The Daily Digest (Medicaid expands, checks on spies unmanned; ‘Minnesota Blue’ gets panned?)

The Health and Human Services Finance Committee grinds away today on the work to create a Minnesota health insurance exchange on an otherwise quiet Friday at the Capitol ahead of the Presidents Day weekend.

State

Franken appears well-positioned for re-election campaign (MPR News)

Franken won his initial Senate election by just 312 votes in a close fight. “Given that result, political pundits predicted that Franken would be an easy target for Republicans in 2014. But so far, it’s not playing out that way. ”

Dayton wants to boost funding for English language learning (MPR News)

“The state currently funds programming for English learners for five years. Dayton’s proposal, included in a $640 million increase he wants to see in the state’s pre-school, K-12 and higher education budgets, would expand that to seven years.”

Medicaid expansion passes Senate, goes to Dayton (Star Tribune)

“The federal government will cover the cost of moving 35,000 people out of state-based health care and into Medicaid, known in Minnesota as Medical Assistance. It’s expected to save the state $129 million over the next two years.”

Bill seeks to curb police use of drones (Star Tribune)

“Minnesota law enforcement would be prohibited from using drones for routine surveillance or to gather evidence against citizens. At least 10 states have introduced drone legislation, including North Dakota.”

Minnesota lawmakers get education budget details (Star Tribune)

“The education bill is the first major piece of Gov. Dayton’s budget directly before lawmakers. It would spend more on special education, all-day kindergarten and preschool but would not completely repay the state’s debt to schools until 2017.”

For some Minnesota businesses, sales tax debate is all about fairness (Star Tribune)

“They say there’s no rationale behind state’s current system. Even the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, a staunch opponent of the budget as a whole, likes the part that would expand the sales tax to more consumer services.”

Legislature OKs state employee raises (Associated Press)

“The House approved a new contract for about 35,000 state workers, which includes the first raise in more than 3 years. It now heads to Gov. Mark Dayton, who is expected to sign it.

Minn. Senate Backs Matching Some Tax Deductions (Associated Press)

“The bill will let some Minnesota taxpayers claim recently enacted federal tax deductions on their state taxes too, including teachers claiming deductions for education expense and college students using higher education tuition deductions.”

Little applause for state poem effort (Associated Press)

A bill to designate Cordell Keith Haugen’s “Minnesota Blue” as the official state poem could be a hard sell. “The poem itself is not a great marvel of poetry,” say Rep. Phyllis Kahn.

Nation

Senate Republicans block Hagel nomination for defense secretary (Washington Post)

Conservatives skeptical of expanding preschool (New York Times)

Senate Democrats offer proposal to head off automatic cuts (New York Times)

Obama to talk gun control in violence-plagued Chicago (CBS News)

Obama open to getting rid of the penny (ABC News)

Kline to hold hearings on school shootings

House Republicans say the Education Committee, led by Minnesota U.S. Rep. John Kline, will hold hearings on school safety Feb. 27 and wiill focus on “how schools prepare and recover from threats of violence.”

By making the hearings about school safety rather than gun control, House Republicans are signaling that they are not interested in pursuing the more ambitious agenda laid out in the Senate, which could include universal background checks for gun purchasers and limitations on large ammunition magazines. — Brett Neely

Klobuchar promises hearings on the latest airline merger

The newly-announced merger of American Airlines and US Airways will get some scrutiny from a Senate subcommittee on antitrust policy chaired by DFL U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar.

Klobuchar recently took the gavel of the influential subcommittee. A hearing held by that committee in 2011 helped scuttle a planned merger between mobile phone companies AT&T and T-Mobile.

Klobuchar may come to the hearing with her views colored by Minnesota’s experience after Delta Airlines merged with hometown Northwest Airlines. That union has led to job losses and service cutbacks in the Twin Cities. – Brett Neely