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Equal Rights, Abortion Amendments Likely… in 2026

Plus the push to close HERC, office furniture finds new life, and a crosswalk cheat code in today's Flyover news roundup.

2:04 PM CST on February 8, 2024

Welcome back to The Flyover, your daily digest of important, overlookedand/or interesting Minnesota news stories.

When to Amend?

The Minnesota Legislature is likely to prepare and vote this year on two ballot issues that would amend the Minnesota constitution, says House Speaker Melissa Hortman (DFL-Brooklyn Park): an equal rights amendment and another protecting reproductive rights. (Hortman doesn’t support two other amendments that have been discussed—to earmark a sales tax increase for affordable housing and to create a redistricting committee after the 2030 Census—so consider those non-starters this session.) 

Still, don’t expect to see an ERA or abortion amendment on your ballot next fall, reports Peter Callaghan at MinnPost—the legislature will probably time them for 2026. “One thing we don’t want to do is go out with a question that gets defeated and have some theoretical future Minnesota Supreme Court use that as an argument that the Minnesota Supreme Court does not protect reproductive freedom,” Hortman says. There’s probably also a matter of political strategy here: With a governor’s race and the full legislature on the ballot in two years, high-profile amendments would certainly help the DFL rally the troops.  Ballot measure aficionados will still have something to look forward to this year; they’ll get to vote in November on whether to renew the use of state lottery money to fund the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund. 

A HERC-ulean Closure Effort

Trash: We produce a lot of it, roughly 3.3 million tons of the stuff in the Twin Cities alone, according to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. All that garbage has gotta go somewhere, and in Hennepin County, that somewhere is often the trash incinerator near Target Field, where 40% of waste is burnt up to create steam that powers downtown Minneapolis. Except that the the Hennepin Energy Recovery Center (HERC) no longer meets the renewable energy requirements necessary to qualify for state funding state funding as an organics recycling facility, meaning it'll have to shutter—a closure that can't come soon enough, as the air pollution from the site harms folks in downtown and north Minneapolis.

The county thinks it'll be at least four years until the HERC can be shut down and repurposed. Nazir Khan, Minnesota Environmental Justice Table's co-founder and a Zero Burn Coalition organizer, tells WCCO this week that timeline isn't nearly aggressive enough. His group would like to see the center shut down by next year, as its current service agreement ends in December 2025. We're all for the added pressure: The county should, like so much trash, be feeling the heat. Take us away, Charlie!

What Happened to All That Office Furniture?

Speaking of trash, or more specifically, diverting things from it: With more and more workers staying home with their nasty cat blankets, what's happening to all that unused office furniture? Kavita Kumar asks that very question in the Star Tribune today, in a delightful report about the "cottage industry of brokers and secondhand stores" that have cropped up in our new WFH future. At shops like northeast Minneapolis's Furnish Office and Home, Herman Miller Aerons—"the Mercedes of office chairs," says owner JP Liesenfeld—are available used for just $399. New, they'd run you $1,400. Filing cabinets, desks, conference tables, and even cubicles are finding new life thanks to shops like Furnish, where a lot of the stuff is donated and sales are up 30% over the last two years. And some people simply want their stuff. Writes Kumar:

Liesenfeld chuckled that some of the people most interested in them have been Target employees who want them for their home offices.

"I had a lady the other days who was like, 'I just want my desk and my chair back,'" he said.

A Crosswalk 'Cheat Code'

It's no "up up down down left right left right B A start," but at four Minneapolis intersections the crosswalk signals have been reprogrammed to give pedestrians extra time to cross the street. All you have to do? Hold the button for five seconds. Axios's Kyle Potter gave the new "cheat code" a shot yesterday and found he got 15 extra seconds at the University and Malcolm Avenues. It's part of an effort to give folks with mobility issues a little more time; at Malcolm, the switch was made after a request from a senior living community on the corner, according to a city spokesperson.

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