It's been a busy year in Minnesota, with lots of things worthy of consideration for Minnesota's story of the year. The DFL's tax increase is certainly a candidate, especially thanks to Gov. Dayton's insisting that he didn't know that the Farm Equipment Repair Sales Tax was in the Tax Bill he signed. That he 'discovered' that just before FarmFest tests his credibility going into an election year.
The DFL's passing the gay marriage bill is certainly historic, though it's mostly a forgotten issue now.
Tax increases come and go depending on which party controls the Governor's mansion. The gay marriage issue is now essentially off the table as a political issue, though it'll remain a divisive social issue.
Only one thing has caught our attention and held it. The multiple issues with MNsure, coupled with April Todd-Malmlov's mismanagement as MNsure's executive director and her subsequent termination have captured Minnesotans' attention and held it. Because it isn't likely that these issue will be solved anytime soon, coupled with the potential political impact these issues are likely to have on the 2014 mid-term elections, the failed rollout of MNsure is Minnesota's top story of 2013.
In a pair of interviews with Capitol Report, Rep. Joe Atkins, DFL, and Sen. Michelle Benson, GOP, sounded polar opposite opinions of MNsure's rollout. Rep. Atkins' pitch was mostly spin, mixed in with repeated apologies for a data breach that got an employee terminated.
Sen. Benson's interview highlighted Ms. Todd-Malmlov's mismanagement of MNsure. Here's a transcript from the key part of Sen. Benson's interview:
SEN. MICHELLE BENSON: I think we have a systemic management problem. Not prioritizing, not focusing on the things that are essential to have done on October 1. Data privacy is essential. Having good processes in place is essential. Now they made sure to roll out the Paul Bunyan ads and they made sure they had money for that and they kept that secret until they were ready to launch. But when it comes to the agents' information, that wasn't sequestered. It wasn't treated with delicacy. The training -- we found out today that navigator training isn't moving at speed. Counties aren't trained. Brokers aren't trained. Those all should've been much higher priorities than the softer skill sets.
The DFL's happy talk while promoting MNsure won't disappear because it's inconvenient, either. Minnesotans will remember the DFL's political cheearleading when they see the higher premiums and the limited options for rural Minnesotans that MNsure carries with it.
Another important facet of this story is that Sen. Nienow raised these questions at the Sept. 24 meeting of the MNsure Oversight Committee. Ms. Todd-Malmlov's mismanagement and unaccountability weren't a source of confidence. Here's why:
Nienow has waited months for answers. That wait is now over though as Mnsure says it emailed Nienow answers to his questions a couple hours prior to our report being broadcast.
What's shameful about MNsure's secrecy is that veteran WCCO reporter Pat Kessler was so insulted by the agency that he unleashed this uncharacteristic assault on the agency and its management:
KESSLER: Suddenly — and it was very odd to me — suddenly around December first, second, third, right around that time right after Thanksgiving, we suddenly at WCCO, were flooded, inundated with literally hundreds of people calling, saying “I can’t get on. This is crazy.” And I’ll just say it, I think they lied to us. I think they misled us. I think they misdirected, they camoflaged. They said “No there’s no problems, when, in fact, behind the scenes, they were sweating bullets because they couldn’t fix the problems. I think that this is one of the most closed, obtuse, misdirecting, camoflaging agencies I have ever dealt with.
That's totally out of character for Mr. Kessler. He's usually a man who measures his words carefully. That outburst had all the subtlety of a double-barrel shotgun blast.
Finally, the political ramifications of this story still haven't been felt. Don't be surprised if this leads to the DFL having a difficult night come Election Day.
That's why the MNsure/Malmlov meltdowns are Minnesota's story of the year in 2013.