1) House and Senate Democrats agreed to a bonding deal on Wednesday that includes $850 million of borrowing and $200 million of cash for public infrastructure, but Republicans necessary to pass the measure objected late into the night. The House is expected to take up the bill on Thursday.
Adding to the confusion, Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, said late Wednesday that the state couldn’t bond for the key Lewis and Clark water pipeline, which is a project in Republican-held southwestern Minnesota that’s a priority for all lawmakers. Minnesota Management and Budget Commissioner Jim Schowalter, though, said the state could bond for the proposal. Still, Democrats may move it into the cash portion of the bonding bill, which might upset the Republican House votes needed to reach a supermajority threshold.
The capital investment package would fund roughly $240 million in higher education improvements, including $119.3 million for the University of Minnesota and $120.7 million for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system. Under the deal, the Minnesota Security Hospital would receive $56.3 million in cash funding and the Minnesota Sex Offender Program would receive $7.4 million, both priorities of Gov. Mark Dayton. The state Capitol renovation, a widely popular project, would be funded by $126.3 million in borrowing.
2) The MNsure governing board adopted a 3.5 percent premium withhold for 2015 on Wednesday, the highest possible take-back from consumers purchasing private insurance coverage that will be used to fund the exchange, the Pioneer Press reports.
Though the board finalized the move on Wednesday, the 3.5 percent withhold has been assumed in budget documents for some time. MNsure’s exceptionally low premiums and lighter-than-forecasted private enrollment had previously put the marketplace at a budget deficit.
Republicans, longtime opponents of MNsure, barked at the news. DFLers “promised that MNsure would result in an average savings of $500 for Minnesota families because MNsure would not implement the same 3.5 percent tax as the federal exchange,” Republican Rep. Greg Davids said in a statement. “Just like its broken website, this is another broken promise from MNsure.”
But Rep. Joe Atkins, the Democrat who guided MNsure through the House, shot back: “Rep. Davids forgot to say that the 3.5 percent premium withhold is a tiny price to pay to get MNsure’s lowest-in-the-nation insurance rates, which are 88 percent lower than those offered in Wisconsin.”
3) Gov. Mark Dayton signed into law on Wednesday a mandate the cell phones in Minnesota have a “kill switch” that renders them useless, according to the Star Tribune.
The issue, which has also received federal attention, is billed as a public safety initiative after a string of robberies for cell phones at the University of Minnesota. In the latest case, two students were stabbed.
COMINGS & GOINGS
- Emily Jensen, a senior at College of St. Benedict, has been endorsed as the Democratic candidate in House District 13A, the seat now held by freshman Rep. Jeff Howe, R-Rockville, the St. Cloud Times reports. Jensen, 22, was the only DFL candidate seeking the party nod at the local chapter’s proceedings, which took place earlier this week.
- 1st District Congressional GOP candidate Aaron Miller announced that he has brought on former state legislator Randy Demmer to serve as his campaign manager. Demmer served four terms in the state House representing the Hayfield area before declaring his candidacy for the same Congressional seat, but failed to win the endorsement.
- Lena Buggs has registered to run as a Green Party of Minnsota candidate in House District 65A, the deeply liberal district where Rep. Rena Moran, DFL-St. Paul, is now serving her second term in the House. Buggs is a small business owner and community activist, and is a cofounder of the local African American Women in Politics organization.
- 6th Congressional District candidate Tom Emmer announced on Wednesday that he had been endorsed by the US Chamber of Commerce, the major business-minded advocacy group which has taken an increasingly vocal role in campaign politics.
- Greater Twin Cities United Way is hiring for a senior communications manager. The position calls for a bachelor’s degree in marketing or a related field and five or more years of experience, with at least two in a management or supervisory position. Application due by June 10; apply here.
- Lobbyist and former longtime Senate staffer Cap O’Rourke has been retained by Blue & White Taxi company. O’Rourke becomes the Metro-area transit company’s third lobbyist currently on record.