Welcome back to The Flyover, your daily midday digest of what local media outlets and Twitter-ers are gabbing about.
Very Young Lawmaker Gets Very Puffy Profile
"Elliott Engen loves his job." So begins this MPR News story on Rep. Elliott Engen (R-Lino Lakes), Minnesota's first Gen Z Republican lawmaker. (Sen. Zaynab Mohamed, a Minneapolis DFLer, is the only other member of Gen Z elected at the State Capitol.) Engen, 24, has had the job since January, and he sounds downright Wellstonian throughout MPR's profile—"we actually have a heart," "you get to help people," "I aim to unify, not divide."
Then you learn that Engen founded the Hamline University chapter of Turning Point USA, Charlie Kirk's reactionary weirdo factory for churning out boilerplate campus culture warriors. (Engen says he no longer supports the group.) Engen's first two votes at the job he loves? A vote against expanding abortion access and a vote against restoring voting rights for felons; he introduced a bill that would militarize schools and enrich contractors. “We have passion. We have energy. And we have ideas," Engen declares at the close of a puff piece that only gently alludes to the tired, shitty, and regressive nature of those ideas. Thankfully, when not reciting platitudes to public radio reporters, the young politician lets you know exactly who he is:
Finally, a Republican who will obsess over all things "woke," fight environmental regulations, fortify the brutal carceral state, and demonize taxes!
Adorable Walz Photo-Op Goes Crazy Viral, Drives Ghoulish Lawmaker Bananas
Universal programs in the richest country on earth: They're often broadly popular, tend to actually help people, and, when not kneecapped by busybody means testing, deliver PR wins for whatever party gets 'em across the finish line. DFLers re-discovered as much last week, when Gov. Tim Walz signed a bill providing free meals to all K-12 Minnesota public and charter school students regardless of income. Philando Castile's mom, Valerie Castile, celebrated Minnesota becoming the fourth state in the country to sign such legislation into law, as did a bunch of kiddos at Webster Elementary in northeast Minneapolis. That's where the great Ben Hovland of MPR News captured the triumphant moment with this all-timer collection of photos—appreciative tots hugging breaming Uncle Governor, Walz cutting a damn rug while slapping high-fives!
In the interest of both-siding this win for our state, we'll mention that not everyone is, in fact, happy. Twitter's right-wing crank laureate, Dan McLaughlin, was ratio'd to the moon when he suggested feeding hungry children would prime them for "perpetual childhood." Closer to home, the reliably vile Rep. Mary Franson (R-Alexandria) offered this baffling, violent tweet that we're pretty sure is rooted in transphobia but honestly don't want to analyze too closely.
Another Year of Record Food Shelf Need
In less heartwarming food insecurity news, the Star Tribune reports today that food shelves across Minnesota, facing near-record demand, are rallying for donations both food and financial. (It seems plenty of people who aren't Sen. Steve Drazkowski know people in the state who are hungry.) Last year, MN food shelves experienced a record 5.5 million visits, which is almost 2 million more than in each of the two years prior—and they expect that demand to increase this year, as pandemic-related aid programs come to an end. One food shelf executive director tells the Star Tribune's Kelly Smith, "We're expecting it to be a cliff, basically." The Strib story lists lots of ways to get involved, but the odds are good that your nearest food shelf, whoever they may be, could use your help in the form of donations right now.
A whopping 36 MN cities and counties have proposed sales tax hikes this year, and MinnPost's Kyle Stokes notes that if the Legislature advances all of 'em, nearly a quarter of Minnesotans could end up with a proposal on their ballots soon. Why the record number? Well, cities and counties have to get legislative approval to put a tax hike measure on your ballot, but the last legislative session ended in gridlock, which means nobody's measures made it—and lots of those municipalities are back. As for what that money would fund? Everything from streets and parks improvements (St. Paul, with a proposed 1% increase) to ice arena rehab, creek renewal, and a wellness center (Bloomington, with a proposed .5% increase) to a new county jail (Beltrami County, with a proposed .63% increase). Not to mention policemen, trees, sunshine, and folks who just don't feel like working (god bless 'em).