If you read Steven Brill’s Time magazine opus, you already knew this. Jackie Crosby of the Strib reports: “After four straight years of profitable growth, Minnesota’s health plans have stockpiled a substantial surplus of cash reserves. The health insurance companies, which get nearly three-quarters of their business from state and federal programs, now have more than $1.9 billion in reserves — $1.3 billion more than required by state law, according to a review by Twin Cities health care analyst Allan Baumgarten. … The surpluses have grown even as the nonprofit insurance companies have increased their premium rates, said Baumgarten, an independent analyst and consultant who compiles biannual reports on insurers and health care providers for eight states.” A $50 aspirin here and a $50 aspirin there and pretty soon you’re talking real money …
They’re over 55, so their musical skills must have dramatically diminished, right? Euan Kerr of MPR reports: “One of the remaining shoes to drop in the St Paul Chamber Orchestra contract settlement was just how many musicians would take the retirement package offered to orchestra members aged 55 or older. Half the SPCO players were eligible and in a letter to SPCO board members and supporters today newly re-appointed President Bruce Coppock revealed the names of the 10 musicians taking the deal. The departing musicians represent approximately a third of the orchestra, and each of them have played for at least three decades with the SPCO.”
Oh, come on … Kevin Diaz of the Strib says: “A top aide to U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann has been charged after a rash of thefts in a House office building where her office is located, Capitol Police said Monday. Javier Sanchez, Bachmann’s legislative director, was identified as a suspect afer a months-long investigation of thefts inside the Rayburn House Office Building, across the street from the U.S. Capitol. He was arrested on Thursday. A spokesman for Bachmann said that as of Friday Sanchez is ‘no longer with the office.’ … NBC News in Washington, citing an affidavit, reported that Sanchez was identified in a hidden camera sting investigation taking two envelopes of cash from co-workers.”
And still more court time for The Last Place on Earth … Dan Kraker of MPR writes: “A federal judge Monday denied a request to block a new Duluth ordinance requiring anyone who sells synthetic drugs to first apply for a city license. Jim Carlson, the owner of Last Place on Earth, challenged the law that went into effect last week. He argues it violates the fifth amendment. He says he would incriminate himself by applying for the license because he would have to admit he sold illegal products. A federal magistrate disagreed. He said the city ordinance defines synthetic drugs much more broadly than federal law. So admitting to selling them would not jeopardize his defense against drug charges he currently faces from both the state and the feds.” Uh … OK.
Remember “the neighbor from hell”? Chao Xiong of the Strib reports: “An east metro woman dubbed ‘the neighbor from hell’ pleaded guilty Monday to videotaping her neighbor’s home and car, violating a restraining order they have against her. Lori E. Christensen, 50, initially tried to evade responsibility as she accepted a plea agreement in Ramsey County district court that avoids prison time. Christensen told Judge Judith Tilsen that she could have ‘inadvertently’ filmed her neighbor’s home and car while using video surveillance on her own property. … Christensen has also yelled at [neighbor Gregg] Hoffman’s wife, mocking her recovery from alcoholism, and once made masturbatory gestures toward Hoffman and his 8-year-old daughter, according to court documents.”
Be good to your friends and they’ll be good to you … Says Rachel Stassen-Berger of the Strib: “In targeted U.S. House races, Republican U.S. Rep. John Kline was the big money draw, according to campaign finance reports made public on Monday. Kline, who has been increasingly in Democrats’ spotlight since Bachmann is no longer a 2014 factor, banked a record $1.1 million to defend his south suburban congressional seat and raised $482,000 in the last three months alone. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, a quarter of his campaign cash came from the political action committees run by the for-profit universities and top regulators his committee oversees. His campaign had no comment to share on the donations. Kline has about 10 times the cash in the bank as has Democrat Mike Obermueller.”
Spending requests are queuing up … Bill Salisbury of the PiPress writes: “Ramsey County is asking the state of Minnesota for a $15.6 million down payment for new roads around the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant in Arden Hills. St. Paul wants around $29 million for museum, zoo and theater improvements. Dakota and Washington counties requested millions for transit and trail expansions. Those are among the $2.8 billion in public works funding requests that state agencies and local governments have submitted … . Two west metro light-rail projects are in the mix. The Metropolitan Council requested $81 million to construct the Southwest Corridor line between Minneapolis and Eden Prairie, and the Hennepin County rail authority is seeking $18 million to design the Bottineau line between Minneapolis and its northwest suburbs. … Minneapolis asked for $25 million to fix up the Nicollet Mall. The Olmsted County rail authority is seeking $15 million to design a high-speed passenger rail line between Rochester and the Twin Cities.”
A Strib commentary by Jay Larson on the George Zimmerman verdict: “In response to the July 15 editorial “Due process plays out in Zimmerman case”: Really? It is a given that the state of Florida was dragged into the Zimmerman case kicking and screaming because of public pressure from the black community. Due process? What due process? I was appalled at the lack of zeal with which the prosecution tried this case. It allowed the key witness, a young uneducated black girl, to testify without being properly prepared — a girl for whom English was her third language and who was quite evidently intimidated. Next, the prosecution brought the lead detective, who was supposedly there to bolster the prosecution’s case. He testified that he was certain that George Zimmerman was telling the truth. Why did he say that as a prosecution witness?” To paraphrase “Chinatown,” “Forget it, Jake. It’s Florida.”