I spent some time this week at the National Congress of American Indian conference in Prior Lake. Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan spoke and both noted the strides Minnesota has made to further rights for Native Americans.
Walz, to a room full of Indigenous leaders, acknowledged that he was a “white guy from out in western Nebraska,” and that the tribal leaders present didn’t need “a white savior” but someone who could help the state correct historical wrongs.
The references to himself as a white man weren’t cringey and garnered laughs from the room. Even the speaker after Walz said she was surprised that she didn’t get weird vibes from a white politician addressing Native issues. This was the first time I’ve heard Walz’s jabs at his own white guy-ness.
Walz also told a joke Thursday to Black community members at a church in north Minneapolis:
“There’s two things you can be absolutely certain of in the world: The sun rising in the east and white politicians showing up at Black churches right before an election.”
He said he’s different though, because he always returns.
This week in the Reformer
Reformer contributor Colleen Connolly profiled 88-year-old former governor Arne Carlson and his quest to kill the PolyMet mine in northeastern Minnesota. The former two-term Republican governor’s opposition to the mining project goes beyond environmental concern — he’s also also honing in on large corporations’ growing influence in Minnesota politics. Read it here.
Max Nesterak wrote a breakdown of what was in the $1 billion housing bill Walz recently signed into law. It includes a new quarter-cent sales tax in the Twin Cities metro area to fund affordable housing and homelessness prevention and $350 million for affordable housing across the state.
Deena Winter detailed the various policy changes the Legislature made to the state’s criminal justice system, including laws that could result in people being released from prison sooner, shorter probation terms and easier expungement of certain non-violent crimes. Read it here.
I wrote up a story about some of the major provisions within the Legislature’s 845-page health and human services bill. The massive health package includes more funding for mental health, child care and homelessness services. Also, undocumented residents can enroll in MinnesotaCare, and lawmakers adopted a telecommunications fee for the 988 suicide lifeline.
At the National Congress of American Indians in Prior Lake this week, U.S. Sen. Tina Smith and Flanagan praised the emerging influence of Native Americans in state and federal governments. But tribal leaders from across the country were also bracing for a potential existential blow to tribal sovereignty from the U.S. Supreme Court, I wrote.
Max had a story about major property management company FirstService Residential Minnesota and how it had announced it was dropping noncompete clauses. But provisions within its management contracts with condo associations say its workers may not be employed by the associations for two years after the contract expires.
Minnesota Reps. Tom Emmer and Pete Stauber on Friday accused President Joe Biden of weaponizing the U.S. Department of Justice against President Donald Trump by indicting him through a grand jury, though they provided no evidence for the allegation, I wrote. The two GOP representatives made the accusations on a Minnesota radio show on Friday morning. On Friday afternoon the U.S. Justice Department unsealed the indictment.
Shelly Watson and Marisa Williams, CEOs of two Minnesota nonprofits, praised the Legislature's education budget that they say will reduce racial and economic disparities, feed hungry students and invest in student mental health.
EdAllies director Josh Crosson also wrote about the state’s education budget and highlighted the big wins — universal access to free meals, new investments and funding for early learning. But he noted a few loose ends, too, and said there’s more work to do.
Minnesota teachers’ union president Denise Specht wrote that the hard part is still ahead of schools after securing historic education funding. They need to figure out how to spend the money. School districts have broad authority over how to spend the additional funds, and Specht said unionized teachers are ready to fight for how they think the funds should be used.
Former state Sen. Ann Johnson Stewart, a civil engineer, wrote her first substantive column in what will be an occasional series on the state’s infrastructure. She wrote about water and how we get clean water out of the tap.
Former state Rep. Jean Wagenius, who once chaired the House environment committee, applauded Walz’s administration for ambitious climate goals. But, Wagenius noted the government will have a hard time meeting climate coals without doing something about emissions from agriculture.
Finally, Marshall Tanick and his son Ross Tanick argued that Walz should not have vetoed the Uber/Lyft bill. They are especially concerned about the signal it sends to corporate America, as it appears Walz has capitulated to two corporations.
That’s all. Have a great weekend everyone!