National politics

We’ll soon find out whether voters’ flirtation with outsider candidates in 2015 will blossom into a political revolution in 2016.

Republicans Donald Trump and Ben Carson defied conventional wisdom, as did Democratic Sen. Bernie Sanders, by revving up voters and mounting durable challenges to establishment candidates.

Four candidates would make history if they became the 45th president: Democrat Hillary Clinton would be the first woman elected, and Republican Jeb Bush would set a dynastic record if he followed his father and brother to the Oval Office. Republicans Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio would be the first Hispanic to win.

Voting begins Feb. 1 at Iowa’s caucuses and Feb. 9 in the New Hampshire primary. Minnesota holds caucuses on March 1.

All 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives will be on Nov. 8 ballots, and 34 U.S. senators will be elected. A dozen states will choose governors. - Judy Keen

Minnesota politics

When state lawmakers gather in St. Paul on March 8 for a 10-week legislative session, they’ll have at their disposal more than $1 billion in surplus state funds to boost spending on programs, cut taxes, or some combination of the two. Sounds easy, right?

It won’t be. Minnesota’s government remains divided — Democrats control the state Senate, Republicans the House — and it’s the same group of leaders who presided over the 2015 session, during which neither side saw many major priorities achieved.

That includes Gov. Mark Dayton, heading into the second year of his second (and, he says, last) term. After accomplishing much of his first-term agenda, Dayton was largely thwarted in 2015, unable to get legislators behind expanded prekindergarten classes or major transportation spending.

Another failure to rally lawmakers in 2016 would set a sour tone for his final two years. Whatever happens will also set the table for November’s election, when all 201 state legislative seats will be on the ballot. - Patrick Condon


The start of the year promises a showdown over the Obama administration’s goal to resettle 10,000 Syrian refugees: A majority of governors vow to block new arrivals.

Others, such as Dayton, say they would welcome them. Minnesota has brought in one Syrian family in recent years and officials could find out this year if the state will play a larger role.

By late June, the U.S. Supreme Court will weigh in on an Obama deportation reprieve program for parents whose children are U.S. citizens. The outcome could affect an estimated 30,000 immigrants in Minnesota, where advocates plan a fourth crack at a bill granting driver’s licenses to those here illegally. Republican presidential contenders continue competing to stake out the toughest stance on the issue, says Erika Lee, director of the Immigration History Research Center at the University of Minnesota. In this state and nationally, a push is underway to get permanent residents to apply for citizenship so they can vote in November. “This could be the year when the immigrant vote really shows its power and tips the balance,” says Lee. - Mila Koumpilova


It’s the Year of the Big Event. The U.S. Figure Skating Championships arrive in St. Paul in January and the Ryder Cup comes to Chaska in September. In between, we will watch the Rio Olympics, and a Vikings stadium will open its enormous glass doors.

But 2016 could also witness a narrative change for fans of local sports teams — a patient bunch that has endured losing. A lot.

Thanks to a group of young, talented athletes, Minnesota’s professional sports picture is poised for what could be a defining year.

The Next Big Thing just might be … success.

The Twins should contend for a playoff spot behind young guns Miguel Sano, Eddie Rosario and Byron Buxton. The Vikings have a sustainable foundation with Mike Zimmer as coach and a top-5 defense that includes budding stars Harrison Smith and Anthony Barr. The Timberwolves will likely encounter more growing pains, but the addition of consecutive No. 1 picks Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns creates hope for once.

The Wild are built to win now and should be back in the playoffs this spring.

So, the forecast for our four pro sports teams that are not named the Lynx (winners of three WNBA titles in five years): a strange phenomenon called optimism. - Chip Scoggins

Health care

New and controversial changes in pain management will preoccupy Minnesota’s health care system in the year to come.

While state health officials seek to reduce overuse of prescription opioids — which have fueled an increase in addictions and deaths — they also will debate how to use medical marijuana in pain management.

Despite objections from doctors and an advisory group, the state health commissioner decided in early December to expand use of medical marijuana to the management of intractable pain. What types of pain qualify for this type of prescription will be hashed out before Aug. 1 — the date by which the state’s two authorized manufacturers can start providing cannabis for this purpose.

The emergence of medical marijuana is in some ways linked to recognition by doctors that they have overused addictive prescription opioids such as oxycodone for pain relief. Deaths from pain pill use have more than tripled over the past decade.

Health systems are launching clinics that provide alternative forms of pain relief and support to reduce the risk of opioid addiction. State leaders will set up rules to retrain doctors who prescribe opioids too liberally, or to boot them from the state Medicaid program if they don’t change their ways. - Jeremy Olson


The sea change in Twin Cities arts leadership will reach full flower in 2016.

Joe Haj will preside over his first full season at the Guthrie Theater. Sarah Rasmussen will do the same at the Jungle Theater. Rasmussen has announced her season and already it bears a distinctively different stamp from her predecessor. Haj largely inherited the current Guthrie season.

At the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, managing director Jon Limbacher and artistic director Kyu-Young Kim now stand in Bruce Coppock’s long shadow. The Ordway Center will select someone to pick up where CEO Patricia Mitchell left off.

Kevin Smith has a year under his belt at the Minnesota Orchestra, but still feels like the fresh breeze off the lake. The Minnesota Opera — which Smith led until 2010 — is looking to replace him. Nina Archabal is the interim. Will the opera, offering a world premiere in “The Shining” in May, finally find someone to secure the administration?

The new leaders are competing for an increasingly finicky public. The old model of season subscriptions is giving way to spontaneity in patrons, putting increased pressure on single-ticket sales. Meanwhile, corporate and foundation giving continues to steer toward human services and away from the arts. - Graydon Royce


The Minneapolis Police Department plans to roll out body camera technology to the full force early in the year. It is also expected that state and federal officials will complete their investigation into the police shooting of Jamar Clark, 24.

The city will likely wrap up examinations of mandating businesses to provide sick leave, creating a higher city minimum wage and banning plastic bags — all of which were first pitched in 2015. Public works will roll out organics collection, now offered to select areas, to all homes.

Construction is expected to start on protected bike lanes along 3rd Avenue and Washington Avenue downtown — the latter of which will be the first sidewalk-level dedicated bikeway in the city. The city will also reconstruct 29th Street in Uptown into a unique shared-use street.

In November, voters will likely get to weigh in via a referendum on a plan to improve the city’s neighborhood parks. - Eric Roper

Stadium/Downtown East

After a two-year absence, professional football returns to downtown Minneapolis.

U.S. Bank Stadium, the new home for the Minnesota Vikings, will open this summer in time for the 2016 NFL season. The $1.1 billion project has been rising on the site of the demolished Metrodome since January 2014. Almost twice the size of its predecessor, it looms large on the city’s skyline.

The stadium is enclosed, but half of the roof is made of translucent material designed to bring the outdoors into the building. The Vikings plan to install a landmark replica ship on the southwest edge of the stadium, a showcase for commemorative personalized bricks purchased by fans and a podium for a signature curved video board. As the opening date draws closer, expect the Minnesota Vikings to ramp up publicity to fill the 66,200 seats. Planning for the 2018 Super Bowl will increase velocity as the five big pivoting glass doors open next summer. - Rochelle Olson

St. Paul

The expansion Minnesota United of Major League Soccer will break ground in 2016 on a 20,000-seat stadium on a former bus storage site in St. Paul’s Midway area.

The team, which has played in Blaine as part of the North American Soccer League, also expects to inaugurate a very different gameday experience. The Loons are bringing the country’s top soccer league a short light rail or bus trip away from neighborhoods featuring Somali halal markets, Latino grocery stores and Asian noodle shops.

When the stadium opens for the 2018 season, United’s fan base is expected to have a more international composition, as young millennials of all ethnicities are expected to flock to the Midway site and its associated development.

A committee of team, city and community members has begun shaping that development, and 2016 will be key for the project, said team spokesman Eric Durkee.

“I know that we are going to build this thing with them in mind,” he said of the city’s diverse soccer fans. - James Walsh


In February, Dayton will convene a water summit to debate the future of Minnesota’s beloved lakes and rivers.

It will be modeled on the Pheasant Summit he held in 2014 on the precipitous decline in Minnesota’s favorite game bird. Summit attendees agreed that the most effective solution would be a stronger, enforced buffer law.

That state rule, unique to Minnesota, requires farmers to plant a 50-foot-wide strip of natural grasses or other vegetation between cropped fields and the banks of streams and the edges of wetlands to protect water and birds. It became a signature piece of legislation for Dayton.

Now, Dayton is broadening the debate beyond birds, to troubling rural and urban water problems, including the shrinking White Bear Lake, increasing road salt pollution in urban lakes, diminishing aquifers from irrigation and agriculture expansion, and worries about water pollution from mining and farming. Summit details will likely be decided in January, a governor’s spokesman said. - Josephine Marcotty


Travelers know the drill at airport security checks: whip out a driver’s license and a boarding pass. This year, Minnesotans may find that process less simple.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has long warned that in 2016, it will begin requiring secure identification cards and driver’s licenses for air travel as it rolls out the Real ID Act of 2005. Minnesota is the only state, along with the territory of American Samoa, that is not complying, and an extension the state sought was denied; 21 states and the District of Columbia are in compliance with the law and the others have been granted extensions.

Amanda DeGroff of the DHS said they are scheduling plans for Real ID enforcement. Changes affecting travel would be made after at least 120 days’ notice.

Passports are a common accepted form of identification. Minnesota issues enhanced driver’s licenses to those requesting them, but there is no guarantee that the cards will be accepted at Transportation Security Administration (TSA) airport checkpoints. Frequent travelers may decide that this is the year to apply for TSA PreCheck; among the accepted forms of identification are DHS trusted-traveler cards, such as Global Entry and NEXUS. - Kerri Westenberg


The fast-casual trend will continue to take a bite out of the local dining scene. Leading the way is a pair of four-star eateries.

The North Loop’s the Bachelor Farmer will debut a quick-service breakfast/lunch in mid-January. Across the Mississippi River, Restaurant Alma chef/owner Alex Roberts will add Cafe Alma, along with a six-room boutique hotel. Shake Shack, the beloved burgers-and-custard-shakes chain, is set to open its first Minnesota outlet this summer at the Mall of America.

But come late August, all eyes — and appetites — will be on the Vikings, when the team (aided by food service giant Aramark and “Bizarre Foods” talking head/chef Andrew Zimmern) debuts its food-and-drink offerings at U.S. Bank Stadium. Will the NFL’s latest Snack Canyon live up to the building’s $1.1 billion price tag? Stay tuned. - Rick Nelson