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Minnesota Legislature pushes back on internet privacy

Minnesota lawmakers are pushing back against votes by the U.S. Congress to loosen online privacy regulations, which opponents fear could allow internet providers to sell customers’ browsing data.

The state Senate took up the issue late Wednesday, during debate over a broader economic development budget bill. Sen. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park, offered a data privacy measure as an amendment that would prohibit internet providers in Minnesota from collecting personal information from customers without their permission.

The amendment was nearly stopped after a technical challenge from Sen. David Osmek, R-Mound. But all Senate DFLers and one Republican, Sen. Warren Limmer of Maple Grove, voted to let the amendment go to a vote. (In the Senate, Republicans hold a one-seat majority, so Limmer’s vote was the deciding factor.)

The Senate later voted 66-1 to add the privacy protections to the bill.

The House also approved internet data protections in a vote earlier this week.

In a statement issued after the Senate vote, Latz said the amendment was “about standing up and saying that our online privacy rights are critically important.”

“It won’t circumvent the federal government, but it will give Minnesotans a legal recourse to protect their privacy,” he said.

Above: Sen. Ron Latz listens during a 2016 Senate committee debate. Glen Stubbe/Star Tribune

Democratic organizer to lead Hodges reelection bid

Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges has put her reelection bid in the hands of campaign manager Jorge Contreras, a Democratic organizer who got his start during Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign.

Hodges announced in a press release Monday that Contreras would lead her 2017 campaign, two weeks after announcing her intent to run at a south Minneapolis event attended by about 40 supporters.

“Jorge Contreras is the right person to lead my campaign. He is a determined, battle-tested leader with a solid track record of success and a solid commitment to progressive values," Hodges said in the release. "I look forward to working with him to build a winning grassroots campaign in every corner of our city.”

Contreras has worked on nine campaigns in ten states, including Sen. Al Franken's 2014 reelection campaign. Most recently, he worked as field director for Angie Craig's unsuccessful 2016 congressional bid against Republican Jason Lewis.

Hodges, who was first elected mayor in 2013, already faces competition for the seat. Civil rights activist Nekima Levy-Pounds announced her candidacy in November, and State Rep. Raymond Dehn announced in late December. 

Minneapolis Council Member Jacob Frey is also expected to challenge Hodges, and is scheduled to make an announcement Jan. 3.