1. With variants as 'wild card,' Gov. Tim Walz's emergency powers extended despite GOP backlash
Minnesota will remain under a state of peacetime emergency for another 30 days after the state's Executive Council on Monday, March 15, voted to extend the governor's executive authority to swiftly respond to COVID-19.
Gov. Tim Walz requested the extension citing a new concern posed by variants of COVID-19, which have proven to be more transmissible, and he said he would still need to be able to react quickly as the pandemic continues to spread in the state. The emergency declaration allows Walz to enact policy without the Legislature's approval, which has irked lawmakers who want more of a role in pandemic response.
2. West Fargo will no longer consider annexation of Red River Valley Fairgrounds, Bonanzaville
City staff will no long study the process of annexing about 400 acres on the western side of West Fargo that includes the Red River Valley Fairgrounds, Bonanzaville and Cass County buildings.
The commission voted 3-2 to stop staff direction of exploring annexation process at its Monday, March 15, meeting. Mayor Bernie Dardis and commissioners Mandy George and Mark Simmons approved of the motion to stop considering annexation made by George.
The move came after Commissioner Eric Gjerdevig made his second request for staff to research annexing the properties on March 1. Gjerdevig said since those properties are not part of the city, they have never been asked to pay special assessments. Although they are not part of the city, Bonanzaville and the Red River Valley Fairgrounds pay for the use of city water and sewer. The nonprofits would not be eligible to be charged property taxes, even if annexed.
3. North Dakota lawmakers revive proposal to make mug shots confidential
A failed North Dakota bill that would have made mug shots confidential in most cases before a conviction was revived recently by lawmakers as an amendment to its sister legislation.
The Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday, March 15, gave a 4-3 do-pass recommendation to House Bill 1294, which would allow people to sue companies who charge them money to remove their criminal history from websites.
The bill now includes language from the failed House Bill 1296, which proposed making booking photos closed records in most cases unless the person arrested is sentenced for the crime associated with the image. A vote on Monday to reconsider removing that amendment failed 4-3.
4. Jane Fonda joins Indigenous opposition to Line 3 in Minnesota
Calling it a “gathering of grandmothers opposed to Line 3,” Indigenous women leaders – along with actor and activist Jane Fonda – assembled on the banks of the Crow Wing River Monday afternoon.
Fonda joined Winona LaDuke, executive director of Honor the Earth, and Tara Houska, founder of Giniw Collective, to support their effort to stop Enbridge’s pipeline project.
The news conference was held at Tree Farm Landing, where LaDuke said drilling will begin nearby. “So what you’re looking at is basically the scene of the crime that they want to have,” she said. “This is the river Enbridge wants to drill.”
5. This massive railroad project solved a big problem in Minnesota, but it cost men their lives and limbs
The Northern Pacific Railway had a big problem. Solving it would require cutting down thousands of trees and dumping thousands of cars of earth. It also would cost 20 men their lives.
The railroad was rushing in 1871-72 to complete its line linking Duluth and the Great Lakes to Seattle and the Pacific Northwest.
The engineers who designed the route knew that the grade as it exited the Red River Valley at the site of the ancient glacial Lake Agassiz beach ridge was too steep as originally built.