The Daily Digest (Koch steps down as Majority Leader, MN wins Race to the top $, federal shutdown averted)

GOP Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch dropped a bombshell on the State Capitol last night announcing that she was stepping down as Majority Leader and wouldn’t run for reelection. Koch says she felt “it was time” and said she wasn’t taking the action to make a run for another office (but didn’t rule out a run in the future). Here’s the letter Koch sent out.

Senate GOP leadership elected Assistant Senate Majority Leader Geoff Michel as temporary Majority Leader. An election has to be held within two weeks (Dec. 29) to elect a new majority leader.

Tidbit: Michel, David Hann and Dave Thompson are names that have been floated for the top job.

AP is reporting that Minnesota is one of nine states that won “Race to the Top” early learning money.

Minnesota’s unemployment rate dropped even though employers cut 14,000 jobs in the state.

Governor Dayton and other governors are urging Congress to act on unemployment benefits.

MPR says the drop in unemployment ends extended benefits for jobless Minnesotans.

Three people, including a Cook County prosecutor, have been shot at a Northeast Minnesota courthouse.

MPR says the group suing to stop Gov. Dayton’s child care unionization effort isn’t as broad based as suggested.

The last Ranger rolls off the line today at the St. Paul Ford plant.

U of M grad students are trying to unionize.

Vikings Stadium

Ramsey County is proposing a countywide food and beverage tax to pay for the new Vikings stadium.

Congress

A spending deal has been reached to avert a government shutdown.

Talks continue on extending the payroll tax break and an extension of the unemployment benefits.

MPR says, despite promises to do things differently, the budget process reverts to business as usual.

The U.S. marked an end to the war in Iraq.

Minnesota’s Red Bulls will remain in Kuwait until May despite the end of the Iraq war.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu says Minnesota weatherized more than 18,000 homes as a result of federal funds.

DFL Sen. Al Franken is focusing on data privacy as technology takes off. Franken is raising more questions about Carrier IQ.

Franken also voted against the Defense bill.

Backers of a Stillwater Bridge replacement concede Congress won’t act on the bridge this year.

The U.S. House passed a bill restricting welfare ATM use. GOP Rep. Erik Paulsen is mentioned.

GOP Rep. John Kline and GOP Rep. Chip Cravaack are upset that the spending bill doesn’t include a policy provision on managing gray wolf populations in the upper Midwest.

DFL Rep. Betty McCollum voted against a bill that would allow the president to have a line-item veto.

Race for MNGOP Chair

Former state Rep. Mike Osskopp announced last night that he’s running for chair.

Race for President

An AP poll finds that more than half of those surveyed think President Obama should lose.

Newt Gingrich compared himself to Ronald Reagan at last night’s debate.

Gingrich was on the defensive, however, for most of the debate.

Bachmann teared into Gingrich at the debate.

Roll Call says Mitt Romney struggles to defend the arguments that he flip-flops.

Bachmann says PolitiFact rated all of her arguments as true. PolitiFact gave that a Pants on Fire rating of false.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley will announce today that she’s backing Romney.

Gingrich says voters are looking past his personal history.

CNN’s Gallup poll says Gingrich is losing steam and Romney is reclaiming some meomentum.

The Washington Post says the FBI considered a sting aimed at Gingrich in 1997.

CNN says Ron Paul is making a serious challenge in Iowa that could rock the GOP race.

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