Daily Digest: Dems scramble to hold 8th District seat

Good morning, and happy Monday to you. There are now just two weeks remaining in the 2018 legislative session. Let’s Check the Digest.

1. Four way fight among DFLers in CD 8. In the last campaign for Congress, outside special interest groups spent more money in Minnesota’s 8th Congressional District than anywhere else in the country. But it’s unclear whether the 8th will be a national battleground again this year. Why? Because Democrats have been unable to settle on a candidate after incumbent Democrat Rick Nolan’s surprise announcement in February that he would not seek another term. While St. Louis County Commissioner Pete Stauber is the lone Republican in the race, four hopefuls are competing for the DFL nomination in the August primary. All support universal health care, more spending on education and other core Democratic positions. But there are other differences among state Rep. Jason Metsa, former Rep. Joe Radinovich, North Branch Mayor Kirsten Kennedy and former Duluth TV news anchor Michelle Lee. (MPR News)

2. Here’s a quick way to get caught up on some of the big issues at the Capitol. If you’ve been wondering where that proposal stands to require people to work before they can get Medicaid benefits or what happened to that plan to increase penalties for protesters who close down freeways, here’s the place to look. How about that big public employee pension fix that’s been kicking around? A tax code overhaul, a construction borrowing package and school spending are among the bigger items left to sort out. But there are some other initiatives in limbo during this final stretch. (MPR News)

3. Appeals court to consider county’s ban on frac sand mining. Winona County, the only county in Minnesota to ban the mining of silica sand for use by the oil and gas industry in hydraulic fracturing, goes to court Monday this week to defend the ban. Minnesota Sands LLC, which holds extensive mineral rights in southeastern Minnesota, is challenging the legality before the Minnesota Court of Appeals. The Winona County Board adopted the ban in 2016 after public hearings that drew large crowds. The Land Stewardship Project spearheaded a 17-month grassroots campaign, citing risks to public health, air and water; damage to the scenic landscape of southeastern Minnesota; the impact on roads from heavy truck traffic; and the loss of farmland. Minnesota Sands LLC sued, arguing it was an unconstitutional restraint on interstate commerce and it made worthless the company’s mineral rights leases on nearly 2,000 acres of land in the county. The company says the silica sand there is worth between $3.6 billion and $5.8 billion. Winona County District Judge Mary Leahy rejected those arguments last November, so the company appealed. (AP)

4. Pharmaceutical industry lobbyists work behind the scenes to defeat new tax on opioids. In the face of a damaged public reputation and a politically volatile issue, the pharmaceutical industry has turned to the inside game this legislative session, deploying an army of more than three dozen lobbyists to try to kill the effort to tax them. The measure’s lead backers, a pair of greater Minnesota Republicans with support from DFL Gov. Mark Dayton, wanted the money raised to go to prevention, emergency response, law enforcement, treatment and recovery in the face of an epidemic that killed nearly 400 Minnesotans in and 53,000 people nationwide in 2016. “It’s all been one-on-one with key lawmakers behind the scenes, and they will not discuss the issue publicly,” said Mary Krinkie, vice president of government affairs for the Minnesota Hospital Association. The hospitals support the tax in the face a 146 percent increase between 2010 and 2016 in substance abuse patients coming into Minnesota emergency rooms. “They know they have more political muscle but not great public rationale,” Krinkie said. (Star Tribune)

5. Kelly Holstine is Teacher of the Year. An English teacher at an alternative high school in Shakopee is the 2018 Minnesota Teacher of the Year. Kelly Holstine, who has taught at Tokata Learning Center since 2012, received the honor Sunday afternoon at a celebration in Bloomington. She’s the 54th recipient of the award, and the first from the Shakopee district. Holstine was among 12 finalists selected from among the 86,000 members of the teachers’ union Education Minnesota. Moments after she learned of her big win, she said she’ll use it as fuel to keep teaching at-risk students with empathy and compassion. “If you can be really patient and find out their story and find out how you can help and support them, then it’s amazing — the transformation is amazing — and to get to be a part of that and bear witness to that is the biggest privilege of my life,” she said. (MPR News)

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