The Daily Digest (Sand hearings loom large; a St. Croix crossing charge?)

Lawmakers return to the Capitol today despite the Presidents Day holiday, plowing ahead on legislation to create a health insurance exchange. Other committees will look at higher education finance, child care assistance and insurance fraud prevention.

The state demographer will talk to lawmakers about Minnesota’s changing population.

State

Frac sand mining controversy moves to state Capitol (MPR News)

“State lawmakers will hold hearings beginning this week to address the fast-growing frac sand industry and its effect on Minnesota. Local officials are struggling with how to regulate the industry and would welcome streamlined state regulations.”

Report: Health care overhaul would reduce hospitals’ costs (MPR News)

“The federal health care overhaul will reduce the amount of money Minnesota hospitals pay each year to care for patients who can’t afford their services, according to a new report from the Minnesota Department of Health”

Facing deadline, legislators move swiftly on health exchange (MPR News)

“The complex and controversial legislation to create a new online marketplace for Minnesotans to buy health insurance is moving through legislative committees with remarkable speed. It makes its last state Senate committee stop this week.”

St. Croix bridge tolls, higher gas tax may be ahead (Star Tribune)

“Searching for new funds for roads and transit, DFL leaders are eyeing tolls for the future St. Croix River bridge between Minnesota and Wisconsin. Charging drivers as much as $3 to cross could raise enough to pay for roughly half the construction cost.”

Push at Capitol to repeal basic skills tests for teachers (KSTP)

“A bill in the House that would repeal the Basic Skills Test as a requirement for a teaching license. Some critics of the exam say it unfairly keeps highly qualified teachers out of the classroom.”

Higher ed spending claims correct, but …. (MPR News)

Gov. Dayton’s claim that higher education funding had fallen to levels not seen since 1980-81 is correct. And yet data claims always come with caveats. This one’s no exception.

For GOP legislators, marriage vote could pose risks (Associated Press)

“As some Minnesota Republican lawmakers weigh whether to support legalizing same-sex marriage, an analysis of gay-marriage votes from other states shows GOP lawmakers who backed it often faced consequences, including loss of their seats.”

GOP anger over rule changes won’t threaten bonding bill (Pioneer Press)

“There’s lingering bitterness among Republicans about the Minnesota House DFL majority’s vote this week to require amendments to be filed 24 hours before bills are heard on the floor, but it looks like they won’t kill the bonding bill over it.”

Nation

Obama’s plan sees 8-year wait for illegal immigrants (New York Times)

McCain: Background check package can likely win support of most senators (Washington Post)

McCain concedes: Defense nominee ‘will probably have the votes necessary’ (NBC News)

National park advocates pressing Congress to prevent deep budget cuts (Washington Post)

President plans decades long effort to map human brain (New York Times)