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Daudt: Lawmaker’s apology ends row over Minneapolis-to-prison comment

ST. PAUL -- House Speaker Kurt Daudt said Wednesday that he is satisfied with an apology from a fellow Republican lawmaker for a comment on the House floor that many considered a racial insult to people in north Minneapolis.

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ST. PAUL - House Speaker Kurt Daudt said Wednesday that he is satisfied with an apology from a fellow Republican lawmaker for a comment on the House floor that many considered a racial insult to people in north Minneapolis.
Democrats say the apology isn’t enough. They say Rep. Jim Newberger, R-Becker, should be publicly reprimanded by Republican leaders for remarks they believe show he’s insensitive to minority communities.
During a Tuesday night debate on a transportation funding bill, Newberger was speaking out against an effort to study extending the Northstar Commuter Rail Line to
St. Cloud. He said that a train between the prison in St. Cloud and north Minneapolis - a predominantly black Minneapolis neighborhood - would be “convenient.”
“Right on the edge of St. Cloud, about a half of a mile, maybe a quarter of a mile from the rail tracks is the St. Cloud State Prison,” Newberger said. “Boy, wouldn’t that be convenient to have the rail line going from the prison to north Minneapolis?”
 After some members of the House booed, Newberger apologized.
“I’m not casting any aspersions on north Minneapolis, OK?” he said. “I know some folks got their ire up, and rightfully so, but sometimes as we’re speaking, that’s what came into my mind. It doesn’t matter. It could be any part of the city.”
Gov. Mark Dayton, a Democrat, said Wednesday that Newberger’s apology does not suffice. Dayton said Newberger should be censured by the House.
Newberger published a written apology on Wednesday, saying “I sincerely apologize. I recognize my comments last night offended some people. I will work in the future to not repeat this mistake.” A spokesman said Newberger will not be doing interviews.
Daudt dismissed Dayton’s criticism and said he’s satisfied with Newsberger’s apology.
 “I thought it was appropriate that he apologized,” Daudt said. “The governor is critical of Republicans. I guess that’s today’s news story, right?”
The only African-American member of the Minnesota House, state Rep. Rena Moran, DFL-St. Paul, said she felt disrespected by Newberger’s comments.
“It’s just really disappointing that as a legislator who is representing not just his district but the state, that that is his the world view that he brings to his body,” Moran said.
State Sen. Bobby Joe Champion, a Democrat who represents north Minneapolis, said he believes Newberger’s comments reflect the overall Republican view of investing in impoverished communities.
“At a time when we should be encouraging hope and inspiring people, we’ve got to throw in those sort of potshots at people saying, ‘Your life means nothing. I know where you’re going to end up,’ “ he said.
House Minority Leader Paul Thissen said he thinks Newberger should apologize on the House floor. Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, didn’t say whether Democrats would file an ethics complaint against Newberger.
 
Minnesota Public Radio News can be heard in Duluth at 100.5 FM or online at MPRNews.org.

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