Daily Digest: Post-holiday edition
Good morning and welcome back to the Digest after a holiday hiatus. Here are some of the stories you may have missed.
1. Regulators will review Line 3 decision rather than appeal. Minnesota regulators announced Wednesday that they will revisit their environmental review of the Line 3 pipeline project, rather than asking the state Supreme Court to take up the case. Last June, the state Public Utilities Commission approved Enbridge Energy's $2.6 billion plan to replace its aging Line 3 oil pipeline across northern Minnesota. But early last month, the Minnesota Court of Appeals reversed the PUC's approval of the project's environmental impact statement — a review of potential impacts the pipeline might have on the surrounding environment — saying it didn't adequately address the potential impact of a spill in the Lake Superior watershed. In its ruling, the appeals court determined the environmental impact statement needed to be fixed, and sent it back to the PUC to address the issue. (MPR News)
2. Social media rules proposed for Minneapolis officials. The city of Minneapolis wants to rein in the online behavior of elected officials, proposing the mayor and council members begin using city-approved social media accounts that prohibit them from blocking constituents. Minneapolis communications staff plan to introduce the new social media policy publicly later this month. A draft overview, obtained by the Star Tribune, shows the communications office would assert more control over social media in City Hall, including setting best practices for how elected officials use sites like Twitter and Facebook and maintaining access to their accounts. These official accounts would stay with the city, rather than an individual. The policy would also regulate social media for thousands of city staff, interns or consultants — even personal accounts. Those who fall under a broad definition of city “employee” could no longer use personal social media pages for city business, communications “or to circumvent city processes, such as releasing data,” according to the draft. (Star Tribune)
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3. DFLers considering options beyond gas tax to fund road repairs. After Republican lawmakers batted down Gov. Tim Walz’s pitch for a 20-cents-per-gallon gas tax increase last spring, some of the governor’s fellow Democratic policymakers floated a trial balloon to test support for a lower-priced way to pump more money into fixing Minnesota’s aging roads and bridges. The DFLers are “actively exploring” the addition of a “debt-service surcharge” to the state’s gas tax that would boost the price at the pump a few cents per gallon to cover the cost of borrowing money for highway improvements, said House Transportation Committee Chairman Frank Hornstein, DFL-Minneapolis. Over the next five years, the Minnesota Department of Transportation will run up against a limit on how much it can borrow — Hornstein called it a “fiscal cliff.” Unless Walz and the Legislature find a way for the department to sell more trunk highway bonds, the limit will “severely constrain our ability to maintain the (road-and-bridge) system … and virtually eliminate the possibility of any expansion,” he said. (Pioneer Press)
4. Emmer leading GOP efforts to retake the House. Republicans have a whole lot riding on Rep. Tom Emmer. The three-term Minnesota congressman, still a relative newcomer to Capitol Hill, is leading his party’s effort to reclaim the House majority that Democrats snatched away last year. Control of the House has let Democrats stymie President Donald Trump’s policy agenda and mount multiple investigations into his administration. The job has thrust the Delano Republican into the brawling heart of national politics. As chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), Emmer occupies the fourth-highest leadership post in the 198-member House Republican Conference. His mission is to recruit the candidates and raise the cash his party needs to gain at least 18 House seats and retake the majority in 2020. “I’ve got a job now that is literally measured by wins and losses,” Emmer said. He said he didn’t come to Congress looking for such a politically focused job. But success, he added, would let him achieve the goals that brought him to Washington in the first place — what he calls a “Main Street agenda.” (Star Tribune)
5. Omar makes pitch for nationwide legalization of marijuana. Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar renewed her call for legalizing marijuana nationwide this week, framing federal action on the issue as a matter of economic equality. In an interview with BET, the freshman Minnesota Democrat said lawmakers should “not allow for the states to pick and choose” whether to legalize the substance. “What happens [without full legalization] is you will have a state where someone is publicly and professionally able to profit and the next state, someone could be sent to life [in prison] for it,” Omar said. “We want to make sure that there is equality in our laws. I don’t think it is just for that kind of economy to exist within this policy.” The push to legalize marijuana has gained traction in recent years. Eleven states have adopted laws allowing marijuana for recreational purposes. Dozens more, including Minnesota, approve medicinal use in some cases. But possessing or selling the substance remains a federal offense. (Star Tribune)