Daily Digest: A fast start in St. Paul

Good morning and congratulations for making it to the first Friday of 2017.  Odd numbered legislative sessions usually start slowly because a lot of new legislators need to get up to speed. But there are so many issues left over from 2016 that this year is different. Things are starting fast at the state Capitol. Let’s go to the Digest:

1. The debate over Minnesota’s health care and insurance systems is already underway. Legislative Republicans came out with their version of a rescue plan Thursday for people facing big premium hikes, a couple days after DFL Gov. Mark Dayton revived a relief package of his own. Lawmakers of both parties promised to move quickly, but that doesn’t mean they’re all on the same page. (MPR News)

2. The Minnesota House passed its first bill of the year Thursday. It involved another big issue left from 2016, namely taxes. The House measure would make state tax forms conform to federal law changes.  And Gov. Dayton rolled out a tax cut proposal that would benefit farmers, college students, low-income families and parents paying for child care. The $300 million tax plan is a pared down version of the one lawmakers passed at the end of last session and that Dayton vetoed due to a drafting error. (MPR News)

3. The scandal involving the University of Minnesota football team and the firing of coach Tracy Claeys and his staff has not gone unnoticed at the Capitol. The university’s budget and the selection of new members of the Board of Regents could be influenced. University officials point out that by law state money can’t go to pay off coaches who get fired. (Star Tribune)

4. Leaders of U.S. intelligence agencies told a congressional panel Thursday that only “the senior most officials” in Russia could have authorized the hacks into Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign officials’ emails during the presidential election.  “The hacking was only one part of it,” said Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. “It also entailed classical propaganda, disinformation, fake news,” which he said was still going on. Committee Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., said there is no national security interest “more vital to the U.S. than the ability to hold free and fair elections without foreign interference,” and that “every American should be alarmed by Russia’s attacks on our nation.” (NPR)

5. One factor that led U.S. intelligence agencies to conclude that Russia was interfering with the election in hopes that Donald Trump would win? Senior Russian officials celebrated his victory over Hillary Clinton as a win for their country, according to U.S. officials who said the information came from intercepted Russian communications. Trump is scheduled to be briefed on the findings today in New York. (Washington Post)