1.) Simmering controversy around the state insurance exchange hit a boiling point with the sudden resignation of MNsure executive director April Todd-Malmlov on Tuesday afternoon. The unexpected exit comes just two weeks before the Jan. 1 effective date of insurance plans sold on the exchange. Hired to help design and lead that agency in 2011, Todd-Malmlov had lately come under scrutiny for taking a vacation to Costa Rica in November, while the newly hatched website was struggling through technological and operational difficulties. Gov. Mark Dayton had said the timing of Todd-Malmlov’s vacation was ultimately her responsibility, and met yesterday’s news with full-throated approval. “The recent problems some have experienced with MNsure are completely unacceptable,” said Dayton, who added that he was hopeful the change in leadership would lead to immediate results. The board named Department of Human Services Assistant Commissioner Scott Leitz as Todd-Malmlov’s interim successor, and said it would start a nationwide search to find her long-term replacement. Leitz, a trusted lieutenant to DHS Commissioner Lucinda Jesson, had been working as the department’s liaison to MNsure, and said the beleaguered state agency “must do better.”
2.) Rep. Tom Huntley, DFL-Duluth, announced on Tuesday that he would not seek re-election to a 12th term in the House, signaling the eventual end of his tenure as one of the state’s most powerful legislators in the area of health and human services. Huntley has served as chair of the HHS financing committee in three legislative sessions, including the 2013-14 session, though he threatened to quit that role earlier this year in protest of spending cuts approved by his caucus. In a statement, Huntley, 75, said he felt now was the right time to leave his seat, but pledged to continue working to improve the state’s primary care options. Huntley’s imminent exit opened the door for one district Democrat who seemed prepared for the announcement: University of Minnesota-Duluth economics professor Jennifer Schultz declared herself a candidate by mid-morning on Tuesday. In her statement, Schultz touted a background in the study of health care finance.
3.) The Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board levied a $100,000 penalty on the Senate DFL caucus, bringing a costly end to an investigation that started with GOP complaints that date back to October 2012, Minnesota Public Radio reports. The complaints had accused Democrats of allowing photos taken by the caucus to be used in outside spending literature. Thirteen DFL candidates were named in the complaint, which argued that the literature amounted to illegal coordination between a party unit and an independent expenditure group. Senate Minority Leader David Hann said the “historic penalty” is evident that the majority party has an “ethics problem.” In his own statement, Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk said he was pleased to see the matter resolved, but added that he did not think the caucus was guilty of collusion. “We continue to maintain that our candidates and the caucus campaign committee complied with all campaign finance laws.”
COMINGS & GOINGS
- Environmental lobbyist John Tuma has signed-on to work for Conservation Minnesota, effective Tuesday this week. The addition brings Tuma’s client roster to a count of four, and he becomes the organization’s fourth current lobbyist.
- A new interest group has registered to collect and spend money on behalf of state’s Democratic veterans. The Minnesota DFL Veterans Caucus filed paperwork with the campaign finance board earlier this week; on its website, the committee explains that it will advise the DFL Party and its legislative candidates on issues relating to the state’s veterans population.
- Jim Erickson has been retained by Meisa Transportation, a driver service that specializes in transporting passengers to hospitals and health care facilities. Erickson is Meisa’s first advocate on record.
- Lobbyist Phillip Griffin has terminated his registration to advocate for the Minnesota Funeral Directors Association. With the change, that industry group still has four lobbyists on retainer.