Daily Digest: Regents settle on finalist

Good morning, and welcome to Thursday. State budget officials will release their latest economic forecast later this morning. In the meantime, here’s the Digest.

1. Finalist named for U of M president. The Board of Regents named Joan Gabel as the sole finalist to become the next president of the University of Minnesota. She’ll come to Minnesota for final interviews soon. Gabel is executive vice president for academic affairs and provost at the University of South Carolina. If hired, she would be the first female president of the U of M. “Provost Gabel has shown strong leadership at the University of South Carolina and her previous institutions, and the Presidential Search Advisory Committee strongly recommended her after in-depth analysis and a comparison of 67 total candidates,” said Board of Regents Chair David McMillan, adding that the process was not yet complete. The U of M and Board of Regents plan to “engage fully with Provost Gabel in multiple public settings,” he said. “If at the end of the process the board is confident she will succeed as our next president, it will vote to support her. If a vote is not successful, we will return to the pool to publicly interview additional candidates.” (MPR News)

2. No quick tax conformity in 2019. There won’t be a mad dash to rewrite Minnesota’s tax code when the Legislature returns to action in January. Key lawmakers in both parties said Wednesday that it’s too late to better align the state and federal systems ahead of the 2019 filing season. “That ship has sailed,” said Senate Taxes Committee Chairman Roger Chamberlain, R-Lino Lakes. “It’s just too much, too big a deal, you can’t cram it in,” he added. “It’s just one of those things as they say in the business, you have to take the bath and move on.” DFL Rep. Paul Marquart of Dilworth, who will lead the House Tax Committee beginning in January, said it would be a mistake to speed through a bill aimed at matching up state and federal deductions, credits and other features. “Just trying to rewrite things would cause huge confusion at this point for taxpayers, software providers and everyone else,” Marquart said. “To try to do something quick will hurt the taxpayer but also just isn’t practical. But also it is something that the Department of Revenue would probably take a few months having to put together to get it to work anyway.” Marquart notes that the Minnesota Department of Revenue has spent months developing its filing materials for the 2018 tax year and worked closely with software vendors to prepare and test their products. (MPR News)

3. Feds say they’ll cut funding for reinsurance by $100 million.  Minnesota could lose nearly $100 million in federal funding for a state program designed to rein in costs on the state’s individual health insurance marketplace. State Sen. Tony Lourey, DFL-Kerrick,  said state officials received a letter from the federal government this week stating Minnesota’s reinsurance program will receive $84 million in 2019, or $99.1 million less than originally anticipated. Lourey broke the news at a Senate hearing Wednesday called to talk about the cost of a potential MinnesotaCare buy-in option, as well as the loss of the state’s reinsurance program, which is set to expire in 2020. “We, literally, lost about $100 million of federal support for the reinsurance program and that needs to be understood as we work through this, and that it is not incorporated,” Lourey said. Lawmakers struck a deal last year to prop up the individual insurance market by helping insurers cover expensive medical claims through reinsurance. (MPR News)

4. Nolan reveals health problems. Retiring 8th District DFL Congressman Rick Nolan said this week that he recently suffered a heart attack. “I had four hours of heart surgery — it was not open heart — about 16 months ago, and then I had another heart attack here about six weeks ago,” Nolan said. He described the latest heart attack. It began with routine. He was up at 5 a.m. and reading a series of newspapers when he felt a sharp pain in his chest that wouldn’t recede. Tests found dead heart tissue in his blood and a near complete blockage in one of his arteries. It’s being treated with medication. “I’ve had a couple of heart attacks,” Nolan said, revealing things he’s long kept to himself. “I’ve had open heart surgery — bypass. I’ve had stents. I have stents inside of stents.” The irony was that he’d spent whole days working in the woods last fall with his adult sons to no ill effect. “Then I’m just sitting there reading the paper — go figure,” he said. (Duluth News Tribune)

5. Another recount for a state House seat. There will be a recount in the Minnesota House District 47B race today. In the Nov. 6 election, Republican Greg Boe was declared a winner over Democrat Donzel Leggett, for the eastern Carver County district, by 10,853-10,736, or 117 votes. The discretionary recount was requested by legal representation for Leggett, according to Elections and Customer Service Supervisor Kendra Olson.  “The SD47B election was close and just outside of the parameters for a state mandated recount. In order to provide faith and trust in the new voting systems implemented by Carver County, we have requested a recount, as is allowed by Minnesota state statutes,” said Leggett, in a statement. “Voter integrity is vitally important to our democracy, and we look forward to the recount on Thursday, Dec. 6.” The recount will be financed by Leggett. For a recount to be publicly funded, the difference in the number of votes between Boe and Leggett would need to be less than one-half of 1 percent, or about 10 votes less, Olson said. (Chaska Herald)

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