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Daily Digest: Prison jobs may be hard to fill

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Good morning. Get your Tuesday started with your Daily Digest.

1. Dept. of Corrections puts out 'help wanted' sign. Bunches of bright balloons waving in a June breeze seem out of place just outside the fence to a maximum-security prison housing some of Minnesota’s most violent offenders.  The balloons point the way to a one-stop hiring event -- a somewhat urgent endeavor now that the Minnesota Department of Corrections is hunting for 67 new correctional officers across its prison system over the next year and about a dozen more in the years ahead. The Oak Park Heights and Stillwater prisons, where another event will be held Tuesday, are in line for a raft of reinforcements. None too soon, according to present officers. “Having more staff and the promise of more staff is definitely improving things as far as people’s morale,” said Lt. Nick Witter, a veteran guard at Oak Park Heights. The Legislature approved the systemwide staffing surge -- the biggest in at least a generation -- and supplied the agency $10 million to beef up the correctional officer ranks and to keep existing staff from leaving. The money follows two on-duty deaths in the past year and other violent encounters. (MPR News)

2. Impeachment calls put Phillips and Craig on the spot. Minnesota two new Democratic House members from suburban swing districts, U.S. Reps. Angie Craig and Dean Phillips, have not decided if President Donald Trump deserves to be impeached, a question that has racked their party in the aftermath of the special counsel report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. As some of the Democratic Party’s loudest voices press for impeachment proceedings, the stakes are growing for lawmakers like Phillips and Craig, who flipped districts now critical to the Democrats’ chances of holding the U.S. House. With 2020 approaching, many Democratic leaders have urged caution, arguing that impeachment would not only be futile with a Republican-led Senate, but also be self-defeating. In Minnesota, both the merits and the politics of impeachment have forced a go-slow approach for two of the state’s most vulnerable Democrats. (Star Tribune)

3. Putting 2020 politics on hold helped session negotiations. In the weeks since adjournment of the 2019 Minnesota Legislature May 25, there has been plenty of speculation about what made it relatively successful. Was it the personal relationships built by Gov. Tim Walz, House Speaker Melissa Hortman and Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka? Was it the experience in they gained mid-session by agreeing to abandon the MNLARS licensing software and replace it? Was it Gazelka’s late decision to give up his caucus’ opposition to extending the medical provider tax? Yes. But in an interview last week, Hortman gave another reason, one that was decided before the session started. She and Gazelka decided to wait until 2020 to begin waging the 2020 election. (MinnPost)

4. Extend bike path across the Mississippi? It'll cost you. The 5.5-mile Midtown Greenway railway corridor can exceed 5,000 cyclists a day through South Minneapolis, making it the most heavily used and celebrated bikeway in the state. But now, a new report prepared for the Midtown Greenway Coalition’s “Extend the Greenway” partnership maps out four scenarios where an existing railroad bridge might support an extension of the Greenway, which could cross the Mississippi and reach at least as far as Cleveland or Prior avenues in St. Paul for its initial expansion. “The bridge is the key,” said Soren Jensen, executive director of the coalition. It would cost from $7.4 million to more than $22 million to convert the bridge to a viable bike path, and that assumes the railroad would allow it. (Pioneer Press)

5. Walz looking at insulin options. Gov. Tim Walz is hosting a roundtable discussion at the state Capitol Wednesday on ways to help provide insulin to Minnesotans in need. The high cost of the drug is a growing problem for many. The issue was left unresolved in last month’s special session. Despite broad support, legislative leaders failed to include a proposal to create an emergency insulin program in the final budget bills. Walz told reporters Monday that he continues looking at options. “We’ve been very clear about this. No one in Minnesota should go without lifesaving drugs, especially something as common and as needed as insulin,” Walz said. “We have got to figure out a way to get control on those prices and accessibility. That is our intent to continue to explore that.” (MPR News)