Good morning, and welcome to Thursday. Here’s the Digest.
1. Key race, in fact the only race, for state Senate this year. A November special election for a single Minnesota Senate seat will decide whether Republicans or Democrats control the Senate, and both parties are campaigning hard. The majority in the Senate is at stake after Republican Michelle Fischbach resigned to take the post of lieutenant governor. Before Fischbach’s departure, Republicans controlled the Senate by one vote, 34-33. “There is a lot of pressure to be successful,” said Jeff Howe, the Republican candidate. Howe is a three-term state representative from Rockville with long stints in the military and working as a firefighter. He gave up his relatively safe House seat when the Senate vacancy came up. He’s running against DFLer Joe Perske, a Stearns County commissioner and former mayor of Sartell. Perske, a former teacher and coach, said he’s running in part because he doesn’t like what he sees going on at the state Capitol. “I’m so frustrated like so many Minnesotans of the dysfunction down there. They fight like cats and dogs. They put those jerseys on like Vikings and Packers and go after each other.” (MPR News)
2. Slight rise in people without health insurance. The number of Minnesotans without health insurance rose last year for the first time since 2013, when the Affordable Care Act took full effect, according to a major release Wednesday morning by the U.S. Census Bureau. Some 243,000 Minnesotans lacked health insurance last year, an increase of 18,000 people from 2016, the bureau said. Still, at just 4.5 percent, Minnesota has one of the lowest uninsured rates in the country. Nationwide, the uninsured rate was 8.8 percent, or 28.5 million people. That was a slight increase from 2016 but it is not considered statistically significant. Wednesday’s release was closely watched because of recent efforts by the Trump Administration and Congressional Republicans to scale back the 2010 federal health insurance law, often called Obamacare. The share of uninsured people in Minnesota and nationally plummeted as the law took effect, and public officials have been waiting to see if that trend reverses in the wake of federal measures to unravel it. (Star Tribune)
3. Another campaign ad?! We must be a battleground. Following a post-primary lull, campaigns and outside groups are suddenly spending heavily to sell their candidates with soft, gauzy shots of family — and dark, ominous screeds about the opposition. The millions being spent on ads reflects the stakes of the election both here in Minnesota and nationally. (Star Tribune)
4. Incomes rise, including for groups that have lagged. Household income increased and unemployment fell last year across Minnesota as the economy continued to improve, according to figures released by the U.S. Census on Thursday. Black and Latino Minnesotans, whose household incomes had stagnated or even fallen during and after the Great Recession, shared a significant portion of the income gains. The overall median household income of the state rose to $68,400. Black households experienced a bump in income for the third year in a row to $38,100. Black and Latino households each gained about $4,000 in 2017. People who have historically been locked out of the labor market have been able to find jobs because of the strong economy, said Tawanna Black, CEO of the Center for Economic Inclusion in Minneapolis. She said the state’s business community and political leaders have taken steps in the right direction in recent years to begin addressing economic inequities. (MPR News)
5. Planting seeds for help from Washington. “The old saying was, ‘If farmers were doing well, the economy is doing well,'” Keith Seitz said Tuesday, before boarding a flight to Washington with three dozen Minnesota Farmers Union members and staff. “But that’s not the case anymore.” So he decided it would be a good time for a check in with his elected officials and ask them to act on behalf of farmers like him. There’s a lot at stake for farmers right now: The end of September marks the expiration of the farm bill, the key piece of legislation designed to support farmers through uncertainties like bad weather and volatile commodity prices. Meanwhile, a trade war rages on, affecting the prices of everything from soybeans to pork, with the fall harvest right around the corner. (MPR News)