Good morning, and hey, look, it’s Thursday already. Let’s get on with the Digest.
1. Republicans’ narrow 34-33 majority in the Minnesota Senate prevented scheduled floor votes Wednesday on five remaining budget bills that GOP leaders intend to send to DFL Gov. Mark Dayton. Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, said the father of Sen. Carla Nelson, R-Rochester, is “gravely ill” and her presence at the Capitol in the coming days is uncertain. “Obviously when any one Republican Senator is gone and we have 33, we cannot pass any bill without Democratic support,” he said. Meanwhile there were no new talks between legislative leaders and DFL Gov. Mark Dayton. (MPR News)
2. Another Republican has entered the race for governor. Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson, the 2014 Republican nominee for governor, announced Wednesday he would try again to capture the state’s top political office next year. Johnson is the seventh Republican, and 13th candidate overall, to enter an incumbent-free race that promises to be expensive and explosive. Johnson announced his campaign with a three-minute video, where he barges in on a party of special interests. He promises to take on a state government culture that he argues is filled with cronyism and overbearing laws. “I’m ready. I’m tested,” he says. “Join me in the fight to reclaim our state and the fight to return power, opportunity and freedom to you and every citizen of this great state of Minnesota.” (MPR News)
3. Minnesota’s health commissioner is calling on lawmakers to build a $5 million emergency fund into their final budget deal to fight measles, tuberculosis and syphilis outbreaks that are straining the state’s public health system. State and local public health officials are battling infectious disease outbreaks including “multi-drug resistant tuberculosis, hundreds of new cases of syphilis and, now, the largest measles outbreak the state has faced in nearly 30 years,” Dr. Ed Ehlinger said in a statement Wednesday. (MPR News)
4. U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen is defending his vote for the Republican alternative to the Affordable Care Act, calling it a necessary step to control healthcare costs. “The reality is that unless we address rising cost, the market’s going to get worse for families,” Paulsen told the Star Tribune on Tuesday. Paulsen and Minnesota’s two other Republican House members, U.S. Reps. Tom Emmer and Jason Lewis, all voted for the bill Republicans dubbed the American Health Care Act. President Trump seized on its passage late last week as a needed legislative victory; the measure is now in the hands of the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate, which is likely to significantly rework it. “This is not a final anything,” Emmer said on Wednesday. “This is just the beginning.” (Star Tribune)
5. Gov. Dayton vetoed two abortion-related bills passed by the Legislature, as he had said he would. One would have barred the taxpayer-funded Medicaid program from paying for abortions; Dayton’s veto message said it “discriminates against women because of their socioeconomic status.” The other would have required state licenses for abortion facilities; Dayton said existing licensing standards “provide sufficient oversight to protect the health and safety of Minnesotans.” (Pioneer Press)