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The Capitol Note: New MNsure head apologizes, promises improvements

Mike Mullen//December 19, 2013//

The Capitol Note: New MNsure head apologizes, promises improvements

Mike Mullen//December 19, 2013//

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Scott Leitz, assistant DHS commissioner, took over as new CEO of MNsure. (Staff photo: Peter Bartz-Gallagher)
Scott Leitz, assistant DHS commissioner, took over as new CEO of MNsure. (Staff photo: Peter Bartz-Gallagher)

1.) Scott Leitz made his debut in the newly created role of MNsure CEO yesterday, the Pioneer Press reports, taking over the leadership role formerly held by executive director April Todd-Malmlov, who resigned on Tuesday. Leitz, who until this week worked as a deputy commissioner at the Department of Human Services, apologized for any problems Minnesotans had experienced in their attempts to enroll for insurance plans using the website, and said his first priority would be fixing those flaws as soon as possible. MNsure board chair Brian Beutner told reporters that he was sad to see Todd-Malmlov leave, and said she might continue to offer expertise to the exchange in a consulting capacity.

Also on Wednesday, the board met to discuss a variety of pressing topics, including the latest round of enrollment figures. Through December 14, nearly 39,000 customers had reached the “enrollment in process” stage, a gain of nearly 50 percent over enrollments at the end of November. More importantly, the number of consumers buying insurance on the private market more than doubled — 4,448 on November 31 to 11,805 by December 14 — during the first half of this month. That development indicates that at least some of the previously uninsured people targeted by the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, are now getting around to registering with MNsure as the Dec. 23 sign-up deadline approaches.

2.) Critics can no longer reflect — or project — on the reflecting pool that had once been a part of designs for the new Senate office building, according to Minnesota Public Radio. While that eye-catching feature has since hit the cutting room floor, some are still made a bit uneasy by the upper chamber’s plans to erect a nice new facility adjacent to the Capitol. That list includes Gov. Mark Dayton, as well as House Majority Leader Erin Murphy, who said Wednesday that she hopes the Senate approaches the idea with the “virtue of modesty.” Senate committee chairs would continue to office at the Capitol once the new building is done; despite calls from Murphy and others to house all 67 senators in the facility, Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk said project constraints — the building cannot be taller than the Capitol — mean the new office structure will not be big enough to hold all 67 Senate offices.

3.) Rep. John Benson, DFL-Minnetonka, will retire from the House after his fourth term in office ends next year. Benson said he was pleased to have contributed to balancing the state budget; he plans to continue to find ways to serve the public, but did not specify any future plans. Unlike the retirements of his fellow DFL Reps. Tom Huntley (Duluth) and Michael Paymar (St. Paul), Benson’s departure leaves an opening in a fairly competitive district.  Benson may have signaled his intention to area Democrats, who seemed to have been prepared for the news. By day’s end, two of the district’s DFLers had registered campaign committees with the state: Attorney and real estate consultant Jon Applebaum — whose campaign launch came replete with a logo — was joined by Jon Tollefson, a former U.S. State Department staffer who now works at the Minnesota High Tech Association. Tollefson also announced that Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, will serve as his campaign co-chair.


  • The number of declared candidates running to replace Rep. Tom Huntley, DFL-Duluth, has now surged to four, with three Democrats and one Republican already officially in the race. On the DFL side, the Duluth News Tribune reports that Duluth City Council member Linda Krug will join the field, as will Duluth Fire Department captain Pete Johnson — who, like freshman DFL Rep. Erik Simonson, DFL-Duluth, holds a leadership position in the firefighters’ union. They join Jennifer Schultz, a UMD-Duluth Economics professor who started her campaign shortly after Huntley’s announcement. Entering on the GOP side, according to Northland’s News Center, is Donna Bergstrom, a retired Marine Corps Reserve Intelligence Officer.
  • Jennifer O’Rourke, currently chief of staff to Mayor R.T. Rybak, will join Gov. Mark Dayton‘s office as a deputy chief of staff in early January. Aside from her work for the city, she worked as a lobbyist for the League of Minnesota Cities for more than a decade. O’Rourke, who is married to state DFL Party Chair Ken Martin, also has Capitol experience, having served as a Senate staffer and a committee administrator.
  • Kathryn Molleen has registered to lobby for the Minnesota Catholic Conference. It is her first such posting, and brings the religious organization’s current lobbyist roster to four.
  • Minnesota State University Moorhead has announced plans to rename a laboratory building after former Sen. Keith Langseth, the Fargo Forum reports. Langseth, a Democrat whose combined service in the House and Senate covered nearly four decades, was a longtime booster of using capital investment resources for higher education facilities.
  • Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk is hosting the “Stock the Shelves” food shelf fundraiser today at 4:00 p.m. at The Liffey Bar in St. Paul. Gov. Mark Dayton is also scheduled to be on hand for part of the event, which is being hosted and organized by Lydia Bjorge of the Lockridge Grindal Nauen firm.
  • Doug Busselman registered to lobby for the Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation. He becomes that interest group’s fourth advocate on retainer, and was named as its designated lobbyist.


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