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Auditor: enrollment errors in Minnesota’s public health plans cost up to $271 million

Plus: judge rules on stadium sign feud; legislator criticized for attending ‘Shariah Law’ event; farming may have affected spread of bird flu; and more.

Talk about setting it up high on the tee. At MPR Mark Zdechlik reports, “State officials got worse last year assessing Minnesotans’ eligibility for public health plans, and the problems cost the state an estimated $115 million to $271 million from January through May, Minnesota’s legislative auditor said Thursday. Auditors took MNsure and the Minnesota Department of Human Services to task for not ensuring that all those who enrolled in the state’s Medical Assistance or MinnesotaCare through MNsure met the federal and state eligibility requirements to get those subsidized health benefits, which was a repeat finding from a prior audit.”

Says David Montgomery in the Pioneer Press, “The nonpartisan Office of the Legislative Auditor took a random sample of 103 people enrolled in Medicaid and 54 people in MinnesotaCare between January and March of 2015. Auditors then used state employment data and tax returns to verify whether those individuals had actually qualified for the programs they enrolled in. The sample was limited to people who enrolled using the MNsure software and to people who allegedly qualified for programs because of low income. That means the sample represented a population of about 270,000 people, out of more than 1 million receiving public assistance. Of those 157 people, the audit found 38 percent weren’t eligible for their public program. Three-quarters of those people actually didn’t qualify for any program, while the remainder qualified for a different public program.”

And this after The Donald’s big fund-raiser last night in Iowa. Says Mark Brunswick in the Strib, “One of the largest Minnesota contributors to the nonprofit Wounded Warrior Project says he will continue to support the charity despite news reports suggesting it spends its money lavishly. … Over the years, more than 80 individuals and organizations across Minnesota have donated to the Wounded Warrior Project, its website said. … One of the largest contributors has been Team Minnesota WWP, which has raised more than $600,000 for the organization since it was started in 2008.”

The kids have stopped feuding, for the moment. Says Rochelle Olson in the Strib, “Wells Fargo can keep the elevated signs on top of two 17-story towers near the new U.S. Bank Stadium — for now. U.S. District Court Judge Donovan Frank, who issued the ruling Thursday, tempered the bank’s victory, however, by saying the Vikings have a ‘fair’ chance at eventually prevailing and requiring that the signs be flush with the rooftop, not elevated 18 inches as they are now. The Vikings wanted Frank to order the bank to cover the signs immediately, saying the signs violate a vigorously negotiated contract and amount to ‘ambush advertising.’” Is this how we put the “petty” in petty cash?

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This from Paul Shockley in the Grand Junction [Colorado] Daily Sentinel, “A Minnesota hunter was handcuffed and remanded into the custody of the Mesa County Jail on Wednesday after pleading guilty to all charges in the death of 14-year-old Justin Burns on Grand Mesa last fall. Guy Pohto, 59, of Cook, Minnesota, acknowledged he ‘recklessly’ caused the death of the Palisade High School freshman in pleading guilty to manslaughter, a Class 4 felony, as well as a misdemeanor count of hunting in a careless manner. … Justin was bow hunting Sept. 13, 2015, with his father near Big Creek Campground on Grand Mesa when he was shot once in the chest and died. It was archery and muzzleloader season for various big game in many areas across Colorado at the time of the shooting.”

Amusing piece from Nathan Bowe in the Grand Forks Herald on various critters and things nominated as state symbols. “… here is a list of symbols, unofficial, proposed, or facetious, compiled by the Minnesota Legislative Reference Library, that were at one time or another proposed to represent Minnesota on the illustrious list of state symbols:

Amusement Ride
The Tilt-A-Whirl was proposed in the Legislature as the State Amusement Ride in 2007. A State Fair poll question at the House booth in 2007 asked, ‘Invented in Faribault in 1926, should the Tilt-A-Whirl be designated the State Amusement Ride?’ A total of 47 percent said yes, 22 responded no, and 31 percent were boldly undecided.

Believe it or not, a wholesome glass of milk is not the only beverage Minnesotans love. Competing bills proposed the designation of a state beer in 1987. One proposed Schell’s Deer Brand beer, while another suggested Cold Spring beer. Both bills went flat.

Clippings suggest a variety of insects as the state insect; however, no legislation has been introduced. Among the suggestions are the mosquito, the wood tick, the no-see-um and the corn borer.”

No doubt a scheduling error by his staff. Riham Feshir of MPR says, “A state legislator is taking heat for attending a private Shariah law event in St. Cloud that critics are calling anti-Islam. Sen. David Brown, R-Becker, said the backlash he’s getting for speaking at the event, billed as ‘Shariah 101,’ is unfounded. ‘It wasn’t [a] hyped-up, Islam-is-terrible type of thing,’ he said. ‘It wasn’t any of that.’ The controversy surrounds the event’s main presenter, Jeffrey Baumann. The Coon Rapids man talked for an hour about growing up in Saudi Arabia and the practices of Islam. Critics say that doesn’t give him the right to speak as an expert, especially because he’s made anti-Islam comments in the past.”

Can you fry Asian Carp in this stuff? The AP reports, “The Canadian Pacific Railroad says around 850 gallons of soybean oil leaked when six tanker cars derailed into the Mississippi River in southeastern Minnesota. CP spokesman Andy Cummins says three of the six cars were successfully unloaded Thursday and are expected to be safely removed from the river Friday. The other three will be emptied Friday. Fifteen cars on the Canadian Pacific train derailed Tuesday night south of Brownsville. The six cars that landed in the river all carried soybean oil, and two of them leaked.”

A factor in the bird flu epidemic? Farming. An MPR story says, “Farmers who actively tilled fields near turkey barns in the early days of Minnesota’s avian influenza outbreak last year may have unwittingly helped spread the virus, a new University of Minnesota study says. Soil in those fields may have been contaminated with droppings from migrating birds believed to be a source of the highly pathogenic H5N2 avian influenza. The virus can survive cold temperatures in soil and the tilling may have created ‘airborne particles that could carry the virus,’ the university’s Center for Animal Health and Food Safety said in the report posted Thursday.”

Not sure, but this could socialism. Ricardo Lopez of the Strib says, “Education Minnesota, the statewide teachers union, is renewing its push for universal access to preschool, releasing a report Thursday making the case for expanded early-learning programs offered through public schools. The report, authored by a recently-created think tank, argued that Minnesota should offer universal preschool on a voluntary basis, ensuring that all families have access to early-learning programs.”

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Uh yeah, some careful re-branding might be in order here. For the Forum News Service Phil Pfuehler writes, “‘Roger T. White Pride Fitness Room’ doesn’t roll off the tongue? The River Falls, Wis., school district doesn’t want it called the ‘White Pride’ room either. Naming rights for Meyer Middle School’s refurbished fitness room has sparked a backlash on social media. … Chuck Eaton, a principal at Rocky Branch Elementary School and head of the fitness room’s fundraising group, was interviewed for a recent story. Near the end, he said the name would likely be informally shortened to ‘White Pride Fitness Room.’ Negative social media comments begin appearing on the River Falls Journal Facebook page … .”

Manhattan, Malibu, London and … St. Paul. Says Frederick Melo in the PiPress, “The St. Paul City Council will consider asking two key city departments to study Airbnb and similar short-term home-rental companies to see ‘how their operations align with current city ordinances.’ The resolution, proposed by Council Member Chris Tolbert, will go before the city council on Wednesday. Founded in August 2008, Airbnb allows users to rent out their personal residences to vacationers through an online exchange. The company claims to list 1.5 million apartment, condo and home rentals in more than 190 countries.”

The guys at Power Line, noted climate experts and film critics, are not happy with the way one of their favorite movies of the season has been treated. Says John Hinderaker, “Paul and Scott have both seen the movie ’13 Hours’ and wrote about it here and here. Scott noted that at the theater he attended, the large room was reserved for ‘Carol.’ ’13 Hours’ got the smaller venue and was sparsely attended. Scott linked to a Hill story headlined ‘Benghazi film flops at the box office.’ This was a pretty common theme on the left; to cite just one instance, Amanda Marcotte at Salon was triumphant. Her headline: ‘Audiences reject 13 Hours: Big blow for the right’s desperate quest for Clinton’s Benghazi smoking gun — it’s just not there.’ Seriously. That’s the headline. I won’t waste time on Marcotte’s ‘review,’ which is hampered a bit by the fact that she hadn’t seen the film. I have read very little of her work, but I take it she is mostly a joke.” So John’s read very little of the woman who hasn’t seen the movie. Hmm. Please tell me more.