Good morning, and happy Hanukkah. It was quite a day in Alabama yesterday, with Doug Jones defeating Roy Moore. Here in Minnesota, Gov. Mark Dayton will announce his choice for an interim U.S. Senator today. Let’s check the Digest for more.
1. It’s Tina Smith. Lt. Gov. Tina Smith is Gov. Mark Dayton’s choice to fill the Senate seat to be vacated by Al Franken, according to a person who spoke to her. Dayton is set to announce the choice Wednesday at 10 a.m. Smith also said she will run in the special election for the seat in November, according to the person who spoke to her. An adviser to Dayton declined to comment Tuesday night, and Smith did not immediately return a message from MPR News. Smith was seen as a front-runner for an appointment since the moment Franken announced last week he would leave the Senate under pressure. Smith is a close ally of Dayton. She has spent decades as a major operative in Democratic politics, having advised former Vice President Walter Mondale and former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak. You can hear Dayton’s announcement live on MPR News at 10. (MPR News)
2. Meanwhile, Franken has been doing his job in the Senate. Franken was back at work this week, casting votes in the Senate, participating in a committee hearing and attending a senator-only luncheon with Democrats. Franken listened intently Tuesday as an expert panel talked about the high cost of prescription drugs. He put his hand on his forehead and grimaced as speakers decried the price of life-saving medicines. Given a chance to ask questions, Franken spoke about his work with Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana to allow the government to negotiate lower drug prices under Medicare. “My colleagues will have to carry forward this work after I’m gone,” Franken said, his sole reference to his impending departure. “I urge them to do so in an expedient and bipartisan manner. Patients, especially those in Minnesota, need relief.” (AP)
3. Republican state senators want to look into the agency that investigates abuse in nursing homes. The Minnesota Department of Health has fired one of its top administrators, triggering fresh concerns about the agency’s handling of allegations of criminal abuse in senior homes. Nancy Omondi was terminated last month as director of the department’s health regulation division, which oversees state investigations of abuse in senior care facilities. Omondi alleges she was fired in retaliation for filing a complaint about “misconduct and bullying” in her division, as well as high staff turnover, her attorney said Tuesday. After her termination, Omondi approached Sen. Karin Housley, chairwoman of the state Senate Committee on Aging and Long-term Care, who on Tuesday joined two other Republican senators in calling for an investigation into management practices at the division that handles elder complaints. (Star Tribune)
4. Some members of the House Ways and Means Committee, including Minnesota Republican Erik Paulsen, want to suspend collection of a medical device tax for five more years. Paulsen and Republican colleague Jackie Walorski of Indiana on Tuesday introduced a bill to keep the tax from being collected through 2022. The proposal comes as time runs out on the current two-year moratorium that stopped device companies from having to pay a 2.3 percent sales tax on gross receipts in 2016 and 2017. “Full repeal is my top priority,” Paulsen said. But for now, he said, a five-year moratorium seemed like the best available vehicle to keep the tax from coming back Jan. 1. Paulsen believes his proposal can be attached to any of a number of year-end spending measures. (Star Tribune)
5. Finally, this seems worth noting. Permafrost in the Arctic is thawing faster than ever, according to a new report released Tuesday. Water is also warming and sea ice is melting at the fastest pace in 1,500 years at the top of the world. The annual report released Tuesday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration showed slightly less warming in many measurements than a record hot 2016. But scientists remain concerned because the far northern region is warming twice as fast as the rest of the globe and has reached a level of warming that’s unprecedented in modern times. “2017 continued to show us we are on this deepening trend where the Arctic is a very different place than it was even a decade ago,” said Jeremy Mathis, head of NOAA’s Arctic research program and co-author of the 93-page report. (AP)