Daily Digest: Pawlenty schedules Florida fundraiser

Good morning, and happy Tuesday. Here’s the Digest.

1. Pawlenty looks South as he prepares to run. Republican Tim Pawlenty is fundraising toward a now-likely campaign for Minnesota governor. A fundraising invitation obtained Monday by MPR News contains a “Pawlenty for Governor” committee disclaimer. It advertises a Naples, Fla., fundraiser next week that seeks up to the maximum donation of $4,000 per person. Pawlenty was known to travel to Naples for past fundraising swings when he was previously governor for two terms and during an abbreviated run for president in 2012. The area is known as a winter retreat for many well-off Minnesotans. Pawlenty has yet to announce a formal campaign for the office, which won’t have an incumbent on November’s ballot. But all signs point to a campaign, including his decision to leave a high-paid Washington D.C. job lobbying for financial services companies. He’s also fundraising in Minnesota. He has 14 days to create a campaign committee with the state campaign finance board after he raises or spends $750. (MPR News)

2. Republicans want work requirement for Medicaid. Minnesota Republicans will push to impose a work requirement for the state’s health care program for those in poverty. A group of House and Senate Republicans introduced a bill Monday that would require Medical Assistance enrollees to work at least 80 hours a month, seek employment or enroll in job training programs. About 1.1 million Minnesotans get Medical Assistance — Minnesota’s name for Medicaid. That’s health care for people with low incomes, families with children, pregnant women, seniors and people who are blind or have a disability. A single, childless adult on Medical Assistance makes roughly $16,000 or less annually. The bill has a long list of exemptions, including people already working, people taking care of kids or seniors, the disabled, people over 60 and people in school or a drug treatment program, among others. Lawmakers think the work requirement would apply to about 125,000 people. (MPR News)

3. A top official fired over MNLARS. A longtime state official overseeing Minnesota’s beleaguered new computer system for vehicle tabs and titles has been fired. But Paul Meekin isn’t going quietly. On Monday, he cast himself as a scapegoat for a project that he characterized as the victim of a state agency saddled with too many bureaucratic restraints and not enough money in a tech sector that is leaving it in the dust. And lawmakers, he said, are too busy pointing fingers instead of learning what happened in an effort to prevent a repeat. Meekin, whose title was chief business technology officer for the state’s information technology department, served as the executive lead for IT on the project, known as MNLARS, for years. He was fired Friday. (Pioneer Press)

4. DFL race for governor now down to three candidates. State Rep. Tina Liebling ended her campaign for governor Monday. In announcing the suspension of her campaign, Liebling, DFL-Rochester, said it was clear that she could not succeed in the DFL endorsement process. Liebling will now concentrate on keeping her House seat. “I will seek the endorsement of DFLers in House District 26A and run for re-election to the Minnesota House of Representatives,” Liebling said. She said she felt that her message as a candidate for governor had reached many people and that she had received “tremendous encouragement and support.” But in last month’s nonbinding DFL caucus straw poll, she finished fifth with just over 6 percent. (MPR News)

5. Negotiations with railroads complicate SWLRT. Another hitch has developed  involving plans for the $1.9 billion Southwest light-rail line. Before the Metropolitan Council applies for a critical federal grant to pay half of Southwest’s construction costs, it needs to reach agreements with three railroads that operate along part of the 14.5-mile route between downtown Minneapolis and Eden Prairie. Freight trains operated by Twin Cities & Western Railroad (TC&W) rumble along the Kenilworth corridor, an isthmus separating Lake of the Isles and Cedar Lake that serves as a popular spot for bicyclists and pedestrians, and a spur of track between St. Louis Park and Minnetonka. But negotiations between the Met Council and TC&W over how that relationship will be structured have broken down. Now the council is proposing a different plan in order to move the project forward. (Star Tribune)

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