democrats protested the way Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other leaders tried to rush out a resolution this week responding to Omar's latest remark about Israel. Omar last week suggested the Jewish state's supporters are pushing lawmakers to pledge "allegiance" to a foreign country. That forced Democratic leaders to respond, but their draft of the resolution condemning anti-Semitism angered Omar's fellow freshmen and their liberal supporters. Pelosi had already said the measure would be broadened to decry anti-Muslim bias. But that didn't quiet the ranks, and the party's first major dissension broke out in an uncomfortable confrontation, according to three officials familiar with the episode. The upheaval prompted Democrats, who regularly celebrate their diversity, to push off a decision about the resolution. (AP)
2. Rochester school tries full-service model. Classroom instruction alone isn't enough to meet the needs of many students at Riverside Central Elementary School in Rochester. So, Riverside's leaders have embraced a nationally recognized arts initiative, together with a full-service schooling model where education, health care and other student and family needs are met under one roof. The idea has caught the attention of DFL Gov. Tim Walz, a former teacher, who's pressing now for more money from the Legislature to expand full-service schools. Some observers believe it could help close the state's yawning achievement gap, although it's succeeded in some schools and come up short in others. Minnesota Education Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker said the idea is to get kids and their parents engaged with school by providing support and activities they would have trouble accessing elsewhere. Research shows the strategy can pay off. A recent study of arts programming at several Houston schools found the proportion of students receiving a disciplinary infraction dropped 3.6 percentage points compared to students in the control group. Students' writing scores went up, as did their ability to empathize. (MPR News)
3. How high's the water? Legislature begins preparing for spring floods. With lots of snow on the ground and more in the forecast, state officials and even the Legislature are starting to prepare for floods. The danger zone this year? “From Rock County to Cook County, from Houston County to Kittson County -- the entire state because there is so much snow sitting out there,” said Kevin Reed, deputy director of the Homeland Security and Emergency Management division of the state Department of Public Safety. “It really just depends on where the melt happens. I can’t say there’s a hotspot. But every large river is something we’re looking at.” Reed appeared before a Minnesota House committee Wednesday to explain why lawmakers should replenish a disaster contingency account with $10 million. It would cover expenses and possible local reimbursements between now and July. Reed encountered little resistance, and the committee approved the legislation containing the money. Rep. Sandy Layman, R-Cohasset, asked whether $10 million is enough. “It’s better to be safe than sorry and this is an account that we can anticipate with unexpected weather events and what we’ve experienced so far that I would certain be in favor of looking at additional funding.” (MPR News)
4. Ramsey County wants to end development partnership with Arden Hills. After months of escalating friction, Ramsey County has told the city of Arden Hills that it wants to terminate their partnership agreement on the Rice Creek Commons project — and hopes to design the project with the developer alone. Progress on the 427-acre project on the site formerly known as the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant — for which the county has already invested $41 million — has been at a standstill for months. The county owns the property. In a letter Wednesday to the city’s attorney, the Ramsey County attorney’s office said they wished to terminate the project’s Joint Powers Agreement. “It has become clear that the cooperative relationship contemplated by the Joint Powers Agreement is no longer functional and the JPA has failed in its essential purpose,” stated the letter, written by assistant Ramsey County attorney Amy Schmidt. The letter references a recent meeting of Arden Hills City Council, in which members rejected the idea of mediating with the county. (Pioneer Press)
5. Kahn says not so fast on park named for Mondale.A former longtime Democratic lawmaker says she’s not in favor of renaming a state park after former Vice President Walter Mondale. At least not yet, anyway. That’s because there’s a Minnesota law against legislators naming entities — including buildings, roads and facilities — after a living person. Former state Rep. Phyllis Kahn of Minneapolis authored the 2009 law and thinks it’s still sage advice. “It’s hard to object about such a wonderful person as Walter Mondale but the basic premise is, let time be our guide and not rush into this,” Kahn said Wednesday. However, a sponsor of the bipartisan bill that would rename Interstate State Park said that he and others prefer to honor Mondale, who is 91, sooner rather than later. “The vice president will enjoy it a lot more now,” said House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, said in a written statement. Winkler and Sen. Karin Housley, R-St. Marys Point, this week proposed re-christening the Minnesota portion of the dual-state park on the St. Croix River as Walter F. Mondale State Park. (Star Tribune)
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