State Rep. Steve Gottwalt, R-St. Cloud, has taken a job as director of state legislative policy for the Center for Diagnostic Imaging, a company that lobbies the Minnesota legislature.
House Republican Caucus spokeswoman Susan Closmore said Gottwalt, who was just elected to a fourth term, will remain in the Legislature. The company lobbies in a number of states and Closmore said Gottwalt's new job will not present a conflict of interest as long as his work with company lobbyists is done out of state.
The Center for Diagnostic Imaging, based in St. Louis Park, does lobby the Minnesota Legislature. Elisabeth Quam, executive director of the CDI Quality Institute, is currently registered as the company's state lobbyist.
Quam said Gottwalt will not be lobbying himself. Instead, he will keep tabs on the legislatures in the 27 states where the company does business and work with the company's lobbyists to keep tabs on healthcare policies -- particularly the rollout of the new healthcare reforms.
"What he's going to do is direct how we respond to policy initiatives," Quam said. "He'll be telling us (when Massachusetts passes a new law) what kind of regulations they have to comply with, what measures they should report on as they relate to what's been mandated by the state."
Minnesota, like other states, will be rolling out its new health care exchanges and other sweeping healthcare policy changes this session. And Gottwalt, who served as chairman of the House Human Services Reform Committee last session, will be involved in that policy debate.
But Quam said he won't be advising the company about Minnesota's legislative policy.
"Because he's got such a knowledge base, he's just a great hire for us, but we wouldn't have needed him for Minnesota, because we've already got that covered," said Quam, a former state Senate staffer and assistant state health commissioner.
Gottwalt had been employed as director of communications and consumer affairs at the Coborn’s, Inc. grocery chain, but a call to the company confirmed he no longer works there. Gottwalt also sells insurance – a career that raised eyebrows after it was revealed he works as a contractor for a brokerage firm that had lobbied his committee to move thousands of Minnesotans off MinnestoaCare and into the private insurance market.
The Minnesota Legislature returns to work on Jan. 8. Will Gottwalt be able to juggle his legislative workload and keep tabs on 26 other legislatures at the same time?
"That's for him to decide. We expect a full-time employee with what we do," Quam said.