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The Capitol Note: Dayton and Franken face cloudy approval ratings

1) Gov. Mark Dayton and U.S. Sen. Al Franken are hovering below the 50 percent approval mark during a tough off-year election battle, according to a KSTP-SurveyUSA poll released on Sunday.

Dayton’s approval rating is sitting at 49 percent, according to the poll, while Franken is slightly lower at 46 percent. President Barack Obama undercuts them both with a 36 percent approval rating, according to the poll. Democrats could face a tough election in Minnesota in November, where the governor’s office, the state House and Franken’s seat are up for grabs.

2) MNsure’s former Executive Director, April Todd-Malmlov, spread the blame around in a recent interview with PIM for the exchange’s botched rollout. Todd-Malmov, in her first in-depth remarks since stepping down from MNsure, said that much of the exchange’s problems came from software issues with IBM-Curam, which was paid roughly $4 million to help construct the marketplace.

Todd-Malmlov, who said she left the exchange for the sake of her family, was initially asked to stay on in a supporting role. She said that issues with the IBM product started well before Gov. Mark Dayton sent a scathing letter to IBM about the technological issues with its product in December 2013. The exchange, which has since turned around at least partially, counts its enrollment figures this year as a success. But significant problems with the Curam software, Todd-Malmlov said, caused the exchange’s significant glitches in November and December. Those well-documented glitches put MNsure under a harsh light during the first half of this year’s open enrollment period.

Legislative Auditor Jim Nobles will do a wide-ranging audit of MNsure after lawmakers gave him a directive to do so last week.

3)  U.S. Sen. Al Franken raised $2.8 million in the first quarter of 2014, according to a campaign announcement. Franken’s Republican challengers haven’t released  financial statements for this quarter yet ahead of the 2014 midterm elections. Businessman Mike McFadden is likely to hold his fundraising lead over state Sen. Julianne Ortman and state Rep. Jim Abeler, both Republicans. McFadden raised $1.7 million as of January.

Franken’s race could be trouble for Democrats. The GOP — as well as outside spending groups — has targeted the freshman senator this year. At least two outside groups are operating against Franken in Minnesota, dulling his financial advantage.

COMINGS & GOINGS

  • Gov. Mark Dayton will hold a signing ceremony for the minimum wage increase in the Capitol rotunda at 2:30 p.m. today.
  • Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will give the Distinguished Carlson Lecture at the University of Minnesota on Wednesday. Rice’s speech is at the Nothrop Auditorium, and the event begins at 5:00 p.m. Free, but limited seating; more information here.
  • Sanimax, a St. Paul-based company that specializes in reuse of by-products such as vegetable fat and animal parts, has retained a trio of lobbyists from the Lockridge Grindal Nauen firm, including Ted Grindal. They are the first advocates on record for that company.
  • The Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) is hiring for a business services specialist to work out of its Roseau office. The employee’s duties would include job service and consulting to area businesses, and requires some travel. Qualified applicants should have two years of experience in business services work or a degree in marketing, public relations, business administration or a related field. More information at the state jobs website.
  • Longtime Minnesota State College Student Association staffer Jessica Medearis has terminated her registration to lobby on that organization’s behalf. Medeais has held several titles with the student group, and is currently listed as its associate director; her termination leaves two lobbyists currently on file with the state.

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