The Daily Digest (Surcharges weighed, HMOs overpaid; Another run for Jim Graves?)

A long busy, snowy day is in store at the Capitol today with hearings scheduled from early morning into evening.


Health exchange passes Minn. House; amendment restricts abortion coverage (MPR News)

“The DFL-controlled Minnesota House passed legislation creating a health insurance exchange largely on a party line vote. More than a million Minnesotans are expected to use the online gateway to comparison shop and enroll in health care coverage.”

State audit shows taxpayers overpaid 4 HMOs $162 million (KSTP)

Audit says Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, Medica, HealthPartners and U-Care, collectively, were overpaid $162 million over the past eight years. That overpayment was funded by Minnesota taxpayers.

Democrats to propose big election system changes (MPR News)

Under the proposed Senate bill, eligible Minnesota voters could begin casting their ballots 15 days before Election Day. and allow voting by absentee ballot without having to explain why they can’t vote in person in their precinct on Election Day.

Legislature: $5 insurance surcharge weighed to boost fire, police pensions (Pioneer Press)

“Minnesota lawmakers are considering a $5 surcharge to all homeowners and vehicle insurance policies to bolster struggling police and fire pension plans.”

Mpls., St. Paul in line for big bucks for local projects (MPR News)

“This legislative session could be a good one for Minneapolis and St. Paul: With DFLers in control at the Capitol, Minnesota’s two largest cities see opportunities to get more state money for their local priorities.”

Minn. lawmakers switch to alternate gun plan (Associated Press)

“Fearing that broader restrictions on guns won’t pass, top Minnesota lawmakers on Monday tacked toward new legislation that avoids expanding background checks as their best bet to tighten the state’s gun laws.”

County jails feel effect of federal budget cuts (MPR News)

“The federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement rents bed space in five county jails to house immigrant detainees but ICE says it’s reducing the number of detainees held in custody due to uncertainty with the federal budget situation.”

Graves signals another bid against Bachmann (MPR News)

“After coming close to unseating Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, Democrat Jim Graves appears to be inching toward another run against the state’s most conservative member of Congress.”

Minnesota sex offender program at risk of court takeover (Star Tribune)

“Minnesota’s sex offender treatment program risks a federal court takeover that could be messy, expensive and lengthy unless the state takes steps to address legal and constitutional challenges.”

Minn.’s aging population poses budget challenges (Associated Press)

“In 2020, Minnesotans older than 65 years will be a bigger share of the state population than those between 5 and 17 years old, creating future state budget pressures. And more retirees mean fewer income tax dollars will be coming in.”

Senate committee considers film making fund (MPR News)

A Minnesota state Senate committee Monday approved a $10 million fund to boost film making in the state. The bill, a revival of a program that spurred film making more than a decade ago, would provide rebates for up to 25 percent of production costs.


A look at how the federal budget cuts could affect government operations and you (Associated Press)

GOP starts Ashley Judd opposition research as she mulls Senate bid (Politico)

Jeb Bush: No pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants (NBC News)

White House looking for “petite bargain” on budget (CBS News)

Business groups were tops in lobbying spending in 2011

Groups spent $65 million to lobby Gov. Dayton’s administration, the Legislature and metropolitan units of government in 2011, according to a new report from the Minnesota Campaign Finance Board.

The top five in lobbying spending were: Xcel Energy ($2.3 million), The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce ($2 million), the Minnesota Business Partnership ($980,000), Alliant Energy ($960,000) and the Minneapolis Radiation Oncology Physicians ($900,000), the report said.

Other big spenders included the Minnesota Vikings ($840,000), The MN AFL-CIO ($820,000), the Coalition of MN Businesses ($748,000) and the DFL-leaning group The Alliance for a Better Minnesota ($670,000). — Tom Scheck