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Two-thirds smaller, Minnesota’s GAMC survives

PLUS: tacos on wheels may be coming, property taxes a royal pain for Prince, and, of course, Hecker back in court.

A much-reduced GAMC bill is heading for the Governor’s signature. Somewhat like the national health care bill, its not what anybody really wanted, but it at least begins to do the job, or in this case, avoids making a bigger mess of General Assistance Medical Care. Jason Hoppin of the PiPress delivers a well-written piece on the legislation’s final moments. He opens with DFLer (and registered nurse) Erin Murphy of St. Paul (she holds Matt Entenza’s old seat) choking up, saying: ” ‘The people who live in the shadows of our society deserve care — I hate that I keep getting upset about this — and we have made that promise to them … We have maintained that commitment to them, to the people with mental illness and chemical dependency, to homeless vets. We have said that you still matter to us.” Hoppin says, “Rather than pay hospitals based on the procedures theyQuantcastprovide, the bill gives hospitals a lump sum, asking them to coordinate with socialsservices, health care providers and others to rein in the cost of providing health care for patients who often have chronic and persistent problems, such as mental illness and chemical dependency.”

Heather J. Carlson, reporting in the Rochester Post-Bulletin, says, “Mayo Clinic has voiced serious concerns about the compromise deal because it includes a sharp drop in reimbursement rates. … Mayo Clinic and Mayo Health Systems is estimating it could end up losing $15 million to $20 million. Mayo Clinic had backed the vetoed GAMC bill, which included higher reimbursement rates than the compromise. Olmsted Medical Center expects a loss of $180,220 under the compromise bill, compared to $472,000 if nothing passed, said spokesman Jeremy Saluka.” There is a belief that better services can be coordinated through the new national health care bill.

The Strib story, written by Warren Wolfe and Baird Helgeson says, “The change gives hospitals overall responsibility to care for GAMC recipients, though at rates far below the hospitals’ costs. Funding was slashed from $400 million this year to $132 million.” And quotes DFL gubernatorial candidate Paul Thissen saying, “Now we are left with an unworkable bill, and we all know it,” said Rep. Paul Thissen, a Minneapolis DFLer and candidate for governor. “Starvation is not a path to meaningful and lasting reform.”

G. R. Anderson, writing in Politics in Minnesota, delivers a mini-feature on the aforementioned Erin Murphy, calling her a “a new force” around the Capitol.  “ ‘She’s definitely got some game,’ says Rep. Matt Dean, R-Dellwood, who is the GOP lead on the Health Care and Human Service Finance Division and worked closely with Murphy on finalizing a GAMC deal. ‘She’s a straight shooter. The thing that people trade on around here is integrity and trust. Then it doesn’t matter what end of the political spectrum you’re on.’ ”

Mmmmm, tacos on wheels. TC Daily Planet’s Sheila Regan files a report on the high likelihood of street vendors appearing all over downtown Minneapolis. Council Member Lis Goodman has served up several amendments that are moving their way up the chain. They “would allow 25 currently licensed food vendors to sell food in motorized vehicles for a fee of $483 annually with an additional $391 for startup costs. Applications would be approved on a first-come, first-served basis. Some discussion at the meeting involved whether a business owner had to already own a restaurant or bar to become a street vendor. The currently proposed wording says that while a business owner could have any type of food service license, they would need to do all preparing and storing of food in a commercially licensed kitchen. That stipulation would cut out smaller businesses that don’t have an established brick-and-mortar business.” So much for my Roadkill Bar B Q idea.

As you might expect, John Hinderaker at Power Line has been melting down his keyboard railing against the “disaster” that is “Obamacare.” In his most recent post, the topic is “political violence,” in the news (and being exploited by liberals, he says) because of the spitting and epithets hurled at John Lewis, Barney Frank and others by, um, citizens opposed to health insurance reform. But then Hinderaker gets into the good stuff: “In large part, the current focus on threats of violence is aimed at the tea partiers, just as they were accused, apparently falsely, of racism. It is not hard to understand the Democrats’ motives; the tea parties are the most vital force, and likely the most popular force, in American politics, so smearing them is mandatory. But anyone who has attended a tea party rally will consider laughable the idea that the movement somehow tends toward violence.” He goes on to say: “It is important for conservative leaders to embrace the tea party movement, and it seems that nearly all do. For what it is worth, I do not consider David Brooks [of the NY Times] to be a conservative leader. To be a leader, you need to have at least a handful of followers. The fact is that, unlike conservatives, modern liberals have had little quarrel with political violence. This is best demonstrated by their support for card check legislation, the entire point of which it to abolish the secret ballot so that union goons can use the threat of violence to extend union power and thereby enrich the Democratic Party.”

If it’s Thursday, that must mean Denny Hecker is back in court.
Of course, we could say that if it was Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Friday, too. But this time he might actually go to jail. Stribbers Dee DePass and Rochelle Olson file a report on Hecker’s divorce and bankruptcy attorney, Bill Skolnick, officially withdrawing, maybe because of that funky business last week where he wrote a $75,000 check for Denny to claim back his $6 million Medina house. The money apparently came via a raid on Denny’s kids’ trust funds, but the courts suspect Skolnick was passing it off as a loan from an old Hecker buddy, Ralph Thomas. Then … on the divorce front, “[A] law clerk for [Judge Jay] Quam said Hecker hadn’t provided more financial information since the judge’s order to do so. His deadline was Tuesday. It’s unclear whether Hecker met the demand, because last week he gave new financial documents to Quam on the same day the judge issued the order. However, one of Quam’s demands is not yet answered: Hecker has yet to explain the origins of $125,000 he used to repay a retirement account and narrowly avoid jail time.” Skolnick himself has retained an ethics lawyer to help him with Hecker-related troubles.

WCCO-TV’s Esme Murphy has Hecker saying Skolnick was fired, because, “he did a terrible job.” That is so unfair! “Skolnick has been by Hecker’s side as Hecker has suffered a string of setbacks. Among them an $83 million judgment against him in bankruptcy court, Hecker’s agreement that $400 million of his debts would not be forgiven and his bitter divorce from his now ex-wife … [who] was granted a settlement in bankruptcy court that allows her to keep her jewelry, more than $200,000 in cash and other assets.” If that isn’t effective representation, what is?

If it’s Thursday, Gov. Pawlenty must be in … New Hampshire. MPR’s Mark Zdechlik duly notes that Pawlenty hasn’t yet decided on his political future, but, you know, just in case, “Pawlenty will speak to the Manchester Republican Committee’s Lincoln-Reagan Dinner and will address about 200 people at the event, organizers said. Prior to his speech, Pawlenty will meet with Republican activists and some students at a Manchester college where the New Hampshire Institute of Politics is located.” They’ll be fascinated with his thoughts on GAMC financing.

It seems Prince is royally bad about paying his taxes. Paul Walsh and Mary Lynn Smith report for the Strib that the diminutive (and presumably wealthy) music genius owes Carver County $500,000 in back property taxes, interest and fines. “This isn’t the first time Prince has procrastinated in paying property taxes. He was late in paying on his studio in 2006 and 2008, [a county spokesperson ] said. And he was late in 2008 paying on a 156-acre swath bordering his home. But he made good on those bills before the county, as required by law, published its notice of delinquent taxes in the local papers.” But now … he’s in the papers. Damned media.

Richard Crawford, a reporter for the Chaska Herald, writes: “According to the Carver County Taxpayer Services Department, taxes were delinquent for that parcel starting on May 15, 2009. The current market value for that parcel is listed at $6.5 million.  The annual property tax for 2009 was $194,642 and half of that amount was due in May. The second half payment, due in October, also hasn’t been paid. As a result of the delinquency, more than $27,000 in penalties and $5,000 in interest has been added to the tax bill.”

MPR has commenced a new multi-part series on America’s obesity problem
, and among its facets is a call to listeners to send in photos of what’s in their refrigerators. Oh, boy! I mean everybody lives on beer and month-old salami, right? Right?  Lorna Benson delivered a story Tuesday that included an anecdote about a 9-year-old fast-food junkie being introduced to a potato. A nutritionist has some friends over for dinner. “I pulled a baked potato directly from the oven, put it on his plate and he kind of shrieked and said, ‘What’s that?’ … He was a 9-year-old and had never seen a baked potato. And I said, ‘Now, do you know what French fries are?’ Which he did, but he had no idea what a potato was.” We hate to think where he imagines Chicken McNuggets come from.