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.

Posts about Health care

Dayton agrees to limit self-funding, campaign spending

Posted by: Updated: May 30, 2014 - 11:34 AM
Mark Dayton, center, and Tina Smith talk with Secretary of State Mark Ritchie

Mark Dayton, center, and Tina Smith talk with Secretary of State Mark Ritchie

Gov. Mark Dayton signed an agreement Friday that will sharply limit his ability to personally bankroll his re-election campaign.

Dayton agreed not to spend more than $20,000 of his own money in exchange for about $447,000 in public subsidy. The agreement also limits Dayton’s campaign to about $3.6 million.

That's a sharp contrast to 2010, when Dayton poured $3.7 million of his own money into the campaign and narrowly beat GOP rival Tom Emmer.

Now an incumbent with a list of accomplishments, the governor said the agreement will allow him to spend less time raising money and more time traveling the state meeting with Minnesotans.

The agreement has no bearing on what outside groups can spend defending Dayton or attacking his rivals.

Dayton, a department store heir, has already embarked on an active fundraising schedule, taking in more than $1.1 million.

Dayton and his running mate, Tina Smith, came to the Secretary of State’s office Friday to file the paperwork to make their campaign official.

The governor said the theme of his first campaign was to make Minnesota better.

“I think we’ve indisputably made Minnesota a better state,” said Dayton, noting new education investments, a balanced budget and progressive legislation, such as legalization of same-sex marriage. “That’s why I am running, not only to make Minnesota better, but to make it the best.”

Dayton and Smith will travel to Duluth this weekend to accept the DFL’s endorsement for governor and lieutenant governor.

Ample signs are already emerging that Dayton will have a heated and divisive race.

A GOP group that has criticized Dayton and Democrats for months parked a rented truck in front of the Secretary of State’s office displaying a huge banner criticizing the governor for the troubled rollout of MNsure, the state’s health insurance exchange.

The group, Minnesota Jobs Coalition, plans to park the truck outside the DFL State Convention in Duluth.

Truck greeting Gov. Mark Dayton outside Secretary of State's office.

Truck greeting Gov. Mark Dayton outside Secretary of State's office.

Dayton signs medical marijuana bill

Posted by: Patrick Condon Updated: May 29, 2014 - 10:13 AM

Gov. Mark Dayton on Thursday signed the bill legalizing marijuana treatment of some medical conditions including cancer, other terminal and some chronic diseases, and to help reduce seizures in children with epilepsy. 

Dayton's signature officially makes Minnesota the 22nd U.S. state with a medical marijuana program. About 5,000 people are expected to be eligible , with the first legal access to compounds of the cannabis plant expected on July 1, 2015. 

"I thank everyone who worked together to craft and pass this legislation. I pray it will bring to the victims of ravaging illnesses the relief they are hoping for," Dayton said in a prepared statement.

The governor signed the bill privately, with no public ceremony as he often does with high-profile legislation. Dayton's insistence that law enforcement groups and some medical organizations sign off on the final proposal angered many of the private citizens who lobbied for the bill. That group included adult patients as well as parents of children with severe forms of epilepsy. 

The state Department of Health will manage the medical marijuana program, in which enrollees will consent to have their use and outcomes closely monitored. There are nine qualifying medical conditions, which besides those mentioned above also include HIV/AIDS, glaucoma, Tourette's syndrome, ALS and Crohn's Disease. Patients' medical providers will have to confirm to the state that they are eligible to participate. 

Minnesota's program will have a number of unique aspects compared to the other states. It will be the only medical marijuana program in the country that does not allow possession and smoking of actual marijuana plant material. Instead, patients will have access to oils and liquids that contain various plant extracts. Many doctors with experience in medical marijuana call that unusual, given that oil extracts are seen as much more potent that the plant. 

Police and prosecutor groups lobbied heavily against allowing plants or smoking in Minnesota's program, and Dayton made it clear for months that he was not willing to support a medical marijuana bill if it was opposed by law enforcement groups. 

Private manufacturers will bid with the Department of Health to produce and distribute the oils and liquids. The law authorizes to manufacturing and eight distribution sites around the state.

Most of the Legislature's Democrats and many Republicans approved the program in the closing days of the legislative session. 

Zellers, running mate differ on taxes, minimum wage

Posted by: Updated: May 23, 2014 - 11:32 AM
Kurt Zellers, right, introduces GOP running mate, Dean Simpson

Kurt Zellers, right, introduces GOP running mate, Dean Simpson

GOP gubernatorial candidate Kurt Zellers has tapped former Rep. Dean Simpson as his running mate, selecting someone more moderate on issues of the minimum wage and taxation.

“He is what Main Street Minnesota is all about,” said Zellers, a former Minnesota House Speaker who served with Simpson in the Legislature. “We’ve been missing a good salesman and a good cheerleader for Minnesota for the last four years."

Simpson described himself as “a little bit on the moderate side” at a Capitol news conference to introduce the team. A former New York Mills mayor and four-decade grocery store owner, Simpson has voted in favor of tax increases before and said he supports looking at expanding the sales tax to include more items.

He also said he has no interest in repealing the minimum wage increase DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and Democratic legislators passed earlier this year.

Simpson said his grocery store employees make more than the minimum wage and that once the new $9.50 hourly wage is fully implemented, he will probably give workers raises to make sure they are comfortably above it.

“I am certainly not going to try to do anything to repeal it, that’s for sure,” Simpson said.

Simpson’s position puts him at odds with the candidate at the top of the ticket.

After Democrats announced the deal to raise the base wage, Zellers pledged to work to rescind the wage increase if elected governor.

Zellers expressed skepticism about tax breaks that Dayton and legislative leaders agreed to as part of the successful bid to lure the Super Bowl to Minnesota in 2018.

Zellers was a prominent opponent of the state-backed portion of the new Minnesota Vikings stadium, but Simpson supported a measure to aid the new Twins stadium.

Of the tax incentives for the Super Bowl, “I always thing that is tenuous at best,” Zellers said. “You introduce a few guys from Florida to ice fishing, that’s a great day.”

If elected, Zellers would likely need to become a crucial leader in the effort to make sure the event is a success.

The candidate declined to say whether he'd support state involvement, but added: “I am going to be the best cheerleader and the best salesman for Minnesota as I can be."

Stewart Mills goes on air against Obamacare

Posted by: Allison Sherry Updated: May 20, 2014 - 2:59 PM

WASHINGTON -- Republican Stewart Mills III, who is running to unseat Rep. Rick Nolan in the 8th Congressional District, launched his first ads this week in a substantive buy on television in Duluth and the Twin Cities against Obamacare.

"Every day I see how Obamacare is hurting small businesses and the middle class," Mills says, after saying he grew up in the family company stocking shelves and mopping floors. "As your congressman I'll replace it."

The campaign declined to give specifics but a Democratic source says the campaign sunk $170,000 in the buy on cable and network television in Duluth and Minneapolis/St. Paul. It is scheduled to run through July.

In last campaign finance reports, Mills reportedly had $350,000 cash on hand. His portion of his family's farm business is worth between $41 million and $150 million.

“It’s clear why millionaire Stewart Mills is avoiding the issues and hiding behind his TV ads, because when the cameras aren’t rolling he says what he actually thinks,” said Brandon Lorenz of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. 

This is the latest ad in the putative fight this fall between Republicans and DFLers over Obamacare. Last week, Mike Obermueller, who is running against GOP incumbent Rep. John Kline, launched a pro-Obamacare ad in a tiny ad buy on MSNBC.

Republicans bring 'balanced' message to Minnesotans

Posted by: Updated: May 19, 2014 - 10:00 AM

Legislative Republicans were blitzing the state Monday to make the case that one-party Democratic control at the Capitol is bad for Minnesota.

Democrats brought “unhealthy taxing and spending, hurting Minnesota’s economy and hurting Minnesota families,” said House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown.

GOP leaders converged at the Capitol for an early-morning news conference before taking off for Moorhead, Austin and Luverne, areas where Republicans believe they can best make their case and help win back the House.

Legislators adjourned late Friday night, capping a three-month legislative session where Democratic majorities in the House and Senate raised the minimum wage to $9.50 an hour, approved more than $550 million in tax breaks, threw more money into the state’s rainy-day fund and legalized medical marijuana.

“This Legislature did what we said we were going to do,” said House Speaker Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis. “We balanced the budget responsibly in order to focus on priorities important to most Minnesotans: investing in education from kindergarten to college, investing in proven job creation initiatives, and reducing property taxes for homeowners, renters and farmers.”

The Senate is not up for election this November, so Republicans and conservative donors are placing enormous emphasis on winning control of the House. Ousting Democrats from power would give Republicans a solid platform to block DFL initiatives and pass their own measures.

Republicans need just seven more seats to gain control, and Daudt predicted they could win back nearly 20 additional seats on Election Day.

The GOP urged Minnesotans to embrace their “balanced Republican approach.” They did not highlight some of the more polarizing issues at the Capitol this year, such as the anti-bullying measure and a minimum wage increase that had strong opposition from business leaders.

Instead, they talked about the need for tougher education standards and more commitment to transportation spending, particularly in rural areas.

Republicans criticized Democrats for a new $77 million office building and for last year's tax hikes, particularly as some early indications show that Minnesota’s employment and budget picture might be dimming a bit.

“Democrats have really let Minnesotans down,” said Senate Majority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie.

Republicans continued to hammer on the state’s bungled roll out of MNsure, the state’s health insurance exchange.

“The one glaring omission is that we did nothing with health care,” Hann said.

He called the new system a “failure.”

Hann said he plans to meet with health care officials over the summer to see what changes could be feasible.  

Democrats are trying to keep the debate more focused on the economy. They warned that Republican control brought years of back-to-back budget deficits that drained budget reserves, resulting in billions being borrowed from public schools to patch up the state budget.

DLFers said their budget balancing repaid public schools, left the state with its highest ever budget reserves in state history and ushered in a $1.2 billion budget surplus.

"The best way to build on our progress is to continue growing our economy from the middle-out,” House Majority Leader Erin Murphy, DFL-St. Paul. "That means fighting for working families and our local communities instead of engaging in partisan gridlock that only benefits the wealthy special interests."


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