Good morning and welcome to Friday. I know I’m planning to enjoy it, but no Friday can really get underway without a look at the Digest.
1. Legislation that would roll back sick-leave ordinances in Minneapolis and St. Paul and stop cities from setting the local minimum wage higher than the state level passed in the Minnesota Senate Thursday by a vote of 35-31. Once merged with a House-passed bill, the final decision on the bill would fall to Gov. Mark Dayton, who isn’t saying what he might do with it. The legislation is called preemption because the state would be restricting what could be done down the government food chain. In a sign of how controversial the issue has become, senators arriving for the debate had to weave through a throng of protesters who were waving signs and chanting. (MPR News)
2. Gov. Dayton is urging House Republicans to support a Real ID bill that does not include language banning drivers’ licenses for unauthorized immigrants. It’s the key difference that House and Senate negotiators are trying to work out between their competing Real ID bills. A conference committee began meeting this week. Minnesota remains out of compliance with the federal Real ID law, which begins a new enforcement phase next year at airports. Dayton and legislative leaders want a bill passed this session. (MPR News)
3. The size of state government is a key issue in budget negotiations at the Capitol. Republicans say the state is collecting more tax revenue than it needs, and to make way for tax cuts, they’ve proposed trimming government across the board. Gov. Dayton, however, wants to spend most of the surplus on government programs, not on permanent tax cuts. “In a [time] of a $1.5 billion budget surplus,” Dayton said. “They’re cutting state agencies as if there’s no consequence of them doing so.” But the debate goes beyond the surplus. Republicans’ budget proposals also represent a desire to halt what they’ve called “stunning” increases in the growth of several state agencies over the last decade. All of which means that in order to finish the session by the Legislature’s May 22 deadline, Dayton and Republican leaders will have to reconcile their diametrically opposed views on a core issue: the role of the state’s bureaucracy. (MinnPost)
4. Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie Gildea testified Thursday during a conference committee hearing, where House and Senate negotiators were working out the differences between their budget bills for judiciary and public safety. Gildea, who is the administrative head of the judicial branch, reminded committee members that the courts are a vital part of the government’s basic functions. “The judiciary is not a mere state agency,” Gildea said. “The judiciary is a branch of government and it deserves to be funded as such.” The judicial branch is seeking a $51.4 million increase over its current funding levels. The bulk of the request ($42 million) would pay salary and benefits for judges and staff. Gov. Dayton included the full amount in his budget proposal. The House and Senate bills provided only partial increases. (MPR News)
5. During a White House news conference, President Trump said progress was being made on a “great plan” for overhauling the nation’s health care system, though he provided no details. “We have a good chance of getting it soon,” Trump said. “I’d like to say next week.” The White House optimism is driven largely by a deal brokered by leaders of the conservative Freedom Caucus and the moderate Tuesday Group aimed at giving states more flexibility to pull out of “Obamacare” provisions. A senior White House official acknowledged that it was unclear how many votes Republicans had, but said House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., has told the White House that a vote could come together quickly. Still, GOP lawmakers and aides to party leaders, conservatives and moderates alike were skeptical that the House would vote next week on the health legislation. They cited the higher priority of passing a spending bill within days to avert a government shutdown, uncertainty over details of the developing health agreement and a need to sell it to lawmakers. (AP)