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.

Group started to help House deputy minority leader Loon

Posted by: Rachel E. Stassen-Berger Updated: July 22, 2014 - 5:21 PM

Rep. Jenifer Loon has a new independent political committee on her side as she battles in a Republican primary next month.

"Freedom Minnesota PAC’s focus will be to ensure the voters of Minnesota House District 48B have all the information they need to make a good decision when they vote in the Republican primary election on August 12," said treasurer Brian McClung. Wheelock Whitney, a longtime GOP donor and advisor, is the group's chair.

Independent committees set up to help one particular candidate or another were once a rarity but have become increasingly common in Minnesota politics. At least two gubernatorial candidates are, or will be supported by single candidate PACs and other independent groups may spring up to support other statewide or legislative hopefuls.

In the August primary, Loon, a Republican deputy minority leader from Eden Prairie, will face Shelia Kihne.

Kihne, a Republican activist, has support from the conservative Minnesota Family Council.

"Sheila is running in the Republican primary against an incumbent who, despite her pledge to constituents to support traditional marriage, voted for same-sex marriage last year," the Family Council says on its website.

Photos: Jennifer Loon (on right); Shelia Kihne (on left)//from the candidates websites

GOP's Johnson expected to be 'back to normal health' in a few days

Posted by: Rachel E. Stassen-Berger under Minnesota campaigns, Minnesota governor, Republicans Updated: July 22, 2014 - 4:40 PM

Republican gubernatorial candidate Jeff Johnson is expected to be "back to normal health in a matter of days," according to information released by his campaign Tuesday.

On Monday, Johnson, a Hennepin County Commissioner, went to urgent care with stomach pain and doctors quickly determined he needed surgery. He was taken to Maple Grove Hospital where surgeons repaired "a small perforation" in his stomach.

His campaign quoted Maple Grove Hospital's Megan Fasching as saying that the condition from which Johnson suffered, a peptic ulcer, was fairly common.

"He tolerated the surgery well and is on the road to recovery. He should be back to normal health in a matter of days with no long term effects," Fasching said.

His campaign said he would be back on the trail soon.

Johnson faces a four-way primary in August against former House Minority Leader Marty Seifert, Rep. Kurt Zellers and Wayzata businessman Scott Honour.

Photo: Mayo Clinic for Medical Education and Research

Klobuchar, Grassley want probe of ethanol sales restrictions

Posted by: Jim Spencer under Minnesota U.S. senators Updated: July 22, 2014 - 11:55 AM

Democratic U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota has joined with Republican colleague Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa to push federal investigations of alleged restrictions on the sales of ethanol by the nation's major oil companies.

The senators cited a recent report by the Renewable Fuels Association, a trade group representing the ethanol industry, that claims name-brand oil companies unfairly limit sales of ethanol at service stations selling their products.

Klobuchar and Grassley have written to U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric Holder and Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Edith Ramirez asking them to investigate a number of charges for possible legal and regulatory violations. The senators have asked for "a substantive evaluation of your conclusions regarding possible anticompetitive behavior by certain oil companies and any proposed solutions or actions the DOJ and FTC will take to resolve this issue."   

Among charges leveled by the renewable fuels group at Big Oil:

Brand name service stations can only sell products provided by the oil company.

Sales quotas of branded products discourage the sale of ethanol.

Requirements to store multiple grades of branded gas eliminate the ability to store and sell ethanol.

Oil company demands that ethanol pumps be labeled with "intimidating" warnings about how the fuel can hurt engines.

Forcing dealers to isolate E85 pumps that deliver fuel that is 85 percent ethanol.

Dayton: MNsure rates should be released Oct. 1

Posted by: Rachel E. Stassen-Berger under Minnesota governor, Gov. Mark Dayton, Minnesota legislature, Minnesota state senators, Democrats, Republicans Updated: July 22, 2014 - 11:10 AM

On Tuesday, a day after DFL Gov. Mark Dayton said he was unsure whether the MNsure health insurance rates should be released before the election, the governor asked his commerce commissioner to attempt an earlier release.

"Making the rate information public before open enrollment begins would provide families and businesses additional time and information to help them make informed decision," Dayton said in a letter to MNsure's legislative committee.

The timing of the rate release has long been a political football.

Republicans have hammered the administration to release the 2015 health insurance rates before the November election, saying they believe consumer costs will like rise. Waiting until Nov. 15, when open enrollment begins and several weeks after voters will decide whether to re-elect Dayton and legislative DFLers, amounts to a political "cover up," they've said.

On Monday, Dayton appeared to resist calls for an earlier release.

"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," the governor said in answering reporter questions about the release schedule.

But by Tuesday, the date the MNsure's bipartisan legislative oversight panel is scheduled to discuss an earlier release, Dayton had decided an earlier release would be beneficial.

In his letter to the committee, the governor said he would like Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman to request the state's health plans to agree to release rates around Oct. 1. That would give consumers about 45 days before open enrollment begins and put the 2014 release on roughly the same schedule as the 2013 release.

Here's Dayton's letter:

2014 07 22 Dayton LTR MNsure Oversight by Rachel E. Stassen-Berger

Photo: Star Tribune file photo

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

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