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Mediation Talks at Impasse

Governor Mark Dayton addressed the media Friday, September 22, to explain his decision to cease court-ordered mediation talks with the Republican-led legislature. Earlier, retired Judge Rick Solum, who agreed to mediate the dispute between Governor Dayton and the Minnesota Legislature, released a statement saying, "I concluded that the mediation was at impasse, the understandable views of the parties being irreconcilable."

Governor Dayton said the talks were not in good faith because the legislature had argued that his line-item veto of their two-year budget appropriation was an attempt to abolish the legislature. Dayton accused Republican leaders of "duplicity" when he learned that the legislative leaders intended to meet obligations through the use of carry-forward funds and transfers from other budget areas until the 2018 legislative session, while arguing that the legislature was being abolished.

Following the Governor's remarks, Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka and House Speaker Kurt Daudt also spoke to the press. Speaker Daudt expressed disappointment that the Governor angrily walked out of discussions, saying "We will certainly continue to talk with him at any time, in any place, to resolve these issues that we know are important to Minnesotans." Majority Leader Gazelka offered, "There's too many big issues we have to work on. If you allow the legislative branch to be crippled, we cannot function the way that we want to function and need to function." Leaders further explained that regardless of their ability to transfer funds from the Legislative Coordinating Commission, the available funding is insufficient to fund the legislature through the biennium.

The results of the failed two-day mediation attempt will be reported to the Minnesota Supreme Court, which had required the two parties to attempt to reconcile their differences before ruling further on the matter.

In other news, Dayton began the press conference by telling reporters that he'd just received "absolute assurance" via telephone from Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price that Minnesota's 1332 Innovation Waiver, which would institute the health care 'reinsurance' program passed by the legislature during the 2017 session, would be approved by the Trump administration.

Capitol Report: State of Agriculture and the Rural Economy

As the leaves change and crops are harvested, Capitol Report takes a look at the health of the state's agricultural economy. David Frederickson, Commissioner of Agriculture, joins moderator Shannon Loehrke to talk about the increase to a 20-percent biodiesel blend beginning next year, the department's work towards improving water quality and the overall health of the agricultural economy.

Senator Bill Weber, R-Luverne, chair of the Agriculture, Rural Development and Housing Policy Committee, provides an update on shrimp aquaculture and offers his perspective on ditch mowing legislation and combating invasive plants like palmer amaranth. He also discusses challenges to the future health of the state's farm economy.

Health Care Reinsurance Program Awaits Federal Approval

Governor Mark Dayton and senior officials called a press conference Wednesday, September 20, to express their frustration over the Trump Administration's delay in approving Minnesota's health care reinsurance program passed during the 2017 legislative session. According to state officials, time is running out for the federal waiver to authorize the reinsurance program, which would reduce rates by as much as twenty percent for individuals who fail to qualify for federal tax credits. Five percent of Minnesotans, or about 100,000 people, purchase health care coverage in the individual market.

In addition to awaiting federal approval to institute the reinsurance program, state officials also said that the Trump Administration plans to cut federal funding for MinnesotaCare, a state-run health care program for Minnesota's working poor. The state potentially faces a loss of approximately $369 million dollars over the next two years. Minnesota has designated the MinnesotaCare program as the state's Basic Health Plan, as was required under the Affordable Care Act.

"We followed their [Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services] instructions exactly how to word the reinsurance legislation so that it would not cause a reduction in our funding for the Basic Health Plan. And then we find out, literally last week, that it's going to be a $369 million dollar reduction, which is still on paper, and of course all of this is still up in the air because if they repeal the ACA, all bets are off of everything," Governor Dayton said.

Senate Panel Learns About End-of-Life Conversation Efforts

The Senate Select Committee on Health Care Consumer Access and Affordability dedicated a portion of their Thursday, September 14, meeting to review community efforts that are encouraging end-of-life conversations among family members.

The effort is being spearheaded by an organization called Honoring Choices, with a statewide campaign titled, "The Convenings." As explained by co-founder Bill Hanley, the intent of the informational effort is to stress "the importance of families having conversations about end-of-life before you get to the bedside."

Acknowledging the importance of those conversations, Committee Chair Scott Jensen, R-Chaska, said, "We are a committee trying to address the bending of the cost curve downwards. End-of-life care in some studies indicate that 40 to 45 percent of dollars are spent on people in their last year of life."

Dr. Ken Kephart agreed, "Study after study shows that patients do, for the most part, want the truth, want the best description of their status and want to have time to have discussions with their family members about goals of care. If that's done meaningfully, there is some pretty good evidence that the value you bring to somebody at the end of life is much higher and you probably save a dime...it's a pretty good value-based decision."

Capitol Report: Securing Safe Elections

Secretary of State Steve Simon and former Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer, who now chairs the Senate State Government and Elections Committee, dig into Minnesota's voting system with Capitol Report moderator Shannon Loehrke.

Plus, state lawmakers respond to President Trump's decision on DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Also on the program, highlights of a recent meeting of the Select Committee on Health Care Consumer Access and Affordability that was dedicated to examining the rising costs of prescriptions.

Capitol Report: Uniquely Minnesota Topics at the State Fair

On this week's Capitol Report, moderator Shannon Loehrke spent time at the Minnesota Senate booth, talking with Senators about some uniquely Minnesota topics.

From sharing their favorite Minnesota pastime, to identifying unique Minnesota features, to pitching a visit to their district, Senators Mary Kiffmeyer, Roger Chamberlain, David Osmek, Ann Rest, John Hoffman and Chris Eaton join in the State Fair spirit and share their perspectives on some interesting and fun topics.

Also on the program, Shannon provides highlights of the Minnesota Supreme Court's review of Governor Mark Dayton's veto of funding for the legislature.

Minnesota Senate Media Services
The Minnesota Senate provides live and archive coverage of Senate floor sessions, committee hearings, press conferences and special events. Capitol Report, a weekly public affairs program, and civic education videos also are archived. All programming is produced by Senate Media Services. Audio coverage is recorded and reported by Senate Committee staff and Senate Sergeant At Arms office.

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