1.) The state health insurance exchange is both more popular and more troublesome than ever, if yesterday’s MNsure board meeting is any evidence. The meeting’s disclosures included news that more than 72,000 Minnesotans had registered for insurance coverage through January 4; that figure included 26,000-plus consumers who have agreed to purchase private insurance, an increase of nearly 7,000 people since Dec. 28. The board also went over a couple of key timelines for the near future during the meeting, as interim CEO Scott Leitz explained what he knew of the planned Office of the Legislative Auditor (OLA) review of MNsure. That process will begin later this month, and could last until April, if not longer, depending on what the auditors find in the course of their investigation into the agency’s handling of contracts with numerous technology vendors.
The board also discussed its thinking about hiring a full-time, permanent replacement for April Todd-Malmlov, but that search will take some months to reach any sort of resolution, if yesterday’s debate is any indication. At one point, bord chair Brian Beutner said the board would have to determine whether its candidate selection process would take three, six or nine months to be completed.
2.) Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, has pre-filed a bill that would repeal a new tax that hits families receiving employer benefits for adoptive children. That excise would not be in effect if the Legislature had conformed with the federal tax code, but an effort to bring the state in line with the federal code failed in the Senate last session. In announcing his plans, Garofalo said the projected budget surplus should allow the state to eliminate that tax — among others. “This is just one of the many taxes we need to roll back, and I look forward to the important work of undoing Democrats’ mistakes when session begins in February,” he said.
3.) The Advisory Committee on Capitol Security is meeting at 9:30 a.m. to sign off on its legislative recommendations for the coming session. That committee, chaired by Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon, has held a number of hearings to discuss the possibility of banning or restricting firearms in the Capitol building and surrounding areas. Republican members have been unyielding in their opposition to any such idea, despite the insistence of Rep. Michael Paymar, DFL-St. Paul, who has argued that the majority of other states do not allow citizens to carry firearms in the same building that houses legislative chambers and the governor’s office. Paymar introduced a measure that would have prohibited handguns in the Capitol during the group’s last meeting, but the proposal failed to pass, with Sen. Ann Rest, DFL-New Hope, absent for the day, and Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Lori Gildea opting to abstain from the vote.
COMINGS & GOINGS
- Linda Krug has officially become the fourth DFL candidate running in House District 7A, the attractive seat for liberal candidates currently held by DFL Rep. Tom Huntley (Duluth), who announced last month that he would not seek re-election. Krug’s registration with the state lists Neil Glazman as her treasurer; Glazman works as an insurance broker based in that city, and is president of the Temple Israel congregation.
- The political fundraising group “Simply Right Conservatives” has terminated its registration with the campaign finance board; the organization was based out of Hinckley, and had listed Dick Kazel as its chairman.
- Luke Hellier, formerly a communications staffer with the Senate Republican caucus, has joined the Public Affairs Company. Hellier rotated out of the Senate GOP position effective New Year’s Eve, and began work at Public Affairs at the beginning of this week; he has previously done public relations work for U.S. Reps. Erik Paulsen and Michele Bachmann.
- John Wade, president of the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce, is leaving that job after more than a decade of service, according to the Rochester Post-Bulletin. Wade told the newspaper he was leaving the job to focus on a new post with an auto dealership in town. The pro-business group plans to use a transition committee to search for Wade’s successor.