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Outside groups doing more and more of GOP’s work

Capitol, lottery officials weigh backup stadium-funding ideas; walk-off escapees are caught; Bachmann and Dean to speak at Florida event; and more.

It is no secret that the local GOP apparatus is, um, challenged. Tom Scheck of MPR tells us, “ … several outside groups have formed to start on work that has traditionally been done by the party. … It’s no coincidence that the new conservative groups are forming as the Minnesota Republican Party is strapped for cash and the rank and file party faithful squabble over the direction of the party. Case in point: backers of Texas Rep. Ron Paul’s presidential bid overwhelmed the state party convention last year even though Mitt Romney was already the party’s presumptive nominee. That kind of infighting has led other outside groups to look past intra-party politics and work directly on issues. Over the past month, the group Americans for Prosperity-Minnesota mailed out campaign literature criticizing Democrats and even one Republican legislator for supporting tax increases.”

Try not to snicker … . Tim Nelson’s latest “Stadium Watch” post at MPR says, “And at the Capitol, and out at the Minnesota State Lottery headquarters in Roseville, state officials are already weighing their options — and possibly big changes to the lottery. Executive director Ed Van Petten said familiar scratch-off games, like the Vikings-themed game that ran during the football season in 2010, or the current Twins-themed game, are likely starting points because the games are a reliable technology and well-known to lottery players. There could also be a sports-themed lotto game, like a smaller version of the Powerball or Gopher 5 games. … the games could be a lot quicker than the numbers game Minnesotans are used to. ‘There are games that even go every four to five minutes. But it’s not instant. You have to have your ticket before the drawing, whereas on a slot machine playing the game is the drawing’, said Van Petten. But Van Petten said the Lottery could get into the electronic gambling business, too.”

Aren’t principals and superintendents supposed to handle this? Megan Boldt of the PiPress writes, “Minnesota lawmakers passed a law two years ago to better evaluate teachers, putting in place a system of more-rigorous reviews based on classroom observations and improved student performance. But they didn’t give schools additional money to pay for the program, which could cost state schools anywhere from $66 million to $289 million annually to operate, depending on whom you ask. School administrators and teachers now back a bill that would create a funding mechanism they say is necessary to conduct the comprehensive evaluations and provide the necessary training.”

Related: The AP says, “An alternative teacher licensing program in Minnesota hasn’t produced a single candidate in the two years since its inception. No organizations have applied for approval to start training candidates under the program, which is aimed at fast-tracking licenses for teachers who hold them in other states or for professionals who want to switch careers.”

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There’s something inherently amusing about Strib outdoors columnist Dennis Anderson going up against … DFL Rep. Phyllis Kahn, ripping in to Kahn’s plan to radically reformat the Outdoor Heritage Council. “ … Kahn, a legislator for some 40 years now, revealed still more of her peculiar world view, threatening to shift millions of the people’s conservation dollars willy-nilly, dependent on whether prospective recipients of the cash agreed with her plan to overhaul the way Legacy fund dollars are appropriated. … Viewed up close and personal, as a few dozen onlookers did Thursday, some with teeth grinding, Kahn’s shenanigans suggested the venality of all legislative processes held captive by arrogance. But that’s not the half of it.” You may need to chamber another round, Dennis.

The GleanThe walk-off escapees have been re-apprehended. Says Paul Walsh in the Strib, “Two multimillion-dollar fraudsters who escaped last weekend from a minimum-security federal prison in Duluth were caught early Friday at a Burnsville hotel, authorities said. The arrests of Michael Krzyzaniak, 64, and Gerald Greenfield, 67, were made shortly after 1 a.m., according to the U.S. Marshals Service. The two remain held at the Ramsey County jail. … Krzyzaniak was serving a 12-year term for a $26 million investment scheme that targeted the rich. Greenfield was serving four years for assisting a mortgage scam with the developer of the Sexton Lofts in downtown Minneapolis.” And they were hanging together … ?

Valerie Miller and Jeff Feeley of Bloomberg News report on a $24 million decision against UnitedHealth. “Two UnitedHealth Group Inc. units must pay $24 million in damages for failing to properly monitor a doctor who gave two colonoscopy patients hepatitis C by employing substandard medical practices, a Nevada jury ruled. … The verdict reflects ‘what’s wrong with insurance companies in the U.S’. Robert Eglet, [a defendant’s] lawyer, said in an interview after the verdict was announced. ‘They put profit before patient safety.’ ” And there’s $24 million under their couch cushions.

The whackers may be getting whacked … . The AP says, “A Minnesota commission created to determine which state agencies and boards are ripe for elimination is now on the chopping block itself. A budget bill in the Democratic-led House would get rid of the Minnesota Sunset Advisory Commission. The panel was created two years ago when Republicans were in charge. They touted it as a way to weed out government offices some people deem ineffective. The commission met about a dozen times over the last couple of years and didn’t recommend cutting any government entities altogether. It did press for further reviews of some boards, including one that regulates combative sports like boxing and mixed martial arts.”

The Dream Team on spring break … . Aaron Rupar at City Pages writes, “Michele Bachmann and Bradlee Dean go way back. For instance, when Bradlee found himself taking heat for an anti-gay prayer he delivered before the Legislature back in 2011, Michele came to his aid with a prayer of her own where she professed support for Bradlee and asked God to transform Minnesota into a ‘sweet-smelling incense of praise and sacrifice’. … Bachmann and Dean are both scheduled to speak at the Freedom Federation’s The Awakening 2013 event, which is happening April 19 and 20 at the First Baptist Oviedo church in Oviedo, Florida. The event, which features more than 60 speakers, is advertised as ‘in-depth Prayer and Patriotism event where people are united by love for our country’s freedom and our faith in Christ,’ according to the Freedom Federation’s website.” Can you schedule sinkholes?