1) Though officials point out that more than 240,000 Minnesotans have gotten coverage through MNsure and the state’s uninsured rate has dropped significantly since the ACA was implemented, the technical infrastructure behind the state-based marketplace still has a long way to go, according to a report released on Wednesday by Deloitte Consulting, an outside firm working with the state.
Roughly two-thirds of critical MNsure systems aren’t working or aren’t there, according to the report, which laid out 73 features that should be functional in a successful exchange. Getting many of those features online will be critical to next year’s open enrollment, which begins on Nov. 15.
The exchange faces a tough timeline to implement the features it needs — especially around re-enrolling existing customers, which will be a significant part of the upcoming open enrollment period — before November. Representatives from Deloitte couldn’t assure the MNsure governing board that the three most important features currently missing could be implemented before then.
State staff warned they wouldn’t always be bringing good news. “We’ve got to raise the bar,” MN.IT CIO Tom Baden told the MNsure governing board. “It’s sometimes going to be very, very tough news to hear.”
2) Attorney General Lori Swanson is again fighting the release of Thomas Duvall from the Minnesota Sex Offender Program, once again raising the issue of sex offender release into the political spotlight.
Swanson’s office argued earlier this month that Duvall, a violent offender who has admitted to assaulting at least 60 women, had tried to cover up his psychological condition by having state employees destroy his journals, or “fantasy logs,” which detailed violent fantasies against women.
Observers say the continued refrain against the conditional release of sex offenders by Swanson points to a potential gubernatorial bid in 2018, when Dayton has said he’ll step down if he wins re-election this year.
“That’s the rumor clearly at this point,” said David Schultz, a political expert and Hamline University professor. “For her next four years, this will be the sort of tough-on-crime issue that she sets herself up for 2018.”
GOP Gubernatorial candidate Kurt Zellers, who has also railed against Duvall’s release since 2013, quickly released a statement after the Star Tribune reported the attorney general’s allegations.
“I have spent my legislative career fighting to protect our families from violent sex offenders,” Zellers said in a statement on Wednesday. “As a father and public servant, my number one job is to protect the people of Minnesota. That is why I take this issue seriously and will make sure the public is aware of the facts and safe from Thomas Duvall.”
3) Support for gay marriage continued to rise in Minnesota, reaching 52 percent approval among voters, according to the results of a Public Policy Polling survey released on Wednesday.
That’s up from 49 percent support in 2013 just after gay marriage became legal in the state, Minnesota Public Radio reports. The poll was conducted between June 12 and June 15, and comes with a 3.9 percent margin of error. Those surveyed didn’t have a positive view of lawmakers from either party: The DFL majority in the Legislature got a 35 percent approval rating, while Republicans sat at only 23 percent.
Echoing the results of other polls, medical marijuana was well regarded among Minnesotans, with 74 percent support.
COMINGS & GOINGS
- Former GOP legislator King Banaian has been named interim dean of the St. Cloud State University School of Public Affairs. Banaian, who served one term in the House following his election in 2010, has been an economics professor at the school since 1984.
- A pair of personnel announcements related to AARP Minnesota came out on Tuesday. First, former St. Paul mayor Jim Scheibel will join the organization as its volunteer state president, and takes over that role effective immediately. In further news, the Minnesota Women’s Consortium announced that its current executive director, Erin Parrish, was leaving that organization to take over as associate advocacy and outreach director with AARP Minnesota. Parrish has been with the women’s group for the past nine years; executive board members will initiate a search for her replacement at their annual mid-July meeting.
- Lobbyist Jennifer Breitinger has terminated her registration to advocate for ACE Group, a global insurance company with U.S. headquarters in Philadelphia. Her deletion leaves the multinational corporation without a lobbyist in this state.
- Progressive activists are invited to join the “People’s Party” event at Harriet Island Regional Park next Monday, June 23. The event, which serves as a reflection on the recently ended legislative session, is organized by TakeAction Minnesota, Education Minnesota and the Land Stewardship Project, among other advocacy groups; register to attend here.