1.) It’s crunch time for MNsure, with plans sold on the state health insurance exchange set to go live on Jan. 1. In anticipation of that date, MNsure released a fact sheet aimed at addressing consumer fears, several of which have been the subject of recent messaging from Republican detractors. According to exchange officials, anyone who registers and pays for insurance before midnight on Tuesday will be covered as of Wednesday morning, as will those Minnesotans who are covered under a state-based program like MinnesotaCare or Medical Assistance. Those coverage plans will work even if the holder has not been issued an insurance card; earlier this month, GOP legislative leaders pointed out that they were unaware of any person receiving a card that indicates their coverage plan. The MNsure Board will hold a final pre-launch meeting at 3:00 p.m. today, which is scheduled to include a progress update from interim CEO Scott Leitz, who took the top job after the resignation of former director April Todd-Malmlov. Official legislative scrutiny of the exchange’s performance won’t come until Jan. 9, when the MNSure Legislative Oversight Committee has scheduled a hearing, its first in several months.
2.) Three dozen individuals and political groups have combined to spend more than $27 million on campaigns since 2007, accounting for just more than half the total spent in Minnesota during that period, according to a Star Tribune analysis of campaign finance records. Among the biggest spenders for Democratic candidates are the teachers union Education Minnesota, which spent $4.8 million on elections advocacy, along with heiress — and ex-wife of Gov. Mark Dayton — Alida Messinger, whose total outlay since 2007 comes to $1.6 million. Conservative candidates, meanwhile, have benefited from $2.4 million worth of spending by the Republican Governors Association and another $1.2 million from Joan Cummins. Republican Party of Minnesota chairman Keith Downey said he wasn’t surprised to see an advantage on the DFL side of the ledger, observing that liberal groups had exhibited better organization in recent years. Charlie Weaver, executive director of the Minnesota Business Partnership, said business interests probably won’t be able to keep up with liberal powerhouse Alliance for a Better Minnesota, and might, instead, choose to focus their spending on issue advocacy rather than individual candidates.
3.) Gov. Mark Dayton continues to face murmurs that he won’t seek re-election next year, and is still trying to nix that chatter with insistence that he plans to run. Dayton told Minnesota Public Radio his health problems won’t keep him from the campaign trail, and said his 66 years of age could actually be an asset. “I think with age comes a lot of experience and wisdom that I hope people will decide has kept the state in good stead,” he said. As for his 2014 platform, Dayton intends to focus on legislative accomplishments during his term, including an income tax hike on the state’s top earners. On that topic, Minnesota Chamber of Commerce lobbyist Bill Blazar said business groups probably won’t push for a repeal of the new fourth-tier tax bracket, saying it would be “dumb move” to ask for something Dayton can’t deliver. Instead, businesses plan to seek repeal of the three business-to-business services taxes and will advance what Blazar referred to as “a spending reform proposal, a substantial one.”
COMINGS & GOINGS
- John Freda, former Department of Education commissioner and mayor of Marshall, died over the weekend at the age of 88, the Marshall Independent reports. Freda, a World War II veteran, ran the education department from 1981-1983 during Gov. Al Quie‘s final two years in office. Following that stint, Freda ran for and won Marshall’s mayoralty in 1988, serving one term.
- Independent lobbyist Judy Erickson has added the Cook County Chamber of Commerce to her client list. She becomes that pro-business group’s only advocate currently on record.
- Fresh Energy is looking to hire a public policy director. The advocacy group, which boosts “green” energy efforts in Minnesota, is looking for someone who can coordinate its public relations, policy and operational efforts. Qualified applicants should have a Master’s degree and/or seven years of experience leading a public policy team, including management of both employees and budgets. Cover letter and resume can be sent to Greg Mizer at [email protected]
- Nancy Johnson has terminated her lobbying registration for Minnesotans for Safe Driving, leaving that advocacy group without an official representative in its dealings with the state.
- The Minnesota Medical Association is hiring for a political engagement manager position. The employee would be tasked with connecting individuals in the medical field with elected and appointed officials to help influence policy decisions. Two-plus years of experience in campaigning, marketing or outreach work required. Email resume to Shari Nelson at [email protected]