U.S. Sen. Al Franken said opponents of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) raised a "ridiculous" argument at the Supreme Court Wednesday when they told the justices that the nation's health care reform law does not allow premium-lowering tax credits in 34 states where the federal government runs insurance exchanges.
"I was actually there when the law was written and passed," Franken told a press conference after the oral arguments. "I know what our intention was."
It was not, the Minnesota Democrat said, to exclude millions of Americans from health insurance coverage by denying them subsidies needed to afford policies. Franken accused ACA opponents of seizing on a few words in a 2,200-page bill to "reverse engineer" an argument that would kill the entire law.
The health law does say that premium subsidies are available to state-run exchanges. But it also says that the federal government will operate exchanges in states that refuse to form them. Subsidies, mandatory participation and coverage of pre-existing conditions are the three-legs of the legislative stool that support health reform. Getting rid of any of them will undermine the rest, most experts agree.
Joining Franken at the press conference were Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut and premium tax credit beneficiaries Bonita Johnson of Detroit and Terry Donald of St. Petersburg, Fla. Johnson and Donald receive premium subsidies from federally run exchanges. Johnson said her health insurance would cost four times as much without subsidies and no longer be affordable. Donald, whose wife has cancer, said his insurance would be six times as much and he would have to drop coverage.
"This was not anyone's thinking" when the health care law passed in 2010, Franken said.
Rachel E. Stassen-Berger and Glenn Howatt
Although DFL Gov. Mark Dayton has had a fundraising advantage throughout the campaign, Republican challenger Jeff Johnson has caught up.
According to fundraising reports made public on Tuesday, Dayton has raised just over $2 million in his quest to keep the governor's job and Johnson has raised $1.96 million since January. As of Oct. 20, neither had very much money left for the final stretch -- Dayton had just $342,000 and Johnson had $454,000.
Both candidates have spent time fundraising in the final weeks. Last week, Dayton brought former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Minnesota for a fundraiser. The cash from that fundraiser has yet to be fully reported the state because it came after the close of the reporting period.
For months, Johnson's schedule has been as likely to say he is raising money at private events as he is doing retail politics.
The push has paid off for Johnson of late.
Since Sept. 16, the last fundraising report, Johnson brought in $710,000, while Dayton brought in $427,000.
Still, over the two year campaign period, from 2013 to 2014, Dayton has raised and spent far more money.
Katharine Tinucci, Dayton's campaign manager, on Tuesday said the campaign had released its last television ad of the cycle. The ad, called "Rising," highlights the progress Dayton believes he has brought to Minnesota and hopes to bring.
"The October 20th cash on hand figure coupled with a strong last week of fundraising puts the Mark Dayton for a Better Minnesota campaign in position to finish the final week of the campaign with a robust advertising buy to help get out the Governor’s message," Tinucci said.
The campaign will spend about $350,000 to air the ad during the final week of the campaign, bringing its total ad spending to about $2 million, she said.
Dayton can only raise about $600,000 more for his campaign given the spending cap he agreed to abide by in exchange for a public subsidy.
Johnson has a lot more room to grow -- if he can raise the cash. He has spent $1.8 million so far and is permitted to spend almost $4.4 million. Johnson has a higher spending limit because he faced a contested primary.
Independence Party gubernatorial candidate Hannah Nicollet did not qualify for a public subsidy and has run a much lower dollar campaign than either Johnson or Dayton. She has raised $20,665 this year and spent $13,191.
Here's a further look at Dayton and Johnson's fundraising numbers for 2014, as reported to the state campaign finance board:
Minnesota 2020, a progressive think tank that DFL politician Matt Entenza founded seven years ago, is shutting its doors.
Stuart Alger, a Minneapolis attorney and board of directors chairman for Minnesota 2020, confirmed Monday that the board made the decision last week. Dave Colling, a veteran DFL operative who has frequently worked for Entenza, has been brought in to help the organization close down in an orderly fashion.
Minnesota 2020 delved into many public policy questions facing the state, producing lengthy and deeply researched reports on everything from transportation and energy policy to education and taxes. The group also frequently sponsored public forums featuring high-profile politicians and other civic leaders.
Alger said six to eight full-time employees would be laid off. He said most are writers, researchers and web specialists.
The organization is a 501c3 non-profit, and was funded in large part by donations from organized labor, foundations and private sources. "The funding just hasn't been there as it was in the past," said Alger, an attorney at Stinson Leonard Street in Minneapolis.
Entenza did not immediately respond to an interview request.
Entenza is a former state House minority leader from St. Paul. He founded Minnesota 2020 in June 2007, about a year after an unsuccessful bid for state attorney general.
Entenza tried to revive his political career in 2010 with a run for governor, but finished third in the DFL primary. He re-surfaced this year with a surprise primary challenge to DFL State Auditor Rebecca Otto, which he also lost.
With that last race, Entenza incurred the wrath of many in the DFL establishment, most notably state party chairman Ken Martin. But Alger said he had received no indication that anger toward Entenza led to the drop in donor support.
"We think Minnesota 2020 really provided a lot of good reliable content over seven years, and we're very proud of the work we've done," Alger said.
In the last few weeks, more than $715,000 in political cash has changed hands in Minnesota politics.
According to reports filed in recent days, the Alliance for a Better Minnesota, Education Minnesota, Freedom Minnesota PAC and DFL auditor candidate Matt Entenza have gotten big cash infusions.
The Alliance, largely funded by unions and wealthy Minnesotans, received $275,000 on Monday from WIN Minnesota. The Alliance is the communications arm for Democratic causes, running ads and dealing with the media. WIN Minnesota is largely the funding arm.
The Education Minnesota teacher's union, one of the most politically active labor groups in the state, transferred $125,000 to its political PAC last week. The union derives money from member dues and the PAC spends money on politics.
The Laborers District Council of Minnesota and North Dakota also received a cash infusion from its parent union. According to a filing, the union's political arm received $64,000 from the union.
Freedom Minnesota PAC was started to help state Rep. Jenifer Loon in her August primary fight. Loon is being challenged by a fellow Republican in large part because she voted to legalize same-sex marriage last year.
Meanwhile, DFLer Entenza gave his campaign for auditor $227,000. Entenza is a state House member who ran for governor in 2010. He donated more than $5 million of his own money to that campaign.
This year, he is waging a primary campaign against DFL auditor Rebecca Otto.
State law requires candidates and campaigns to file reports within 24 hours of receiving big contributions since it is so close to the primary election day.
The cash on the recent filings is in addition to the fundraising the campaigns reported earlier this week.
Minnesota campers, anglers and taxpayers will see improved services under a massive government streamlining effort passed by legislators and signed into law by Gov. Mark Dayton.
Dayton celebrated the achievements Tuesday, calling passage of nearly 1,200 measures to eliminate antiquated laws and improve government services “a phenomenal success.”
“Things don’t get undone in government very readily,” the DFL governor said. “I think we are off to a very good start.”
Dayton's signature streamlining initiative was to be a centerpiece of the last legislative session, but he saw it slip from legislators’ priority list due to a surprisingly large budget surplus and other attention-grabbing issues, like medical marijuana.
The governor’s team leading the initiative kept at it while other political battles flared overhead, unveiling more than 1,000 proposals and doggedly shepherding them through the committee process. With a database tracking each measure, Dayton’s team ditched some that became controversial and took on others pitched by legislators as the session wore on.
“The one thing that can unite us all, that we shouild agree upon, is that government should run better,” said Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board Commissioner Tony Sertich, who led Dayton’s initiative. “That has a hallmark of the Dayton administration and a hallmark of this initiative.”
Republicans criticized the effort for focusing on sometimes silly and otherwise common-sense reforms rather than giving a serious rethinking of the state’s troubled health insurance exchange and the new $77 million office building for state Senators and staff.
House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, criticized Democrats for not stopping the new office building. “Minnesotans are unimpressed,” he said.
Dayton said the changes will make it less time-consuming and aggravating for Minnesotans and business owners when they need to deal with state government.
The governor even signed an executive order that requires state agencies to do something seemingly so simple, but which has proven so hard – requiring communication with the public to be clear, concise and easy to understand.
As part of the effort, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources converted 92-pages of fishing regulations into a slick and easy to use computer application that works on mobile phones.
Legislators wiped out myriad antiquated laws that generated a chuckle around the Capitol. They eliminated telegraph regulations, repealed a law that made it a misdemeanor to carry fruit in the wrong sized container and eliminated a nearly 80-year-old law that made it illegal to drive in neutral.
But many of the changes were serious and substantive.
Dayton is seeking to shorten waiting times for business permit applications to 90 days, a dramatic drop from the current 150 days.
The administration is expecting that 11,000 of the 15,000 annual permits applications quickly reach this new standard.
The effort will make it easier for some Minnesotans to file taxes, eliminating an often confusing multi-step process to deduct student loan interest.
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