1) Higher education projects are the biggest winners in Rep. Alice Hausman’s bonding bill, which House members saw for the first time on Tuesday. The St. Paul DFLer proposed $850 million in capital investment projects that include $370 million for higher ed, investments in public safety and infrastructure and roughly $150 million for local projects. The measure also allocates about $125 million in surplus cash — doesn’t $1.2 billion go quick? — for projects that wouldn’t fit in the bill.
Hausman’s proposal is different from Gov. Mark Dayton’s bonding plan. It has fewer resources allocated for local projects like civic centers in Rochester and St. Cloud and funds the ongoing Capitol renovations with $20 million in cash — far short of the governor’s $126 million bonding plan.
“I will tell you that in several of these projects, I hope we can restore all of this to full funding,” Hausman said at a Tuesday hearing on the bill. “I don’t know how that’s going to happen, but we’re just going to keep working on that.”
Lack of support for regional centers has already caused some tensions, with Rep. Tina Liebling, DFL-Rochester, expressing her disappointment regarding the bill.
2) MNsure saw a significant enrollment spike as Obamacare’s first open enrollment period closed this week. Officials announced on Tuesday that the exchange had enrolled nearly 170,000 Minnesotans since it opened in October. Whether MNsure reached any meaningful sort of enrollment number and demographic mix remains to be seen. “There’s just a lot of things that we’re going to continue to learn,” interim MNsure CEO Scott Leitz said at a Tuesday press conference wrapping up the enrollment period.
Roughly 47,000 Minnesotans purchased private plans; another 34,000 enrolled in MinnesotaCare; and 88,000 joined Medical Assistance (Medicaid). Though private plan enrollment fell short of MNsure’s initial goals, the exchange far surpassed its overall target of 135,000 enrollments for its first six months. Officials there say the private plan enrollments — which will fund MNsure once federal grants run out — are enough to sustain the exchange into the future. As the exchange works through the backlog of roughly 36,000 consumers who attempted to secure coverage but couldn’t make it through the system, work will pivot to a long-term overhaul of the IT infrastructure of MNsure with a new primary private vendor. A contract to complete those upgrades is still under negotiation.
3) The pack of Republicans looking to oust U.S. Sen. Al Franken this fall rarely drifted apart on policy issues at a debate in St. Louis Park on Tuesday evening, the Star Tribune reports. GOP hopefuls largely remained together on opposing abortion, supporting Israel and pushing for a stronger military. The two most established contenders — businessman Mike McFadden and state Sen. Julianne Ortman — worked to build on their perceived strengths as potential foes of Franken, who is better funded. Still, Republicans hope to take back the U.S. Senate this fall, and Franken squeaked by narrowly during his first election bid, which makes him a target.
COMINGS & GOINGS