With an insider’s eye, Hot Dish tracks the tastiest bits of Minnesota’s political scene and keep you up-to-date on those elected to serve you.

Contributors in Minnesota: Patrick Condon, Baird Helgeson, Patricia Lopez, Jim Ragsdale, Abby Simons, Rachel E. Stassen-Berger and Glen Stubbe. Contributors in D.C.: Allison Sherry, Corey Mitchell and Jim Spencer.

Dayton said he is unsure if release of MNsure rates would add light

Posted by: Rachel E. Stassen-Berger under Minnesota governor, Gov. Mark Dayton, Minnesota legislature, Democrats, Republicans Updated: July 21, 2014 - 7:21 PM

Gov. Mark Dayton said the idea of releasing the health insurance rates on the state's health exchange before the election may just add political heat without shedding any light.

"The Republicans will make a political issue out of MNsure between now and the election for anything and everything. And, you know, we're taking it one step at a time," Dayton said.

State law requires the rates for MNsure, the Minnesota version of the health exchange created in the wake of the federal Affordable Care Act, to be released in mid-November. Republicans in the Legislature and those who hope to unseat Dayton see politics in that post-election release, which one has called a "cover up."

On Monday, the DFL governor said that the Commerce Department has received preliminary rate estimates from plans and is now negotiating them down. Dayton said he has not seen those preliminary rates and is not sure if they should be released before the November election.

"I think they are going to be so badly distorted for political purposes that I don't think they will shed any light for consumers," Dayton said. "I don't think it is going to shed any light on it. It is going to add a lot of heat to the lambasting that goes on."

An early release would likely require sign off from the health plans.

"Throwing MNsure farther into the thick of the all the political shots that are going to be taken to me is not (serving any purpose,)" Dayton said.

The governor said he has not made a final decision on whether he believes the rates should be released early but is disinclined to move toward release because of pressure from Republicans to do so.

"We will see how it unfolds," Dayton said.

On Tuesday, a state legislative MNsure panel will discuss the rate release schedule.

"Gov. Dayton should put politics aside, and give Minnesotans the time they need in order to make an informed decision as to the healthcare coverage they need," the Republican Party of Minnesota said in a news release Monday.

Photo: Star Tribune file photo

Federal disaster declared in 8 Minn. counties recovering from June storms

Posted by: Rachel E. Stassen-Berger Updated: July 21, 2014 - 7:56 PM

President Obama signed a disaster declaration for eight Minnesota counties to assist in recovery from the June storms and floods, according to the White House.

The declaration makes Chippewa, Freeborn, Jackson, Murray, Nobles, Pipestone, Renville, and Rock counties eligible for federal funding to aid the state and local governments in recovery.

"(Federal Emergency Management officials) said that damage surveys are continuing in other areas, and more counties and additional forms of assistance may be designated after the assessments are fully completed," the White House said in a news release.

By early July, Gov. Mark Dayton had declared a state of emergency in 51 of Minnesota's 87 counties in the wake of severe flooding and damaging storms.

According to Gov. Mark Dayton's office, "the most recent preliminary damage assessment figures from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) shows $37.1 million in eligible expenses:

  • Debris removal: $3.2 million
  • Emergency protective measures: $3.7 million
  • Roads and bridges $16.1 million
  • Water control facilities $5 million
  • Buildings and equipment: $721,000
  • Utilities: $3.2 million
  • Parks, recreational facilities and other facilities: $5.2 million"

The federal government will pay 75 percent of approved costs. The state will pick up the rest.

Members of the Minnesota congressional delegation jointly applauded the administration's move on the disaster declaration.

“Weeks of torrential downpour this summer triggered devastating flooding that inflicted severe damage all across our state,” Democratic U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar said in a news release. “This disaster declaration will deliver critical funding and support to communities impacted by flooding and help our state rebuild and recover.”

The release, issued jointly with Democratic Sen. Al Franken and Democratic Reps. Tim Walz and Collin Peterson, also said: 'The declaration also makes all counties in Minnesota eligible for hazard mitigation funding on a cost-sharing basis to prevent future damage from natural hazards."


GOP's Johnson underwent unexpected surgery for a 'perforated stomach'

Posted by: Rachel E. Stassen-Berger under Minnesota campaigns, Minnesota governor Updated: July 21, 2014 - 7:27 PM

Republican candidate for governor Jeff Johnson on Monday underwent unexpected surgery for a perforation in his stomach.

According to his campaign and staff at Hennepin County, where he is a commissioner, Johnson had stomach pain on Monday morning and went to urgent care. Shortly thereafter doctors decided he would need immediate surgery and he was moved to Maple Grove Hospital.

During surgery, doctors found what his campaign said was a "small perforation in Jeff's stomach. The perforation was repaired." By Monday afternoon, Johnson was out of surgery and recovering. 

"Commissioner Johnson is in the Maple Grove Hospital and is expected to be there for about a week," according to an email from Hennepin County's director of public affairs Carolyn Marinan.

Gregg Peppin of the Johnson campaign said that Johnson had not previously had stomach problems.

The campaign cleared Johnson schedule for the rest of Monday and is expected to clear it for Tuesday. Peppin said the rest of the schedule is unclear.

He will have little time to recover before facing four-way Republican gubernatorial primary next month. On Aug, 12, he will vie against former House Speaker Kurt Zellers, former House Minority Leader Marty Seifert and businessman Scott Honour.

Over the weekend, Johnson was on the campaign trail and tweeting about his activities.

Johnson's primary opponents wished him their best:

Gov. Mark Dayton began a Monday afternoon conference by wishing Johnson his best.

“I hope that he has a speedy and complete recovery,” Dayton said.

Johnson is not the only Minnesota candidate to have election year surgery.

DFL Gov. Mark Dayton had hip surgery earlier this year to repair a detached tendon in his hip, one of three Mayo Clinic procedures he has had done since taking office four years ago. Back in 2006, when she was making her first run for office, Democratic U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar had two hip surgeries.


Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar heads back to Iowa

Posted by: Allison Sherry under Morning Hot Dish newsletter, National campaigns, Democrats Updated: July 21, 2014 - 10:11 AM

WASHINGTON -- Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar is heading to Iowa in August.

The senator has plans to campaign for Democratic Senate candidate Bruce Braley who is vying against GOP state Sen. Joni Ernst in an open seat.

A Klobuchar aide confirmed over the weekend that Minnesota's senior senator would be campaigning for Braley Aug. 23. 

Iowa is the first-in-the-nation presidential primary contest, which always means the state is a veritable runway for presidential hopefuls and those with higher ambitions -- even in off-years.

The Iowa precinct caucuses are the first week of January in 2016.

Democrats add Nolan to vulnerable incumbents list

Posted by: Corey Mitchell under 8th District, Minnesota campaigns, Minnesota congressional, Democrats, Republicans Updated: July 21, 2014 - 9:37 AM

National Democrats are calling in reinforcements for U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan’s re-election campaign in the Eighth Congressional District.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has added Nolan to its Frontline program — a support system for House Democrats’ most vulnerable incumbents.

Nolan returned to Congress in 2013 after a 32-year hiatus, defeating a first-term GOP incumbent to win the seat representing northeastern Minnesota.

Republicans are looking to flip the seat once again, returning it to GOP control. Their candidate is Republican Stewart Mills III, a vice president in his family’s Fleet Farm retail chain.

Mills has raised outraised Nolan in three of the last four fundraising cycles, but Nolan still holds an overall cash-on-hand advantage.

Mills has reached the top level of the National Republican Congressional Committee’s “Young Guns” candidate training program. As challengers ascend the ranks, they’re more likely to receive financial and campaign aid from the NRCC, the campaign arm of House Republicans.

The Rothenberg Political Report and Cook Political Report rate Nolan as a slight favorite to win re-election.

As Election Day nears, outside groups are expected to step up their spending in the race. In 2012, party committees and political action committees invested nearly $10 million in the Eighth District race. This year, conservative groups have already spent more than $500,000 backing Mills’ campaign.

Nolan’s assignment to the Frontline program will pair him with a familiar face: Fellow Minnesota U.S. Rep. Tim Walz chairs the initiative. As part of the effort, Nolan’s campaign will have to ramp up its fundraising, volunteer recruitment and online networking.


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