Today on the MPR News Update: The Minnesota House gives a thumbs-up to the health insurance exchange bill, many Republicans give a thumbs down to DFL-championed election changes, and the state's largest cities hope for a legislative bounty, and ketchup-flavored potato chips. But first, the weather:
THE WEATHER IS HERE: The morning commute for a big chunk of the state was a snowy, slippery mess this morning as a massive, slow-moving storm dumped snow overnight on its way east. Schools closed, a tractor-trailer slid into a river, and we've had a live blog running all morning to track developments. Check it out here before you head home for the day.
DEMOCRATS TAKE A TURN ON VOTING RULES: On the heels of a failed Republican-backed constitutional amendment that would have required Minnesotans to present photo identification at the polls, Democrats in the Minnesota Senate have introduced legislation designed to make voting easier through early voting.
HEALTH EXCHANGE BILL PASSES HOUSE: The DFL-controlled Minnesota House has passed a key part of the Obama administration's health care law -- a state-based health insurance exchange. The bill's chief author called the measure the most significant health reform in 50 years. But abortion restrictions adopted last night could run into trouble with Gov. Mark Dayton.
BACKGROUND CHECKS OUT OF HOUSE BILL: Fearing that broader restrictions on guns won't pass, top Minnesota lawmakers on Monday tacked toward new legislation that avoids expanding background checks as their best bet to tighten the state's gun laws. It comes after weeks of passionate testimony on both sides of the issue, prompted by mass shootings that stirred a national debate to tackle gun violence.
BUTTS OUT ON STAGE? During a key scene in the play "Venus in Fur'' now playing at The Jungle Theater in Minneapolis, the lead actress lights up a Marlboro from her purse and takes a drag, tilting her head backward while exhaling a long stream of smoke. It's a pivotal moment that begins the character's transformation into an assertive woman. But that and other moments could become harder to pull off in Minnesota if lawmakers amend the state's smoking the way they want.
SEQUESTER DODGE: Republicans controlling the House moved Monday to ease a crunch in Pentagon readiness while limiting the pain felt by such agencies as the FBI and the Border Patrol from the across-the-board spending cuts that are just starting to take effect. The effort is part of a huge spending measure that would fund day-to-day federal operations through September -- and head off a potential government shutdown later this month.
WHERE THE PAIN MIGHT BE FELT: The road to a federal budget for a new fiscal year, beginning in October, can be a long one, with the proposal approval processes starting as early as this month. Check out this interactive graphic that explores shows where the White House says states will lose funding that could curb programs and lead to layoffs in the face of broad budget cuts.
LOCAL GOVERNMENT AID: This legislative session could be a good one for Minneapolis and St. Paul: With DFLers in control at the Capitol, Minnesota's two largest cities see opportunities to get more state money for their local priorities. "For the first time in many years, we have a proposal on the table, with support from many of the legislators in both bodies to restore some of the Local Government Aid," said St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman said.
UNIONIZING IN-HOME CAREGIVERS: A bill that would allow in-home child care providers and home care assistants for adults to decide whether they want to join a union was given its first hearing in a Minnesota Senate committee yesterday. The bill says if a majority votes in favor of unionizing, every provider who receives state subsidies will be enrolled.
ON THE HEELS OF YAHOO: Best Buy is ending its results-oriented work environment policy, which basically allowed employees to work anywhere, anytime, as long as they got the job done. But with the struggling consumer electronics retailer trying to turn around its performance, Best Buy wants employees to put in more time at the office or store.
OH, CANADA: Target opens its first stores in Canada Tuesday with three pilot stores near Toronto. Most of the Target stores will include groceries, a Starbucks coffee shop and an in-store pharmacy. Target has adjusted the merchandise selection in stores' to reflect Canadian tastes. That includes offering ketchup-flavored potato chips.