Legislative panel takes up Walz transportation plan
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — The Minnesota Legislature has begun work in earnest on Gov. Tim Walz’s transportation plan, including his disputed proposal to raise the state’s gasoline tax by 20 cents.
A House transportation committee on Thursday gave the Democratic governor’s plan its first hearing. Supporters then rallied in the Capitol, where they heard key lawmakers and Walz urge the Legislature to approve the package.
The governor says the only holdup is the lack of political will inside the Capitol. He says it’s not a choice between raising the gas tax or not raising the gas tax, it’s choice about having a robust and safe transportation system, “or having potholes that your children can drown in.”
Republican leaders say there’s no need to raise the tax when the state has a $1 billion surplus.
Walz turns up heat to keep tax that funds health programs
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Gov. Tim Walz is turning up the heat on lawmakers to try to prevent the state’s 2 per cent tax on health care providers from expiring at the end of the year.
Speaking at a Capitol rally Thursday, Walz said the tax is crucial for funding health care programs. He urged lawmakers not to jeopardize the care of 1.1 Minnesotans and not to blow a $1.1 billion hole in the budget.
But Walz is up against Republicans who want to let the tax expire. House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt says keeping it would raise health care costs for all Minnesotans, and the state has enough money to fund health care programs for people who really need them.
Walz says Republicans are waging “an ideological fight” and that their claims are false.
Omar rallies support for bill banning gay conversion therapy
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Rep. Ilhan Omar has rallied LGBTQ youth in support of a Minnesota bill to ban gay conversion therapy for minors or vulnerable adults.
Omar spoke Thursday on the state capitol steps to a crowd that marched from OutFront Minnesota’s seventh annual Youth Summit at Saint Paul College.
The Minnesota Democrat called gay conversion therapy “torture” and said it should no longer be a legal practice in Minnesota or in any other state.
Omar was a co-sponsor of a similar bill when she was in the Minnesota House. She was elected to Congress in November.
Minneapolis Democrat Scott Dibble, the only openly gay Minnesota senator, urged the crowd to meet with their legislators, fight for change and run for office.
The American Psychological Association opposes therapy seeking to change sexual orientation.
MINNESOTA’S WARMING WINTERS
Minnesota’s famed winter isn’t what it used to be
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota is a state that has long identified with winter and enjoying the season is part of the culture. But Minnesota is among the fastest-warming places in the U.S.
Data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration show Minnesota winters have warmed by more than 5 degrees since 1970, at an average rate of 1.1 degrees a decade. Alaska and Vermont have also seen winters warm by more than 5 degrees since then.
The change is noticeable to many who enjoy outdoor winter activities, allowing fewer opportunities for cross-country ski races, snowmobiling, dog sledding, ice fishing and outdoor skating.
While this winter was marked by record snowfall in the Twin Cities and a polar vortex, some Minnesota residents are concerned that winter will never be the same again.
WARMING GREAT LAKES
Report: Great Lakes feeling effects of rapid climate warming
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — A scientific report says the Great Lakes region is warming faster than the rest of the U.S., which likely will bring more flooding and other extreme weather such as heat waves and drought.
The warming climate also could mean less overall snowfall even as lake-effect snowstorms get bigger, according to the report released Thursday by a team of researchers from universities primarily from the Midwest.
The report also predicts more severe algae blooms in the Great Lakes, which make it unsafe for swimming and increase the costs of treating the water.
Farming could be hit especially hard, with heavy rains delaying spring planting and dry spells requiring more irrigation during summer.
Beaches, dunes and shorelines will be more vulnerable to erosion.
The Chicago-based Environmental Law & Policy Center commissioned the report.
Several 2020 Democrats say they won’t speak at AIPAC summit
WASHINGTON (AP) — Democratic presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris won’t attend the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual conference in Washington next week.
Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, who is considering an independent bid for president, will also avoid the conference.
The moves come as the liberal advocacy group MoveOn has called on Democrats presidential candidates to skip this year’s policy conference.
Aides to the White House hopefuls confirmed their decisions. All requested anonymity to discuss scheduling.
Several Democrats seeking the presidency have spoken at the group’s annual conference in the past.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (neh-ten-YAH’-hoo) is to appear at this year’s conference, as are a number of Democratic political leaders, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer.
ISLE ROYALE WOLVES
Hungry wolves may get new home at Isle Royale National Park
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — Authorities are preparing for another mission to relocate grey wolves to Isle Royale National Park from a second Lake Superior island, where the predators are in danger of starvation after gobbling up a caribou herd.
The National Park Service is winding up the first phase of a multi-year effort to rebuild wolf numbers at Isle Royale, which have plummeted in the past decade. Six newcomers now roam the park, along with the final two survivors of the previous population.
Two of the recent arrivals came from Michipicoten Island in Canadian territory, where wolves decimated its caribou in recent years and are subsisting on small mammals. Officials believe around six wolves remain there.
Two private organizations are helping fund this weekend’s effort to move some of them to Isle Royale.
St. Paul bracing for Mississippi River flooding
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — St. Paul is bracing for spring flooding as the Mississippi River rises with rapidly melting snow.
City officials have closed Lilydale Regional Park, Crosby Farm Regional Park and Hidden Falls Regional Park and the police department has moved its impound lot because of rising river water.
The City Council affirmed an emergency declaration Wednesday, setting up the city for state and federal assistance and co-ordinating flooding response efforts by local departments.
The National Weather Service says there’s a 95 per cent chance the Mississippi will reach major flood stage, or 17 feet, in St. Paul in the coming days.
Meanwhile, volunteers will mobilize Thursday in downtown Stillwater to fill sandbags in preparation for flooding along the St. Croix River. Hundreds have signed up into the weekend.
The Associated Press