Turmoil at the Minnesota Department of Human Services will be back in the spotlight this week, as the state Senate holds a second hearing into problems at the embattled state agency.
The massive agency has been rocked by personnel shake-ups and reports of financial missteps in recent months. This week, officials revealed that the total owed to the federal government for overpayments to substance-abuse treatment centers will hit an estimated $48 million. The news came the same day that an influential deputy commissioner resigned for the second time in two months.
On Wednesday, Republican state Sen. Michelle Benson, chair of the Senate’s powerful health and human services committee, released letters containing follow-up questions she sent to top agency officials following last month’s hearing.
“Sen. Benson has not received substantial responses to the requests, nor has she received responses to the data-practices requests made in July,” a spokeswoman wrote.
A spokesperson for DHS said the agency is working on the requests and will respond to the letters before the hearing.
Mondale’s advice to Franken
As he makes a return to public life, former U.S. Sen. Al Franken is turning to one of Minnesota’s leading elder statesmen for advice.
The 68-year-old Democrat featured a conversation with former Vice President Walter Mondale on his eponymous podcast. Near the end of the 50-minute interview, Franken said he wanted to discuss “suffering a setback.”
The former vice president explained that after he and Jimmy Carter lost the 1980 election, he couldn’t sleep at night “for the better part of a month” and would read instead.
“Just a month?” Franken asked.
Mondale explained that it took longer than that to fully rebound and said, “Slowly I started feeling better.”
At the end of the podcast, Mondale told his host, “I admire the depth and decency of your public service,” and said that he hopes Franken will find a way to continue that. “You’re needed here,” Mondale said. “People want you.”
Franken, who resigned from the Senate in late 2017 after allegations of unwanted physical contact with women, has ramped up his public comments and appearances in recent months.
Walz readies for overseas trip
Gov. Tim Walz departs Friday for his first overseas trip as Minnesota’s chief executive. The DFL governor is flying to Tokyo to attend the Midwest U.S. Japan Association Conference, before stopping in Seoul to promote economic partnerships with South Korea.
The trip for Walz and one aide is expected to cost the state about $8,000, said press secretary Teddy Tschann. The Minnesota Trade Office budget will cover travel expenses.
Wedding bells for Phillips
U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips has a busy September ahead. In addition to returning to Washington at the end of congressional recess, the freshman Democrat is getting married.
Phillips confirmed that he plans to wed art consultant Annalise Glick in a private ceremony this month. He said he expects it to be a “joyful” day.”
He has two daughters from a previous marriage.
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Staff writer Judy Keen contributed to this report.