1.) The effectiveness of insurance coverage offered through MNsure remains to be seen, but the state health insurance exchange website has begun the new year with a rather inauspicious start. Applications faltered at MNsure.org due to technological glitches, according to the Star Tribune, and the website will be down for repairs until at least Monday morning. MNsure spokesman John Schadl said the problems were owing to “communications issues between various components of the application.” Also likely to draw criticism were renewed complaints over the wait time to reach the MNsure call center, which Schadl said was at an average of just over an hour on Thursday. The continued technical difficulties come at a critical point for the exchange: Though the deadline for January coverage passed on midnight, Dec. 31, consumers were given until Jan. 10 to arrange a payment plan. In a pre-launch meeting earlier this week, interim MNsure CEO Scott Leitz had said the exchange was making progress on both website functionality and call center responsiveness.
2.) Never one to sit on the sidelines during a debate over LGBT rights, Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, used a statement issued Thursday afternoon to wade into the controversy involving outspoken former Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe. At issue were a series of allegations Kluwe aimed at the organization’s management, including former head coach Leslie Frazier and special teams coach Mike Priefer. Kluwe, who became a vocal supporter of the gay marriage cause in Minnesota, said the Vikings’ decision to release him stemmed, at least in part, from angst over Kluwe’s advocacy role; in Priefer’s case, Kluwe claimed the specialist coach had repeatedly made offensive remarks about gay people. Dibble said the accusations are troubling, especially considering the state’s decision to back the Vikings’ new stadium with hundreds of millions of dollars for the new public/private stadium project. “As a business partner of the state of Minnesota, we have strong expectations that the team uphold the values of tolerance and equality that we all share,” Dibble said. “I am encouraged to some degree by the team’s statement in response, but the charges warrant a thorough investigation.”
3.) Rep. Joe Atkins, DFL-Inver Grove Heights, seems to have a nose for noncontroversial consumer-interest ideas, and announced his latest such proposal on Thursday. Atkins plans to introduce a law that would require smartphones to have a remote “kill switch” option, which would leave the phone useless in the event of its being lost or stolen. Atkins said the impetus for the law is, in part, the recent episode that saw former DFL mayoral candidate Mark Andrew robbed and beaten for his iPhone. “Smartphone theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in Minnesota and across the country, and these crimes are becoming increasingly violent,” Atkins said. If passed, Minnesota’s would be the first “kill switch” law in the country, though similar legislation is also being considered in New York and California.
COMINGS & GOINGS
- Republican Party of Minnesota secretary Chris Fields will soon run for the party’s vacant deputy chair position, according to politics.mn. Fields, who mounted a long-shot bid in the heavily DFL 5th Congressional District in 2012, would be looking to succeed Kelly Fenton in the deputy role. Fenton resigned her post to run for the seat currently held by GOP Rep. Andrea Kieffer (Woodbury), who is retiring.
- Sasha Bergman, formerly an executive assistant to House Speaker Paul Thissen, has registered to work as a lobbyist for the City of Minneapolis. She becomes the city’s eighth lobbyist on retainer.
- The Minnesota State Bar Association is hiring for a temporary position to help its government relations team during the upcoming legislative session. The new staffer would work with the legal organization’s government relations director in pushing its legislative agenda, and would be tasked with internal and external communications duties, including work on the association’s website. Bachelor’s degree required; law degree and lobbying experience preferred. Cover letter, resume and references can be sent to Jean Nelson at [email protected]
- Lobbyist Jonathan Bohn, who recently added a slew of new clients to his portfolio, has deleted another: Effective Dec. 31, Bohn is no longer registered to advocate for the Minnesota State University Student Association, leaving that interest group without official representation at the Capitol.
- The Republican Party of Minnesota 5th Congressional District Committee is hosting a candidate training event on Saturday, Jan. 18, which will be conducted by the Leadership Institute. The educational session will teach candidates about messaging, organizing tactics and fundraising. The all day event will be held in Golden Valley, and the registration cost is $35; more information here.
- Lobbyist Barbara Battiste has terminated both of her existing registrations, meaning she will no longer advocate for the Minnesota Women’s Consortium or WomenVenture; in both cases, Battiste had been the organization’s only current lobbyist on record.