1.) Gov. Mark Dayton weighed in on a number of topics during a press briefing yesterday. Notable among his typically candid answers was Dayton’s concern over the launch of the state health insurance exchange, and his disapproval of plans for the new Senate office building, according to Minnesota Public Radio. Asked about MNsure, Dayton said the existing “operational problems” — including a delay in the transfer of consumer information to insurance companies — worry him, and are the kind of hitches that should have been worked out some time ago. Plans sold through the exchange are scheduled to go into effect on Jan. 1, but insurers have warned that the lack of comprehensive and accurate information could delay or complicate their ability to offer proper coverage in the short term. Of the proposed Senate building and its adjacent parking lots, Dayton said the $90 million construction project is more expensive than it needs to be. “I think the price tag on it, and appearance of it, are a little high,” Dayton said.
2.) A pair of Republican candidates for statewide office are taking divergent paths over their previous support of cellphone tracking programs for local law enforcement. As detailed on the politics.mn blog, gubernatorial candidate and Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson said he has come to regret his decision to back the “KingFish” system used by the Hennepin County Sheriff’s office. In a Facebook post, Johnson pointed to the “unauthorized and unwarranted access of individual data” as cause for concern, and wrote that unfettered spying on individual citizens amounts to a violation of privacy. Meanwhile, GOP Sen. Julianne Ortman (Chanhassen) went the other way, using a post on her campaign Facebook page to defend the program, which was launched during her tenure working for Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek. Ortman said Kingfish allows law enforcement agencies to locate a given cell phone without listening in on a conversation, and argued the system could save lives in the event of a missing persons emergency.
3.) A conservative lawmaker and the governor’s office exchanged harshly worded letters through the media yesterday over the subject of Tina Smith‘s double duty. Gov. Mark Dayton appointed his trusted chief of staff to serve on the Destination Medical Center Corporation (DMCC) board earlier this year, where she and seven other members will oversee the state and local investment toward the Rochester Mayo Clinic’s expansion. That appointment apparently doesn’t sit right with Rep. Peggy Scott, R-Andover, who sent Dayton a letter calling for him to force Smith to choose one job or the other. As it stands, Scott wrote, Smith is uniquely positioned to leverage her role in the administration to deliver funding or policy results that favor the Rochester project. Scott described Smith’s situation as “precarious,” and wrote that it raises “obvious ethical concerns.” Not true, said deputy chief of staff Bob Hume, who issued a statement saying Smith was a top choice by the Mayo Clinic itself, and said Dayton’s choices about appointments “are the Governor’s prerogative, not [Scott’s].”
COMINGS & GOINGS
- Deputy Secretary of State Beth Fraser is the latest Democrat to announce a candidacy in House District 64B, bringing the count in that field up to seven. Fraser released a statement overnight to declare her bid for the seat held by outgoing Rep. Michael Paymar, DFL-St. Paul. Before she was hired by Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, Fraser worked for Minnesota Alliance for Progressive Action, the precursor organization for TakeAction Minnesota.
- Former GOP legislator Kirk Stensrud will seek to regain the seat he lost to Rep. Yvonne Selcer, DFL-Minnetonka, in the 2012 election, according to Patch. Stensrud won election to the House by just 107 votes in 2010, and, after just one term, lost his seat by a margin of 202 votes last year.
- Republican Polly Peterson-Bowles is taking a second shot at the Legislature, and will look to challenge Rep. Ron Erhardt, DFL-Edina, in House District 49A. Bowles ran for the GOP nomination in that district last year, but lost to Bill Glahn; Glahn, in turn, was beaten handily by Erhardt, with the Republican-turned-DFLer collecting 55 percent of the vote. Peterson-Bowles is a former two-term member of the Metropolitan Council, and her father, C. Donald Peterson, was a member of the Legislature and long-serving Minnesota Supreme Court justice.
- Having succeeded in conquering one difficult social issue in the Minnesota Legislature, Richard Carlbom was brought on this week to take on another. Carlbom, executive director of the pro-gay marriage Minnesotans United for All Families organization, was retained as a lobbyist for Mayors Against Illegal Guns Action Fund. The advocacy group, founded by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, is seeking policy changes that would include closure of the so-called “gun show loophole,” and counts Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman among its members.
- Senate Republican caucus press secretary Luke Hellier sent an emailed announcement signaling his plans to leave that job at year’s end. Hellier did not spell out his future plans in the email. Newly hired public affairs director Bill Walsh will handle press relations until a replacement is found.
- The DFL House Caucus has scheduled a fundraiser for Saturday afternoon at Carpenters Hall in St. Paul. Expected attendees include House Speaker Paul Thissen and Majority Leader Erin Murphy. Suggested donations $250 per candidate. RSVP to [email protected] or by calling 651-251-6344.
- High school teacher and basketball coach Gary Nelson filed to run as a Republican candidate in House District 17A, which presently belongs to Rep. Andrew Falk, DFL-Murdock. Falk, now in his third term, won re-election to his seat with just under 54 percent of the vote last year.