The Daily Digest (Union’s state, gun bills’ fate; Special elections? It’s a date)

Education gets lots of attention today at the Capitol as state lawmakers dig in on topics from school testing to aid shifts and the budget for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system.

Washington, D.C., takes center stage tonight as President Obama delivers the State of the Union speech. Minnesotans at the speech tonight include Sami Rahamim, whose father was killed in September in the shootings at Accent Signage in Minneapolis.

State

Minnesota House backs Medicaid expansion (MPR News)

The change brings more than 35,000 low-income Minnesotans closer to being eligible for the Medical Assistance subsidized health insurance program. The federal government promises to cover the full cost of the new enrollees through 2016.”

Dayton signals support for Mayo Clinic plan (MPR News)

Mayo Clinic is lobbying the Legislature for $585 million in taxpayer money to make improvements to Rochester. “How we get there? We have to negotiate,” Dayton said Monday. “But do we need to get there? I’m absolutely certain we do.”

Where are the 4th bracketeers? (MPR News)

Gov. Mark Dayton’s plan to generate $1.1 billion in new taxes from the state’s highest earners the next two years is controversial. Politically, though, it ought to be a pretty easy vote for most of the state’s lawmakers.

Capitol hearing: Insurance fraud on the rise (MPR News)

“Insurers says crooks are especially intent on exploiting Minnesota’s no-fault auto insurance system, milking insurers with exaggerated or false injury claims.”

Dayton: State budget ‘is not supposed to be easy’ (Star Tribune)

“It is not clear, it seems even to the governor, what the DFL-controlled Legislature will end up doing with the governor’s tax plan. But he says raising taxes will allow spending on education and state services that the state desperately needs.”

Minn. Senate backs 3 Dayton appointees (Associated Press)

“Senate backs Edwin Van Petten to lead the Minnesota State Lottery, Susan Haigh as chairwoman of the Metropolitan Council, and Carolyn Parnell as the state’s chief information officer.”

Gun control bills seeing opposition by Democrats & Republicans (WCCO)

“More than a dozen gun bills are awaiting action, including an assault weapons ban, limits on high capacity magazine clips, and requiring that body armor be registered. But Minnesota lawmakers are not on board, especially rural Democrats.”

Minnesota House tussles over rules that govern them (Star Tribune)

“A more than eight-hour debate on Monday night lit up lawmakers’ passions as they fought over a new rule to require amendments be filed a day before they can pop up in House floor debate.”

Immigration: Minnesota lawmakers try to balance path to citizenship with need for workers (MPR News)

DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar, is pushing to allow more highly-skilled immigrants into the country, especially those with backgrounds in technology and science.

Nation

Obama returns focus to the economy in State of the Union speech (NBC News)

Poll: 45% approve of Obama’s handling of the economy (CBS News)

Limited impact of State of the Union speeches? (Washington Post)

Slower growth of health costs eases U.S. deficit (New York Times)

Partners of gays in service are granted some benefits (New York Times)

Special elections today for St. Cloud, N. Mankato House seats

Republican Tama Theis, Democrat Joanne Dorsher and Independence Party candidate Todd McKee are running in a St. Cloud area seat that was vacated when GOP Rep. Steve Gottwalt resigned to take a job as a lobbyist for a St. Louis Park-based Center for Diagnostic Imaging.

In the North Mankato area, Republican Allen Quist, Democrat Clark Johnson and Independence Party candidate Tim Gieseke are running for House seat that was vacated when DFL Rep. Terry Morrow took a job for the Chicago-based Uniform Law Commission. – Tom Scheck

January tax collections $140 million higher than expected

State budget officials say Minnesota January tax revenues ran $140 million above projections and fiscal year-to-date revenues are $254 million greater than the November forecast.

Gov. Dayton and lawmakers are watching the tax collections carefully since it is one signal that the state’s economic outlook is improving as the February forecast looms at the end of the month. Higher than expected tax collections in the current budget cycle will reduce the size of the K12 payment delay used to balance the budget in 2011. – Tom Scheck