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Don Davis, State Capitol Bureau, Published November 09 2009

Political notebook: Earlier primary election likely in Minnesota

ST. PAUL – It appears Minnesotans will go to the polls for the 2010 primary election in August, a month earlier than usual.

A new federal law gives military and other overseas voters 45 days to deal with mail-in general election ballots, but a September primary election leaves too little time to prepare for the general election.

Several Minnesota lawmakers plan to move a bill through the 2010 Legislature soon after it convenes on Feb. 4. Gov. Tim Pawlenty says he will sign the bill as long as controversial amendments are not tacked onto it.

“This is a common-sense bill that we are confident will see support from both sides of the aisle,” said Sen. Katie Sieben, DFL-Cottage Grove. “Every Minnesotan has the right to vote, and it is our job to ensure that every vote is counted. Moving the primary up is an easy way to accomplish this.”

For years, lawmakers have debated whether there is enough time between a September primary and November general election, but efforts to move up the date have failed. Pawlenty vetoed one recent bill that would have moved up the primary, saying there were other unacceptable provisions in the measure.

More than 11,000 Minnesotans voted from overseas last year. About 4 percent of the ballots arrived too late to be counted.

GAMC to end

The state will automatically enroll Minnesotans who get General Assistance Medical Care aid in MinnesotaCare once GAMC ends on March 1.

GAMC is a program that funds health care for poor Minnesotans; Gov. Tim Pawlenty cut off its funding to help balance the state budget. MinnesotaCare is an insurance provided by the state, for a fee, for the working poor who do not otherwise have health insurance.

“This one-time action provides the greatest benefit to enrollees and maintains their health care coverage,” said Human Services Commissioner Cal Ludeman. “Counties will continue to be the point of contact, which will allow coordination with other benefits available through the county agency.”

For up to six months, counties will pay MinnesotaCare premiums for current GAMC recipients. At that point, recipients will need to pay their own premiums.

Rep. Tom Huntley, DFL-Duluth, said those now getting GAMC cannot afford to pay MinnesotaCare premiums. And there are other problems with Ludeman’s plan, added the chairman of the House health care finance committee.

“The seriousness of their illnesses may well exceed the MnCare $10,000

in-patient hospital reimbursement cap, forcing hospitals to cost-shift millions more onto middle-class families’ insurance premiums,” Huntley said.

Pawlenty calls mayor

ABC News reports that Pawlenty called to congratulate the newly elected Manchester, N.H., mayor in the hours after he was elected.

There would appear to be only one reason the Republican governor would make that call: if he is running for president and wants to court favor with a prominent Republican in the first primary state.

Mayor-elect Ted Gatsas said Pawlenty, Mitt Romney and George Pataki called soon after Tuesday’s election. Pawlenty and Romney, a former Massachusetts governor and failed 2008 presidential candidate, are among the most active potential candidates at this early stage of the 2012 race. Former New York Gov. Pataki has made noises about running.

“They are all going to be coming to New Hampshire, and that’s a great thing,” Gatsas told ABC. “That is a wonderful thing for the state. They will meet the voters of this great state. They’ll answer the same question a couple of times, and voters will get a chance to look them in the eye.”

GOP wants change

Minnesota Republican leaders think they can bring in some dollar bills because Minnesotans are tired of change.

At least they are tired of the change that President Barack Obama brought, GOP Chairman Tony Sutton said.

Sutton announced that the party is selling “Change? I’d like mine back” bumper stickers that look a lot like the Obama “Change we can believe in” bumper stickers from a year ago.

“Thousands of Minnesota voters feel duped, betrayed and misled by Obama’s soft, lofty rhetoric and his hard-line, left-wing agenda,” Sutton wrote to fellow Republicans. “Help us remind them that after Obama spent trillions to ‘stimulate’ the economy, America lost another 2.5 million jobs.”

The cost of protesting the change? $30.

Beilke approved

The U.S. House passed a measure to name the newly opened Alexandria veterans clinic after Max J. Beilke.

U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., who sponsored the bill, said: “Sgt. Beilke was a true advocate for veterans, and naming this clinic for him is a reminder of his tireless service.”

Beilke served 22 years in the Army and was the last U.S. combat solider to leave Vietnam in March 1973. He died in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the Pentagon.

Davis works for Forum Communications Co., which owns The Forum. He can be reached at (651) 290-0707 or ddavis@forumcomm.com