1.) More than 80,000 Minnesotans have enrolled in insurance through MNsure, but the state insurance exchange looks destined to fall short of its enrollment goals, according to outside consultants who presented their review to the MNsure board on Wednesday. The exchange’s impending shortfall can be mostly blamed on persistent problems with the MNsure.org website and the hugely inefficient call center, representatives from Optum — a division of UnitedHealth Group — told board members.
Optum’s report, which was commissioned by MNsure interim CEO Scott Leitz, said the exchange could take a number of different approaches to improve its operation, with the most dramatic option being a near-compete redesign of the exchange website. Leitz told board members the next two months would be a critical period for MNsure: March 31 marks the end of the open enrollment period that began in October, and consumer interest is expected to surge as Minnesotans look to avoid paying the tax penalties that will land on those who do not have insurance by that deadline.
2.) House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt finally spoke out for a second time about the incident last fall that saw a friend wield Daudt’s handgun during a dispute with a Montana man. In an interview with Minnesota Public Radio, Daudt said he was “doing everything that [he] could to resolve the situation,” and said every witness to the event supported that version of events. Daudt’s 24-year-old friend, Daniel Weinzetl, has been charged with three felonies for his actions that day. The dispute erupted when negotiations regarding a Ford Bronco that Daudt was attempting to purchase took a sour turn. Daudt also tried to distance himself from Weinzetl, who has a previous arrest for a physical altercation with a police officer. “I wouldn’t say we’re necessarily super-close friends,” Daudt said. He added that he was not sure if he would need to return to Montana to testify in the court case against Weinzetl.
3.) Sen. Torrey Westrom, R-Elbow Lake, announced on Wednesday that he had raised $84,000 for his congressional campaign during the month of December. Long seen as one of the GOP’s best options against incumbent DFL U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, Westrom announced his candidacy just a few weeks before the New Year’s Day fundraising deadline. According to a press release announcing his total, Westrom collected nearly all of his donations from Minnesotans. Peterson filed his own fundraising disclosure earlier this month, revealing that he had taken in just over $500,000 during the whole of 2013, and had about $357,000 in cash on hand.
COMINGS & GOINGS
- Leslie Davis is running for the governor’s office again, and will do so as a DFL candidate this time around, the Pioneer Press reports. Davis, a frequent entrant in statewide races, mounted a gubernatorial bid as a Republican in 2010. The 76-year-old describes himself as an environmental activist.
- A new political fund has formed to spend on behalf of farm insurance interests. MAFMIC — the Minnesota Association of Farm Mutual Insurance Companies — registered its political action committee with the state earlier this week, listing Tim Iverson of Parkers Prairie as its chair.
- Tom Emmer is planning a “barnstorming tour” of the 6th Congressional District next week, announcing a series of appearances that begin with a stop at Michael’s Restaurant in St. Cloud on Monday evening. The full schedule of Emmer’s campaign blitz can be found here.
- The chairs of the DFL, Republican and Independence Parties — Ken Martin, Keith Downey and Mark Jenkins, respectively — will hold a joint press conference next week to discuss the upcoming Feb. 4 precinct caucuses. The three party leaders will be in room 125 of the Capitol at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday, where they hope to draw public attention to the caucus date.