Daily Digest: Polymet, Franken, school lunch

Good morning. Time to get your Wednesday started with your Daily Digest.

1. Court says no need for more review of Polymet proposal. The Minnesota Court of Appeals has rejected arguments from three conservation groups that claim state regulators should conduct additional environmental review of the PolyMet copper-nickel mine proposed for northeastern Minnesota. The groups — the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness and WaterLegacy — alleged in appeals filed last summer that PolyMet intends to build a much larger mine than what was originally proposed to the state, and argued that therefore the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources should conduct a supplemental analysis to weigh additional environmental risks from a larger project. But in a unanimous ruling released Monday by a three-judge panel, the Minnesota Court of Appeals disagreed, writing that any possible mine expansion was "speculative," because PolyMet hasn't filed expanded plans with the state, and therefore didn't require the DNR to complete the supplemental environmental impact statement that the environmental groups demanded. (MPR News)

2. Franken returns to public arena with podcast. Al Franken  is talking, but only on his terms: into a microphone, in the studio, where he gets to set the agenda during the interviews and exercise editorial discretion afterward. He’ll chat with Sarah Silverman about her dark sense of humor, and policy wonk Andy Slavitt about health care. He’ll trade George H.W. Bush impressions with Dana Carvey and talk about climate change with Michael E. Mann, whom Franken dubbed “The Meryl Streep of climatologists.” He does have an audience: After he announced the podcast on Twitter, it quickly hit Apple’s Hot and New chart, and according to the website Chartable was for a brief time the ninth most popular podcast in the country. Notably absent, however, from the first batch of recordings has been any discussion of what happened; of why Franken spends his Fridays in a tucked-away recording studio instead of debating legislation on the Senate floor. (Washington Post)

3. Farm-to-school passes in special session. In the lengthy set of budget bills passed over the weekend, there's a small victory for Minnesota school lunches and Minnesota farmers. Erin McKee has spent years lobbying for a program that would help schools buy more of their food from local farmers. She works for the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, and she is happy about how things ended this session. "This is a really big deal and a big win for Minnesota — for our kids, for our farmers and our communities," McKee said. Earlier this session, her group asked for $2 million to fund an annual grant program to reimburse schools and early child care providers who use local foods. It also asked for a full-time farm-to-school coordinator at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture — someone who could help schools and farmers connect. What came through in the final omnibus agriculture policy bill was much less. (MPR News)

4. Meghan McCain asks Klobuchar to keep her father out of race. The daughter of Sen. John McCain asked Sen. Amy Klobuchar to stop talking about her late father on the presidential campaign trail. The Sunday tweet from Meghan McCain followed coverage of remarks by Klobuchar, the Minnesota senator running for the Democratic nomination, about Sen. McCain’s views of President Donald Trump. Klobuchar was in Iowa Saturday night celebrating her 59th birthday at a Des Moines winery. According to a Des Moines Register story, she was telling the crowd about her experience at Trump’s inauguration, where she sat next to McCain.  “John McCain kept reciting to me names of dictators during (Trump’s inaugural) speech. Because he knew more than any of us what we were facing as a nation. He understood it. He knew because he knew this man more than any of us did,” the paper quoted Klobuchar as saying. Meghan McCain, who is a co-host of the syndicated talk show “The View,” tweeted at Klobuchar on Sunday: “On behalf of the entire McCain family - @amyklobuchar please be respectful to all of us and leave my fathers legacy and memory out of presidential politics.” (Star Tribune)

5. State government, economy grow at same pace. As Minnesota’s legislators hammered out details of the new budget last week, once again they did nothing to change two of the state government’s fundamental economic traits. Government spending remained tied to the health of the Minnesota economy. And it stayed around 10% of the economy, as it has for decades. Those traits tend to get lost in the political debate that rages when legislators create the two-year budget during their lengthy odd-year sessions. “I’ve made the point about stability of state spending’s share of GDP for years but no one ever believes me,” said Louis Johnston, economics professor at the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University and a longtime analyst of the Minnesota economy. This spring, Republicans focused on inflation rates as they argued for fiscal restraint. Democrats zeroed in on increasingly favorable data on spending as a portion of Minnesotans’ personal income. But the longer-run measure of the Legislature’s ability to efficiently manage the state’s budget is in how closely spending aligns with the rise and fall of broader economic activity. (Star Tribune)

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