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:
Photo: Star Tribune file photo
Local government lobbying costs increased to $8 million in 2013, a jump of a little less than $260,000 compared to 2012, according to a new report from the Office of the State Auditor.
The slight increase comes after a dip in local government lobbying. Back in 2012, the State Auditor found that lobbying costs decreased by 6 percent, or nearly $500,000, compared to 2011.
The report tallies up lobbying spending by "cities, counties, school districts, and special districts, directly employed staff and/or contracted with professional lobbyists to represent their interests before the Legislature," according to the office.
The year over year increase follows a pattern of higher spending during budget years, like 2013, compared to years when the Legislature largely focuses on capital borrowing issues, like 2012.
Still, the state mandated report also reflects the longer term trend of increasing lobbying costs. Back in 2003, local governments spent just over $6 million on lobbying, about $2 million less than they spent in 2013.
The 2013 annual report, like previous ones, found that larger local governments spent more on lobbying than smaller ones.
It also found that large lobbying firms made considerable sums lobbying for local governments.
A new nationwide poll from the Pew Center on People and the Press finds that consistent conservatives and liberal make the decisions in primaries at the same time Democrats and Republicans' contrasts grow.
The poll, which surveyed 10,000 adults, found that those who are consistently conservative are more likely to turn out to vote. The same was true for consistent liberals, although to a slightly lessor extend.
The results are instructive for campaigns facing heated primaries, as Minnesota will experience this August, and for voters who may be unhappy with the election outcomes.
Adults on the more conservative and liberal ends of the spectrum are also more likely to vote in all elections and more likely to give money to political causes.
Notably for Democrats hoping to boost this year's midterm election turnout, conservative adults are significantly more likely to say they always vote than liberal adults.
The findings come as people are less likely to hold much in common with people of the opposite party.
Perhaps because of those differences, Republicans and Democrats over the past two decades have a growing dislike of each other.
While President Barack Obama moves to reduce the federal student loan debt burden for up to 5 million Americans, a Minnesota state senator is pointing to other steps this year by the Legislature to make college more affordable.
Specifically, the Legislature directed the state Office of Higher Education to come up with its own plan for refinancing student loans. By 2015, the goal is to give students carrying loan debt with interest rates up to 12 percent the chance to get that as low as 3 percent.
That tracks with Obama's executive order, issued Monday, that will cap federal student loan payments at 10 percent of the borrower's monthly income. It's estimated up to a half-million Minnesotans could be helped.
State Sen. Terri Bonoff, DFL-Minnetonka, called Obama's move "one way to help." But she said the Minnesota refinancing plan, along with several other legislative initiatives this year, would also bring relief to people with heavy college debt burdens.
Minnesota has the nation's fourth-highest level of average student debt, with an average debt load in 2010 at $29,800. Democrats in Washington and nationwide have recently stressed their efforts at reducing college costs, as this year's election heats up.
Bonoff, who chairs the Senate's Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee, also noted a pilot project approved by lawmakers this year that will seek companies with specific workforce needs that will help fund the education of specific students aiming for careers in those fields. Another bill lawmakers passed this year compels the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system to be more flexible with its credit transfer policy so that fewer students who shift among institutions will be forced to pay for redundant courses.
Abby Simons and Rachel E. Stassen-Berger
Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson will likely become the endorsed Republican candidate to take on DFL Gov. Mark Dayton, but faces a four-way primary first.
Moments after the third round balloting showed Johnson in a 10-point lead over Minnesota Sen. Dave Thompson and 2010 gubernatorial candidate Marty Seifert, Thompson took the stage to withdraw, imploring delegates to support Johnson.
"I could keep going but I see no reasonable path to victory and I don't want to attempt to lock this convention up," Thompson said to wild cheers from delegates. "I would implore my opponents to think about whether running in a primary is for the good of the cause or for the elevation of self."
The message was intended for Rep. Kurt Zellers and businessman Scott Honour, who skipped the convention to run in a primary. Immediately afterward, Seifert took the stage and said he too would run in a primary and released his delegates.
"Instead of dragging things out," he said. "I am going to decide that my delegates can be released to go home."
The decision was met by boos and jeers from much of the crowd. If more than half of the 2,000 delegates leave, there can be no endorsement.
"Where's the integrity?" shouted Jacquelyn America of Minneapolis, throwing down a sign she was carrying. "This does not help our cause. It's maddening."
Seifert's speech enraged others as well.
Republican Party Chairman Keith Downey addressed the riled crowd and asked them to stay. He called Seifert's speech "uncalled for" because it was essentially an attempt to force the convention not to endorse. He said when Seifert was permitted to speak to the convention crowd, officials had expected him to withdraw, not outline a strategy of his own.
"I call shenanigans," said Neil Lynch, a Wayzata delegate with the Republican Liberty Caucus. He said those around him were disappointed, upset and yelling at Seifert as he left the stage.
Jennifer DeJournett, president of Voice of Conservative Women said: "I'm extremely disappointed in the poor sportsmanship of Marty Seifert." Her group had previously endorsed Seifert's running mate Pam Myhra when she ran for House. Now, DeJournett said, she suggested Myhra should quit his campaign.
Here are the Round 3 numbers:
Jeff Johnson: 811 votes, 44.5%
Marty Seifert: 503 votes, 27.6%
Dave Thompson: 504 votes, 27.6%