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Judge hears challenge to Walz’s emergency powers

Plus: Walz still considering mask mandate; 130,000 nonprofit workers jobless in Minnesota; record month for home sales in the Twin Cities; and more.

Gov. Tim Walz
REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Gov. Tim Walz
The Star Tribune’s Jessie Van Berkel reports,The attorney for a group of Republican lawmakers and small business owners argued before a state judge Thursday that the Minnesota Legislature was ‘lazy’ and failed to set appropriate guidelines limiting the governor’s powers for handling the COVID-19 pandemic and other emergencies. Democratic Gov. Tim Walz has made extensive use of peacetime emergency powers under state law to rapidly respond to the coronavirus pandemic, issuing 79 emergency orders since March.”

In the Pioneer Press, Bill Salisbury writes: “The Minnesota Legislature will pass a massive infrastructure bill, wrap up its other business and adjourn the second special session of this summer on Monday or Tuesday. At least, that’s what Gov. Tim Walz predicted Thursday during an appearance in this flood-prone community to promote his “local jobs and projects” legislation, also known as the bonding bill. Walz also said he and his staff are “still talking about” mandating that all Minnesotans wear face masks in public to slow spread of the coronavirus.”

Also in the Star Tribune, Kelly Smith writes: “More than 130,000 Minnesota nonprofit employees — a third of all nonprofit workers in the state — have filed for unemployment since the COVID-19 pandemic broke out this spring. State data show that the nonprofit sector has been disproportionately hit by the economic crisis during the pandemic, with shuttered events and programs wiping out revenue.”

For MPR, Catharine Richert reports, “On a stifling July afternoon, Pine Island City Council member Kelly Leibold camped out in a lawn chair across from City Hall with a few dozen others. ‘The issue of racism and supporting black people in this community is a city-wide issue,’ she said, as she waved a massive Black Lives Matter poster.  It was the second time protesters gathered in downtown Pine Island to demonstrate against George Floyd’s killing and draw attention to racism they say is subtle but pervasive in this community of 3,400 in southeast Minnesota, about 20 minutes north of Rochester.”

Also in the Pioneer Press, Deanna Weniger reports: “A defamation lawsuit by the girlfriend of Philando Castile against a former Rice County Sheriff’s deputy has been settled, according to Diamond Reynold’s lawyer, Michael Padden. Reynolds sued Tom McBroom in November for more than $50,000, saying a tweet he posted about her being on cocaine was an intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligence.The details of the settlement were not released to the public, Padden said.”

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The Star Tribune’s Erin Golden says, “Bus drivers, classroom assistants, maintenance workers and other hourly school employees say they are facing a ‘catastrophic’ situation as they wait to find out if schools will reopen this fall. Unlike other seasonal workers, school employees are not eligible for unemployment in the summer if they have ‘reasonable assurance’ that they’ll have a job again in the fall. But with the pandemic prompting school closures around the country — and Minnesota schools still waiting for a decision on reopening — school workers say they need help.”

Says Hannah Jones for City Pages, “The Nieman Journalism Lab has some bad news. In a study tracking hundreds of ‘hyperpartisan’ news websites across the country, the Harvard-based organization has exposed many that are ‘masquerading’ as state and local reporting. In reality, they’re often funded and operated by ‘government officials, political candidates, PACS, and political party operatives.’ … Minnesota has at least 15 of these little pins studded across the metro and in the greater regions of the state – all with a conservative tilt. In fact, the vast majority of the sites listed in our state belong to the same network: Metric Media, which claims to have over 1,000 different news sites.”

Says the Star Tribune’s Jim Buchta, “June was one of the best on record for home sellers in the Twin Cities, according to new monthly sales data. Last month buyers signed 6,819 purchase agreements, 6% more than last year and the most during any June in nearly two decades, according to a monthly sales report from the Minneapolis Area Realtors. … During June, sellers got nearly 100% of their original asking price across the metro area, causing the median price of all closings to hit $305,000. That tied a record high set in March and up more than 5% year-over-year.”

At NBC News, Gretchen Morgenson reports, “Troy Harlow has always made sure to pay his monthly mortgage bill on time, even after he filed for personal bankruptcy protection in late 2017 following a kidney transplant that put him on permanent disability. … But Wells Fargo, the bank that handles Harlow’s mortgage, had other ideas for him. On April 29, without Harlow’s knowledge or permission, Wells Fargo told the bankruptcy court overseeing his payment plan that he had asked the bank to pause his mortgage payments because he had been hurt by COVID-19. … Harlow’s attorneys say he isn’t alone. They have identified more than a dozen cases in Virginia, as well as cases in Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina and Texas, where Wells Fargo has wrongly claimed that borrowers asked to pause their mortgage payments in forbearance plans.”