Daily Digest (behind MNsure’s problems, free lunch, debt ceiling)

Abraham Lincoln was born on this day in 1809. That’s 10 score and 5 years ago for those of you keeping track. Here’s the Digest:

Minnesota:

What went wrong with MNsure? People interviewed by MPR News say MNsure’s top officials, including former executive director April Todd-Malmlov, were insular and stingy with information and that they ignored advice for improvement. They say MNsure staff was disorganized and often didn’t have answers to their questions. And an early decision by the state to buy software that was still under development compounded the problems, adding to what one recent report called a “crisis mode” inside MNsure. Moreover, the state never tested the website on consumers before it went live.  (MPR News)

Republicans are clearly intent on using the Affordable Care Act as the main issue in this year’s election. Case in point: The 8th District race between Republican Stewart Mills and DFL incumbent Rick Nolan. (MPR News)

Gov. Mark Dayton says he wants to use $3.5 million of any budget surplus to ensure that kids aren’t denied a hot lunch at school because they can’t pay for it. The governor’s action comes after a report from Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid this week found at least 46 school districts in the state said they allow staff to deny students food if their lunch account balances are in the red. (MPR News)

The Star Tribune could make more than $38 million from the sale of its land near the new Vikings’ stadium. That includes the building that has been the newspaper’s headquarters since 1919. The sale clears the way for a $400 million development. (Star Tribune)

Even though a little less than half of the state’s school districts are on track to cut the education achievement gap in half, state education officials say they are optimistic they are making progress. (Star Tribune)

Minnesota campaign regulators reinforced a wall of separation between candidates and outside political groups Tuesday, issuing an opinion that discourages them from cooperating on fundraising that could eventually pour money back into the politicians’ races and likely violate state law. (AP via Pioneer Press)

DFL leaders have rescheduled a Minneapolis precinct caucus that ended early because of an altercation. It will be held next Wednesday, Feb. 19 at the University of Minnesota’s Coffman Union. (MPR News)

Tomorrow a U.S. Senate subcommittee is scheduled to hold a hearing on the dangers of transporting oil by rail. How well prepared are Minnesota fire departments for an oil fire caused by a train accident? Not very well, according to this article. (Star Tribune)

Washington:

Just like that the House voted to extend the debt ceiling to March of 2015 and avoid another showdown with the White House over the budget. The vote was 221-201, with only 28 Republicans voting in favor. No doubt Speaker John Boehner was looking to head into the 2014 election without the baggage of a budget crisis hanging over his members. But many Republicans are angry they will get nothing in return for the debt ceiling extension. (New York Times)

All of Minnesota’s Republican representatives voted against raising the debt ceiling. All the state’s Democrats voted in favor. (MPR News)

The House vote, combined with comments from the new Federal Reserve chief, led to a nearly 200 point gain for the Dow. (New York Times)