Good morning, and welcome to Thursday. I hope the week is going well. Here’s the Digest.

1. St. Paul enacts $15 per hour minimum wage. Calling the document second only to his marriage certificate, St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter signed into law a citywide ordinance that adds Minnesota’s capital city to a growing number of municipalities committed to a $15 minimum wage. The St. Paul City Council approved the proposed wage schedule on Wednesday afternoon in front of a capacity audience of more than 200 — many of them from organized labor — that spilled outside the council chambers. The vote was unanimous — 7-0 — despite acknowledgments from several members that much work lies ahead in fine-tuning and enforcing the wage requirements, which do not allow restaurant tips to be counted as base pay. With important exceptions, the ordinance hammered out by Council Member Chris Tolbert and the mayor’s office calls for gradual wage increases for the city’s lowest-paid workers over the next 3½ to 8½ years, with variation depending upon business size. Contract workers are exempt. (Pioneer Press)

2. Southwest LRT gets green light from feds. The Southwest light-rail line cleared a critical hurdle Wednesday that will allow construction to begin on the $2 billion project this winter. The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has notified the Metropolitan Council that it will likely pay for close to half the cost of the nearly 15-mile line linking downtown Minneapolis with Eden Prairie — the biggest public works project in state history. Passenger service could start in 2023. The FTA’s notice means the Met Council can begin spending local money to start the project with the expectation that federal money will be available later for reimbursement. The notice, called a “letter of no prejudice,” is usually a sign that the entire $929 million federal grant will be forthcoming. (Star Tribune)

3. Emmer wins NRCC post. Minnesota Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer is now a member of his party’s leadership in Washington. Emmer was elected Wednesday to lead the National Republican Congressional Committee, known more commonly as the NRCC. As chairman, it will be his job to chart his party’s course in 2020 U.S. House races. Republicans suffered deep losses last week and surrendered control of the House to Democrats. Emmer easily won his third term representing the 6th Congressional District in central Minnesota. He is one of three Republicans in the Minnesota delegation, along with freshmen Pete Stauber of the 8th district covering northeastern Minnesota and Jim Hagedorn of the 1st district covering southern Minnesota. (MPR News)

4. Electronic pulltabs used to be a joke. Not anymore. Once a flop in Minnesota, electronic pulltab gambling is taking off. Sales rose 80 percent during the state’s fiscal year that ended June 30th, according to a new report by the Minnesota Gambling Control Board. The annual summary of the charitable gambling industry shows that e-pulltabs brought in $360 million last year, up from $200 million the year before. Originally pledged to pay for the U.S. Bank Stadium, electronic pulltabs are now poised to pay off that mortgage early, potentially saving the state money that would have gone for interest payments. “I think it’s 2022 or 2023 is the first year we could start paying [the construction bonds] off early,” said Myron Frans, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Management and Budget. “We hope we’re careful about how we use those funds going forward.” (MPR News)

5. Dayton still in the hospital. DFL Gov. Mark Dayton has been at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester for the last month recovering from back surgery. Dayton first had surgery on Oct. 12 and underwent another procedure on Oct, 15. After the second surgery, a spokesman said the operations were successful, and the governor was expected to stay in the hospital for several days. But a spokeswoman confirmed Wednesday that Dayton is still at Mayo and continuing physical therapy at the discretion of his doctors. There is no set discharge date yet. Dayton, who releases his daily schedule to reporters, last appeared in public on Oct. 9. Oct. 11 was his last scheduled event, which was closed to the public. It’s the governor’s third back surgery in recent years. He had similar operations in 2012 and 2015 to help with ongoing leg strength and balance issues. Dayton, 71, is often seen at public appearances with a cane to help keep his balance. The previous operations fused vertebrae in his lower back. (MPR News)

6. How does Peterson keep winning in such a red district? Democrat Collin Peterson won a 15th term in the U.S. House last week in a district that votes overwhelmingly Republican. Of any Democrat in Congress, Peterson represents the district that went for President Donald Trump by the largest margin. The Seventh is represented almost exclusively by Republicans in the Minnesota Legislature. “Peterson is a true anomaly – he holds a district that Trump won by about 30 points. No other Democrat holds a district that voted for Trump by nearly that amount,” wrote Kyle Kondik, the managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball, a political forecasting website, in an email. Most places like CD7 have been electing Republicans to Congress for years. So why is Peterson, a Democrat, still there? (MinnPost)

DFL Gov. Mark Dayton has been at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester for the last month recovering from back surgery.

Dayton first had surgery on Oct. 12 and underwent another procedure on Oct, 15. After the second surgery, a spokesman said the operations were successful, and the governor was expected to stay in the hospital for several days.

But a spokeswoman confirmed Wednesday that Dayton is still at Mayo and continuing physical therapy at the discretion of his doctors. There is no set discharge date yet.

Dayton, who releases his daily schedule to reporters, last appeared in public on Oct. 9. Oct. 11 was his last scheduled event, which was closed to the public.

It’s the governor’s third back surgery in recent years. He had similar operations in 2012 and 2015 to help with ongoing leg strength and balance issues. Dayton, 71, is often seen at public appearances with a cane to help keep his balance. The previous operations fused vertebrae in his lower back.

The two-term governor has had several health scares. In 2016 he fainted during his State of the State address, and the following day he announced he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. He has since undergone treatment and been declared cancer free.

On top of the back surgeries, he also underwent a procedure to help repair a torn hip muscle.

Dayton did not seek re-election and is retiring from politics when his term ends in January. DFLer Tim Walz will take over from Dayton.

U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer spoke to reporters outside a breakfast for Minnesota delegates to the Republican National Convention on Monday, July 18, 2016. Brian Bakst | MPR Photo
  1. Listen U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer talks with MPR Host Cathy Wurzer

    Nov. 15, 2018

Minnesota Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer is now a member of his party’s leadership in Washington.

Emmer was elected Wednesday to lead the National Republican Congressional Committee, known more commonly as the NRCC.

As chairman, it will be his job to chart his party’s course in 2020 U.S. House races. Republicans suffered deep losses last week and surrendered control of the House to Democrats.

Emmer didn’t speak at a news conference after Republicans elected their 2019 leaders. He wasn’t available for an interview.

Emmer easily won his third term representing the 6th Congressional District in central Minnesota. He is one of three Republicans in the Minnesota delegation, along with freshmen Pete Stauber of the 8th district covering northeastern Minnesota and Jim Hagedorn of the 1st district covering southern Minnesota.

The NRCC chair is involved in candidate recruitment and is instrumental in deciding which of the 435 House races the party focuses on. The role can mean extensive travel but also lead to increased national visibility.

Emmer, 57, is a former state legislator and was the 2010 Republican nominee for governor, a race he narrowly lost.