At Issue: Gov. Closes Schools, MNsure Coverage Starts

Updated: 01/06/2014 5:03 PM By: Heidi Enninga

In this week's edition of At Issue, host Tom Hauser takes an in-depth look at the local political issues that affect you.

Ahead of some of the coldest days Minnesotans have ever seen, Gov. Mark Dayton on Friday took the unusual step of closing all the K-12 public schools in the state Monday. He said he hoped the announcement would give school administrators, teachers and parents enough time to plan. Gov. Arne Carlson was the last governor to close schools due to extreme cold weather in 1994, 1996 and 1997.

Health insurance kicked in Wednesday for the 53,000 people who signed up through the state’s online exchange, but MNsure headaches continue for those still stuck in the system. MNsure wasn’t able to help everyone who wanted to register in time for the midnight Jan. 1 deadline.

About 7,000 people who registered had not paid their first month’s premium by the deadline either, but healthcare companies gave consumers who chose a plan by Dec. 31 a grace period until Jan. 10 to pay for and finalize coverage. Meanwhile, sign-ups were on hold for the weekend while the website was improved.

Betsy Hodges was sworn in Thursday as the new mayor of Minneapolis and started on a 10-day citywide tour focused on a different issue each day. One of the first topics highlighted was transportation, fitting for the new mayor who will inherit a difficult Southwest Light Rail transit issue. Hodges said the public will get a chance to weigh in on the issue at public meetings on Jan. 7 in Minneapolis and Jan. 9 in St. Louis Park. A public inauguration ceremony for Mayor Hodges was held Monday morning.

In his last official news conference on Monday, former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak outlined a plan to connect the West Bank to downtown with a new walkway called Samatar Crossing, named after a Minneapolis school board member who was the first Somali American to win an election in the city.

With a new year comes a series of new laws that took effect Jan. 1. One requires home sellers to turn in records on cancer-causing radon. Another requires the state to notify local authorities about any chemical spill, and the new "ban the box" law mandates that private employers wait until after a job applicant is selected for an interview to ask about criminal history.

Outspoken former Vikings Punter Chris Kluwe made national headlines with a scathing article he wrote for that blasted former head coach Leslie Frazier, General Manager Rick Spielman, and special teams coach Mike Priefer and questioned whether he was fired for his on-field performance or for his off-field opposition to the constitutional amendment on same-sex marriage.

The Vikings released a statement denying the accusations.

Gov. Dayton told the Associated Press last week that he’d likely sign a bill allowing Sunday liquor sales if lawmakers could bass it, but there’s both support and opposition for the move.

In Political Analysis, Republican strategist Brian McDaniel and Don Betzold, a former DFL State Senator discussed the governor’s decision to close schools, MNsure and the likelihood of Sunday liquor sales being approved in the state.

In Face Off, DFL consultant Denise Cardinal and Brian McClung, former Gov. Pawlenty’s Deputy Chief of Staff debated the success of MNsure signups and plans and some of the biggest issues Democrats and Republicans in the next legislative session.