Good morning, and welcome to Monday. How about that Super Bowl? Perhaps Kelly Clarkson said it best: “It’s cold as hell…I don’t think I could live here.” Oh well, you can’t please all the people all the time. Let’s check the Digest.
1. Precinct caucuses tomorrow night mark the start of the political year. Minnesota is at the front end of a super-charged election year. Voters will pick a new governor, decide two U.S. Senate seats (a rarity), determine which party controls the Minnesota House and have a front-row seat for up to five nationally watched congressional races. The starting line is Tuesday, when the political parties hold precinct caucuses. If you’re the type to gripe about who’s on your ballot come November, it’s your chance to get in on the ground floor. Here’s a guide. (MPR News)
2. The other Republicans running for governor say Tim Pawlenty won’t get a pass if he enters the race. Pawlenty is expected to say more next week about whether he’ll run for the seat he held for eight years, but he was out yesterday campaigning for the Republican candidate in a special state senate election. Keith Downey, Jeff Johnson and Mary Giuliani Stephens are already running. They welcomed Pawlenty to the race, sort of. “I think there are some interesting challenges for a two-term governor who’s been out of the state working as a lobbyist for Wall Street in Washington, DC. Especially when you travel this state and you see what people think about politics and politicians and government and these entrenched special interests,” Downey said. Johnson added, “If he decides to challenge me as the endorsement candidate in the primary, I would run an aggressive campaign. I believe we would win, because grassroots people are who vote in our primary.” (MPR News)
3. Group wants legislators to pass new law on vaccinations. At a forum for state legislators on Wednesday, leaders of the Vaccine Safety Council of Minnesota hope to persuade lawmakers to support an “informed consent” bill, which would require doctors to discuss risks with parents before vaccinating babies. “There’s been a shift in this country,” said Jennifer Larson, a leader of the nonprofit council and an organization called Healthchoice that organized the forum. “I think it’s tough for anyone to say more information is not better.” Larson said her group is not anti-vaccine; they believe consumers just need more upfront information about risks. But state health officials worry that opponents want to promote unproven claims that could unnecessarily scare people away from vaccinations. (Star Tribune)
4. Protesters were arrested before the Super Bowl. Protesters blocked Metro Transit light rail trains on the Green Line near the University of Minnesota’s West Bank for about an hour Sunday afternoon. The line was already closed to the public, it was transporting ticket holders to the game. Metro Transit officers arrested more than 12 protesters. About 100 people, who said they were representing a group called Black Visions Collective, wore T-shirts that read “You Can’t Play With Black Lives.” They chanted: “Black Lives, they matter here.” The group called on the Minneapolis Police Department to stop hiring officers and repeatedly chanted the names of people killed in high-profile police-involved shootings in the last several years. (MPR News)
5. How much did Minnesota pay to put on the Super Bowl? Tough to say. Much of the costs will be covered by the $53 million private fundraising campaign by the local host committee, while the league — at least according to its bid specifications — retains ticket revenue from the game. One prominent sports economist estimated the ticket revenue alone could be worth up to $100 million. Those tickets aren’t subject to any taxes, which will be one of the largest public costs not covered by private fundraising. The Legislature last year expanded an existing tax break on Super Bowl tickets to other ancillary events and NFL parking sales. The break adds up to about $9 million the state can’t collect and $1.3 million for local governments, according to the Minnesota Department of Revenue. “We’re supposed to squeeze our taxpayers in the state and in the cities so [the league] can be exempt from a few pennies here and there,” said Sen. Roger Chamberlain, R-Lino Lakes, an author of the tax bill. “It’s not right. It’s extortion. These are big shakedown artists.” (Star Tribune)