ST. PAUL-Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton launched what he hopes is a bonding miracle pass as his time in office runs out.
But unlike when Stefon Diggs caught the Vikings' game winner, there is little doubt defenders in this contest will not duck. It is a pretty sure bet Republicans will reach in and knock the $1.5 billion pass away. And they no doubt will prevent a handoff of $858 million from the state to local communities.
The $2.3 billion the Democratic governor would like to borrow for public works projects has no chance of passing as is, with Republicans who control the Legislature much more likely to go with something closer to $800 million. Still, Dayton's proposals set the stage for a bonding debate.
Historically, even-numbered years in the Minnesota Legislature are dominated by debate around the bonding bill, in which the state sells bonds to finance projects ranging from fixing college roofs to buying land for state parks. This year, however, it is difficult to predict how prominent bonding will be.
Almost the Legislature's first job will be to pass a budget to fund the legislative branch. Dayton vetoed the money last spring, and the courts allowed his decision to stay. So lawmakers borrowed money from another fund to get past the Feb. 20 start of session.
After that, they may deal with sexual misconduct with new rules or laws. And they may need to tweak the state budget after they receive new budget predictions soon after they return to St. Paul.
Dayton, in his final year in this or any other elective office, no doubt will have some policy and spending items he will push. And Republicans who control the Legislature will work on issues they think will help them in November's election.
Republicans have said they know bonding is important, especially in greater Minnesota.
Early GOP comments include surprise that no significant road and bridge money is in the Dayton plan. Another surprise was that the governor nearly avoided including local projects in his proposal, while saying they merit money. Republicans who control the House and Senate will have to fold in enough local projects to get votes to pass the bill.
The GOP does not have enough votes to pass a bonding bill, which requires a supermajority, so they will need to include some projects to gain Democratic votes.
No surprise: Emmer stays
Few, if any, political observers were surprised that U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer opted to seek re-election instead of running for U.S. Senate or governor.
People who know Emmer say he appears happier than ever in his current job. And he is positioned to take on more responsible positions, both involving politics and policy.
One account of his decision to stay in the House even said he could be on a path to become speaker.
"As deputy chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, I will be working hard to retain the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives this November." Emmer said.
Emmer first was elected to the House in 2014, four years after losing a close governor's race to Dayton.
Broadband money sought
U.S. senators from states with significant rural areas wrote to President Donald Trump asking him to fund rural broadband high-speed internet expansion.
Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.V., Angus King, independent-Maine, John Boozman, R.Ark., and Heidi Heitkamp, D-ND, told Trump in a letter that without dedicated broadband funding that many rural areas will struggle to compete with other parts of the country.
"As you consider a plan to address the infrastructure needs of our country, the co-chairs of the bipartisan Senate Broadband Caucus write to urge you to include dedicated, stand-alone funding for broadband deployment," the four wrote. "Our rural communities have connectivity needs that are not being met, limiting economic opportunity and growth."
Stras gets vote
The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee approved the appointment of Minnesota Supreme Court Justice David Stras to be a federal appeals court judge.
On a 13-8 vote, Stras advanced to full Senate consideration. He is expected to win that vote, too.
Klobuchar said that Stas was not her first choice, but she will support him because he is qualified.
Trump, who nominated Stras, last year put him on a short list of people he would consider nominating to the U.S. Supreme Court.
If Stas moves up to the federal court, that means Dayton will pick his fifth person to sit on the seven-member state high court.
GOP chair gets a cut
Minnesota Republican Party Chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan will get 10 percent of funds she raises for the GOP.
The party's Executive Committee voted 11-3 to give her the cut she requested, which would add thousands to her $67,000 annual salary.