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Rep. Gottwalt goes from 'health reformer' to insurance broker

GOP Rep. Steve Gottwalt of St. Cloud is all about “market-based solutions” to health care. In an MPR investigation, Tom Scheck reports: “State Rep. Steve Gottwalt, R-St. Cloud, led the GOP effort to cut spending in the state’s health and human services budget when the Republicans controlled the Legislature. Now both he and his Senate counterpart have business links to the insurance industry, which has some other lawmakers asking whether the arrangement violates ethics rules. Gottwalt, who served as chairman of the House Human Services Reform Committee, sponsored a bill that was designed to divert some recipients of the state subsidized health insurance program MinnesotaCare to the private insurance market. Months after the legislation passed in July of 2011, Gottwalt obtained a license to sell insurance and became an associate with a firm that pushed for the bill. … Health insurance brokers backed the legislation, championed by Gotttwalt's counterpart in the other chamber, state Sen. David Hann, R-Eden Prairie. … Gottwalt never brought up his role as an insurance broker during committee hearings during the 2012 session. … [Says Gottwalt] ‘We believe in market-based reform. The fact that I'm involved in that doesn’t mean we were sneakingly trying to come up with something to benefit ourselves. It’s actually the other way around because we worked together.' " So see … completely transparent!

Byron Smith, the homeowner accused in the execution-style killing of two teenagers outside Little Falls, had both a security cam video of the break-in and an audio of the killings. David Unze of the St. Cloud Times says: “Smith, 64, also had a digital audio recorder running when he shot the teens, and it recorded audio of the shooting. Those details are in several search warrants that were executed by law enforcement in the days after Nick Brady and Haile Kifer were shot to death inside Smith’s house. … Authorities served one of the warrants at Smith’s residence after learning of the video and audio recordings they had found in a previous search. The subsequent search led to investigators taking several computer memory cards and various computer equipment. Investigators also seized a large quantity of ammunition from Smith’s house as well as firearms and items believed to contain blood.”

On the snowstorm, Paul Huttner at MPR “saw reports of 17.3 inches of snow in Sacred Heart, in Renville County west of the Twin Cities. Lino Lakes reported 16 inches to the National Weather Service. He said it had been 22 months since the last big snowfall reported at the Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport, dating back to February, 2011. The National Weather Service said the northern edge of the Twin Cities got the most snow, with 16 inches reported in Lino lakes, 14 inches reported in Falcon Heights. Osceola, Wisconsin and Forest Lake both reported 13 and a half inches of snowfall last night. … Instruments in southwest Minnesota recorded wind gusts up to 51 miles per hour Sunday evening, and left many roads in difficult driving condition.”

Tim Harlow and Paul Walsh at the Strib say: “The rush hour showed no signs of loosening up as lunch hour neared. Many motorists were reporting trips taking three times as long as normal, with the commute taking up to an hour from the southern suburbs to downtown Minneapolis. The worst conditions seemed to be in the northern suburbs, where traffic as late as 12:30 p.m. was inching along on Interstate 694 heading east near I-35W. Two teens on their way to school in Coon Rapids dodged disaster, when their vehicle slid through rail crossing gates and struck a 17-car freight train as it chugged north shortly before 9:55 a.m., police said.”

The GleanWe’re not calling this official … But at KMSP-TV, Shelby Capacio is saying: “According to the Minnesota State Patrol, there were 654 crashes statewide and 1,299 spinouts or requests for help from 9:30 p.m. Saturday to 10 a.m. Monday. Of those incidents, 67 involved injuries and one death was reported.” Personally speaking, it appeared some Minnesotans’ winter driving skills were non-existent, as opposed to just a little rusty.

Hiring in Minnesota’s manufacturing sector is nothing to cheer about. For the PiPress, Lesle Brooks Suzukamo says: “Minnesota made little headway in industrial employment over the past year, posting less than a 1 percent gain, an annual survey of the state's manufacturing showed Monday, Dec. 10. The state added 1,321 manufacturing jobs from October 2011 to October 2012, according to the 2013 Minnesota Manufacturers Register, published by Manufacturers' News Inc. The state has 9,611 manufacturers that employ 454,368 workers, Manufacturers' News said. Manufacturers who announced expansions over the past year included snowmobile maker Polaris, which is expanding a research and development facility in Wyoming, Minn.; countertop manufacturer Cambria in Le Sueur and sensor maker SICK Inc. of Bloomington.”

Already gone viral — a buzzer-beater shot by a kid from Blake High. At the site Prep Rally, Cameron Smith explains: “The basketball season is just getting going, and there will be plenty of terrific game-winning shots. Now they all have a benchmark to shoot for. The player connecting on the miraculous buzzer-beater …  is Blake (Minn.) High junior John Veil, a guard who found himself with the ball with time ticking toward triple zeroes and Blake trailing Chaska (Minn.) High by two. Veil received the initial inbounds pass on the play but was blocked off from any cut toward the basket. Instead, he found himself careening out of bounds.” The video is at the link.

It’s easy to get confused over the various pipeline plans crossing Minnesota to the Twin Ports. Mike Simonson of Wisconsin Public Radio says: “Enbridge Energy has notified stockholders that it will proceed with a $2.5 billion pipeline expansion running 600 miles from the booming North Dakota Bakken oil fields to its Superior facility. Five years ago, the Bakken oil sands produced 20,000 barrels of light crude oil a day. Now it’s up to 700,000 barrels a day and is expected to reach 1.2 million barrels a day in the next five years. Enbridge can pipe 225,000 gallons of that crude oil a day to Superior and points south to Chicago, Detroit and Toledo. … The Sandpiper pipeline could be in service by early 2016.”

Finally, I missed this item over the weekend on Sally Jo Sorensen’s Bluestem Prairie blog: “Covering the pity party that was the first MNGOP state central committee meeting to come after the  Republicans' disaster in Minnesota's 2012 elections, the Associated Press's Brian Bakst reports in Minn. Republicans look ahead after 2012 drubbing:

The other big electoral prize that year is the seat occupied by first-term Democratic Sen. Al Franken. … No one has formally announced a challenge, though plenty of names are floating around. Reps. John Kline and Erik Paulsen are considered possibilities, as are some rooted in the private sector. Among them is Bill Guidera, an attorney who has been the state Republican Party's finance chairman.

... Bill Guidera is much more than a simple lawyer helping out the local Republicans. ... Bill Guidera is an attorney and a senior vice president with News Corporation, and has been a prolific fundraiser for the Minnesota Republican Party. ... But Guidera isn't just a simple senior vice president for Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation. He's the one who works on public policy.  … Guidera is the fellow who shows up at corporate bill factory ALEC's meetings, fronting for Fox News and Murdoch.” In other words, exactly the Wal-Mart Republican kind of guy the GOP needs.

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