Good morning and welcome to Thursday. Here’s the Digest.

1. Republican Congressman Tom Emmer faced an overflow crowd at a town hall meeting Wednesday night in Sartell. As has happened around the country, many in the audience came to express their disagreement with President Trump and the GOP majorities in Congress. Unlike other meetings, this one stayed mostly respectful, and for an hour Emmer answered every question the audience put to him.  (MPR News)

2. Bills that toughen criminal penalties for protesters who block highways, airports or public transit are moving in the Minnesota House and Senate. Supporters say recent demonstrations in the Twin Cities show that the current misdemeanor penalty is not deterring what is already an illegal act. The bill would increase the penalty to a gross misdemeanor. Opponents argue that the increased penalties are too high and would infringe on the rights of the protesters. (MPR News)

3. Democrats from around the country begin meeting in Atlanta today to pick a new chair of the Democratic National Committee. Six-term Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison and former Obama administration Labor Secretary Tom Perez are seen as the main rivals. But they’re not the only candidates. After an election last year where they lost the White House, failed to win back either house of Congress and suffered numerous statehouse defeats the party is trying to reestablish an identity and find a new strategy. (MPR News)

4. The Minneapolis DFL paid $2,000 for a poll to see if Green Party City Council Member Cam Gordon would be vulnerable in November’s election, a move that has irked progressives at City Hall. The poll, conducted in the Second Ward last week, was commissioned by Minneapolis DFL Chair Dan McConnell without consulting the central committee. The potential candidate who would run against Gordon is McConnell’s wife, Becky Boland, secretary of the Minneapolis DFL. (Star Tribune)

5. President Trump Wednesday rescinded protections for transgender students that had allowed them to use bathrooms of their gender identity, overruling his own education secretary and placing his administration firmly in the middle of the culture wars that many Republicans have tried to leave behind. In a joint letter, the top civil rights officials from the Justice Department and the Department of Education rejected the Obama administration’s position that nondiscrimination laws require schools to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms of their choice. (New York Times)

Good morning and welcome to Wednesday. I was corrected yesterday on the item about Sunday liquor store sales. An alert reader reminded me the ban on Sunday sales has been in effect since statehood, not just since prohibition. But when I ran that by reporter Tim Pugmire he argued that he believes the clock started again once prohibition was repealed, since all sales were legally banned from Jan. 17, 1920 to Dec. 5, 1933. While you ponder that point and prepare your briefs on opposing sides, I’ll move to the Digest.

1.  Republican Congressman Tom Emmer’s chief of staff is cautioning that if a town hall scheduled for tonight in Sartell turns disruptive or violent, he will end the meeting. A big crowd is expected, and opponents of President Trump are expected to question the 6th District representative about his support of the president’s policies on immigration and health care. Other congressional town hall meetings around the country have featured angry crowds confronting elected officials.  Some other members of Minnesota’s delegation appear reluctant to hold them. (Star Tribune)

2. Lawmakers and others who have lost family members to overdoses proposed a package of legislation Tuesday they call the “opioid reform act.” The act includes five different bills aimed at different parts of the opioid epidemic. A major bill in the package would require medical professionals to check the state’s prescription monitoring system when prescribing opioids. State law currently makes using the system voluntary for doctors and dentists. Studies have shown that about 80 percent of heroin users started with prescription painkillers. (MPR News)

3. The founder and longtime head of the Hennepin Theatre Trust announced a campaign to lead the city of Minneapolis on Tuesday. Tom Hoch said he was challenging incumbent first term mayor Betsy Hodges, who announced in December she was seeking re-election. Hoch said the city’s leaders are reactive, “playing small ball” and failing to raise the city’s national profile, attract businesses, or plan for the day that one of downtown’s large employers leaves town or cuts thousands of jobs. “We’ve had big ideas before,” Hoch said. “But where is the ambition of the leaders of our city today? The reality is that cities either move forward or backward. Today, other cities are moving faster, smarter and with greater ambition. Minneapolis has to get back to moving forward.” (Star Tribune)

4. The Trump administration released two memos Tuesday that lay out a series of steps the Department of Homeland Security plans to take to implement President Trump’s executive orders from late January. Those orders called for increased border security and stricter enforcement of the nation’s immigration laws. Under the new rules, the department would greatly expand the number of immigrants who are prioritized for removal. This includes a person in the country illegally who may have committed a crime but not been charged, who has “abused any program related to receipt of public benefits,” or who an immigration officer deems a risk to public safety or national security. DHS officials said the agency is not planning mass deportations and that many of the new policies would take time to implement. “We don’t need a sense of panic necessarily in these communities,” one official said in a conference call with reporters. (NPR)

5. President Trump on Tuesday denounced threats and acts of vandalism aimed at Jews.  “The anti-Semitic threats targeting our Jewish community and community centers are horrible and are painful, and a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil,” Trump said after touring the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Trump had been criticized for passing up previous chances to denounce a spate of recent anti-Semitic incidents that range from desecration of a Jewish cemetery to Jewish community centers. Some of the critics noted that Trump’s presidential campaign last year seemed to attract an unusually high number of anti-Semites and white nationalists. (USA Today)

The latest version of a bill to expand Minnesota’s list of legal fireworks has cleared its first legislative hurdle.

Members of the House Public Safety and Security Policy and Finance committee advanced the measure Tuesday on a divided voice vote. The House passed a similar fireworks bill last session, but the Senate never took action.

The bill would authorize the sale of “aerial and audible devices,” including bottle rockets, roman candles and firecrackers. Current state law allows only novelty devices.

Rep. Jason Rarick, R-Pine City, said his 2017 bill would allow for year-round sales.

“If you’re going to sell for 60 days or less, you would be allowed to sell in a tent,” Rarick said. “That is going to allow our nonprofit organizations and small organizations to be able to sell. If you’re going to sell for more than 60 days, you would then be required to go into a permanent structure that meets fire code.”

Rarick said Minnesotans are already using similar fireworks that they purchase in neighboring states. He said he wants that money to remain in Minnesota.

Rarick’s bill also designates a portion of fireworks sales tax revenue to programs that promote fire safety and benefit local fire departments.

Still, fire chiefs and the state fire marshal testified against the bill.

Burnsville Fire Chief B.J. Jungman told lawmakers that the legalization of additional fireworks would cause public safety problems.

“There’s no question that they cause injury and fire, and should this legislation pass, we can expect an increase in both,” Jungman said.

The bill goes next to the House Government Operations and Elections Policy committee.

DFL Gov. Mark Dayton has opposed previous fireworks bills. He vetoed one in 2012.