Archive for the ‘Mary Franson’ Category

Just when you thought it couldn’t get worse within Minnesota’s Department of Health and Human Services, Gov. Tim Walz makes it much worse. Gov. Walz made the situation much worse by picking Jodi Harpstead to take over as commissioner of HHS in September.

Commissioner Harpstead is currently employed as the CEO of Lutheran Social Services, aka LSS. For the past 5+ years, LSS has specialized in the Refugee Resettlement program. That means that they’ve specialized in hiding important details about who was coming into Minnesota’s communities. This isn’t speculation. It’s well-documented fact.

When former City Councilman Jeff Johnson participated in a discussion on the refugee resettlement program, he expressed frustration with LSS:

To summarize that meeting, what I saw, four things were occurring. One, we have a nonprofit religious organization, OK, taking federal dollars, and they were pocketing approximately $1,000 per refugee. The allocation’s about 3,300 (dollars), but they got to keep about $1,000 per refugee, OK? They were not being transparent with the public, and it got to the point where they actually had a deputy at the door monitoring who was coming into the meetings. And I said you need to open up these meetings because you’re using federal dollars, you’re a nonprofit organization, and to me it was becoming apparent that they were acting like a for-profit corporation.

LSS was the volag running the meetings. Now, Gov. Walz has tapped the CEO of LSS to be the commissioner of HHS. Saying that HHS is embroiled in a crisis is understatement. Part of the crisis is rampant fraud within HHS.

When HHS Commissioner Tony Lourey abruptly resigned last month, he didn’t say why he was leaving, other than saying that the Department needed new leadership that he wasn’t capable of providing. The week prior to Lourey’s resignation, his 2 deputies resigned without an explanation. They’ve since returned to their positions.

If ever there was a department that needed a massive infusion of transparency, HHS is it. Hiring a woman whose current organization specializes in hiding things from government officials isn’t a first step towards building confidence with the public.

This hiring smacks of arrogance in the worst way. This is Gov. Walz’s attempt to stiff-arm the legislature, at least the part that gives a damn about providing oversight. (At this point, the DFL House isn’t interested in providing oversight.)

This week, Senate Republicans held a 3.5 hour-long oversight hearing into why “the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe and the White Earth Nation received $25.3 million in excess payments for medically assisted treatments covered through Medicaid over several years.” At the hearing, Committee Chair Michelle Benson said “The taxpayers didn’t make this mistake. They’re not the ones who used the judgment to cause the overpayments, why should they be held responsible?” She also said that “lawmakers shouldn’t have to allocate $25 million in additional funds to cover overpayments to two tribes.”

HHS needs a serious culture change. It’s questionable that Ms. Harpstead will provide that type of leadership. The organization she’s currently running specializes in secrecy and stiff-arming local politicians. That isn’t the reputation of a reformer. Make no mistake, either. HHS needs a reformation:

Other DHS employees or former employees shared with the committee their concerns about what they’d faced at the department. The former Medicaid program director told the panel bureaucrats in the department rejected advice from medical professionals and abruptly dismissed him in July.

And Faye Bernstein, a DHS compliance officer, said she was put on temporary leave when she raised concerns about compliance in state contracts. She was later allowed to return to her post and appeared Tuesday on a vacation day. She said she’d received notice ahead of the hearing that she could be terminated for her comments to lawmakers.

Think about that a minute. Bernstein was “put on temporary leave” because “she raised concerns about compliance” issues. If that isn’t proof that HHS needs a total reformation, then it’s hopeless.

The Senate has the constitutional responsibility of confirming commissioners. Unless Sen. Benson’s committee gets proof that Harpstead is serious about changing the culture at HHS, the Senate should reject her, then tell Gov. Walz that he needs to appoint someone who is committed to transparency and reformation.

Gov. Walz took time to visit the Vikings’ training facility. Apparently, he thinks that being the CEO of the state is a part-time responsibility. Thus far, he’s been a huge disappointment.

The lede of Rep. Mary Franson’s e-letter update is the continuing crisis within the Minnesota Department of Human Sacrifices Services. In her e-letter, Rep. Franson wrote “There has been a lot of news swirling around the Capitol in the last few weeks about disarray and drama in the Department of Human Services. DHS has been in the news all session because of the fraud found by the nonpartisan Office of the Legislative Auditor, which led to the inspector general, Carolyn Ham, being placed on leave. We recently heard that as of July 12, the investigation had not even started yet. Meanwhile, Ms. Ham had been paid $42,000 while on leave.”

Rep. Franson continued:

Around the same time, two senior DHS officials handed in their resignations, with very little warning and no explanation. Several days after that, Commissioner Tony Lourey resigned, also with no warning or explanation. When Governor Walz announced Lourey’s resignation, he also said that the investigation into Carolyn Ham had started, meaning, once they were called out publicly, they quickly began an investigation.

The day following Commissioner Lourey’s resignation, his chief of staff resigned, and then the next day, the first two senior DHS officials rescinded their resignations and were hired back to DHS.

All of this drama has been met with no explanation from the Governor or his staff. For an agency the size of DHS, which controls almost 30% of the state budget, this level of upheaval and drama with absolutely no explanation is unprecedented and unacceptable. The Governor owes the people of Minnesota an explanation as to what exactly is going on in his largest agency.

Thus far, Gov. Walz gets an F in transparency. Thus far, he’s the worst governor in Minnesota history in terms of explaining why this crisis happened. In fact, Gov. Walz even suggested that this isn’t that big of a deal and that it’s likely just his political opponents latest attempt to attack him.

Clearly, the resignation spree at DHS (Department of Human Services) isn’t ordinary. It’s extraordinary. The suspension of the Inspector General (IG) is a big deal because the IG is supposed to inspect whether the Department is doing what it’s required to do. The fact that the IG was suspended with pay pending investigation is troubling enough. The fact that it’s been 4 months since that suspension without the start of the investigation screams utter ineptitude and corruption.

If Gov. Walz doesn’t start taking this crisis seriously soon, we’ll have proof that he’s just another bureaucrat in an executive position.

Anyone that thinks this Lourey resignation isn’t a big story is kidding themselves. This afternoon, Sen. Michelle Benson issued this statement regarding Commissioner Lourey’s resignation:

I want to thank Commissioner Lourey for his service to the state of Minnesota. Going forward, reform must be the top priority at DHS. Their technology is failing and costing too much. Their programs are filled with fraud and wasting taxpayers’ dollars. The new commissioner should examine DHS from the bottom up and prove they can meet basic benchmarks in their budget, program integrity, and technology.

This is further proof of what Republicans have been saying since the Walz administration began promoting ONECare, his massive public healthcare program – DHS is simply not able to take on a project of that scope and size.

It would be my recommendation that any future DHS commissioner focus on reform and accountability rather than new programs if they expect confirmation from the Senate. That’s exactly the right prescription for what’s ailing MN DHS. I’d also say that the Department is in turmoil but that’s too obvious. A 10-year-old could see that. Kurt Daudt issued this statement this morning:

The abrupt, unexplained departures of the top three officials at DHS in the past week is deeply troubling, and indicative of turmoil at our largest state agency. Minnesotans deserve answers and transparency from Governor Walz about what’s going on.

Lourey’s resignation is the latest in a major exodus of top leaders at the agency. Last week, Deputy Commissioners Chuck Johnson and Claire Wilson resigned unexpectedly without explanation from DHS. A former DHS Director, whose position was unexpectedly eliminated after 13 years in June, called for an investigation by the Walz administration citing “systemic issues with the leadership culture of the agency.'”

In the same statement, Daudt announced that “Senate Deputy Majority Leader Michelle Benson, who also serves as Chair of the Senate HHS Finance and Policy Committee, and Rep. Mary Franson, R-Alexandria” would join him for “a noon press conference to discuss the latest developments at DHS.”

Rep. Franson is the leading authority in the House on child care issues. That leads me to think that this shake-up at Human Services is, at minimum, partially caused by the child care fraud investigation. Frankly, it sounds like Human Services is putting the fun out of dysfunctional. Starting with MNsure, then proceeding to the child care fraud investigation to the OneCare initiative, it’s difficult to point to a recent success story at the Department.

Saying that Daudt, Benson and Franson were upset is understatement. To say that they criticized Gov. Walz over these multiple scandals is understatement, too. The harshest criticism early in the press availability came from Kurt Daudt when he said that if Gov. Walz kept ignoring the problem, he’d own the problem. That’s exactly right.

Frankly, this isn’t how a major state agency should be run. The Human Services budget comprises approximately 40% of the state budget. If money is flying out the door as a result of fraud and the people running the department aren’t paying attention to what’s happening, then that’s a monstrous problem. It’s one thing if there’s fraud in one of the minor departments. It’s another when it’s a major part of the budget. That can’t happen.

Sen. Benson highlighted the fact that she chief-authored a bill that would’ve made the Inspector General’s Office a separate office. Republicans passed it in the Senate. According to Sen. Benson, the House DFL refused to move on it last session because the DFL is beholden to the public employees union that staff Human Services.

It’s also worth noting that the press covering the press availability tried their best to suggest that this wasn’t really a scandal, that it might just be 3 separate resignations that have nothing to do with the culture at Human Services. Frankly, it was pathetic watching them try to cover for the DFL.

Mary Franson proposed a bill in the last session that would’ve punished parents who subjected their daughters to female genital mutilation. Since it didn’t pass last year, she’s proposing it again this year. As this editorial powerfully states, “Franson deserves 100 percent support from her fellow House members as well as lawmakers in the Senate.”

I’ll just add that this legislation deserves the governor’s signature, too. Additionally, anyone that doesn’t support this legislation should be immediately thrown out of the legislature. I can’t state this opinion emphatically enough.

According to the editorial, it “is currently a felony in Minnesota to perform a mutilation, but the actions of the parents are not properly addressed. Under Franson’s bill, parents could be more severely punished, and have their children taken away.”

Anyone that subjects their daughter to this horrific treatment is a beast who needs to be locked up immediately and for a long time. Why people haven’t supported Rep. Franson’s legislation enthusiastically is beyond explanation. This isn’t a partisan issue. It’s the right thing to do.

When it comes to child care issues, Rep. Mary Franson is the go-to person. As I do each week, I get an e-letter update from Rep. Franson. This week, the highlight of Rep. Franson’s e-letter was her work on the child care issue. The letter states “A shocking report recently revealed upwards of $100 million of state childcare subsidies being allocated to fraudulent childcare facilities, and then funneled overseas – possibly ending up in the hands of terrorist organizations. In the days following this report, I have received countless calls and emails from people who are rightfully outraged with this level of fraud at the expense of our state’s taxpayers.”

It continues, saying “In response to this concerning report, House Republicans unveiled legislation to prevent childcare fraud and ensure fraudulent public program dollars aren’t sent to countries on the US State Department travel ban list.”

Included were the highlights of the proposal:

  • Allows Department of Human Services (DHS) to use “Immediate Temporary Suspensions” to close childcare providers that do not fully cooperate with investigators if they are suspected of fraud.
  • Creates criminal and civil penalties for those who transfer fraudulent public program funds to countries on the US State Department travel ban list.
  • Creates increased fraud prevention measures in public programs including Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) and other welfare programs.
  • Directs the Office of the Legislative Auditor (OLA) to investigate CCAP.

Additionally, on the House floor on Tuesday, I successfully offered an amendment to a bill to mandate DHS take money from its existing budget and allocate it for training for childcare licensing agencies to identify and prevent fraud in the child care assistance program. This is, by far, the biggest Minnesota news story this year. In this post, I wrote that the Dayton administration ignored this fraud:

According to Stillman, he alerted a number of people in DHS, including the Commissioner’s Chief of Staff, with the following message: “Significant amount of these defrauded dollars are being sent overseas to countries and organizations connected to entities known to fund terrorists and terrorism.”

Finally, I’m as appalled as Rep. Franson about this:

I remain deeply troubled that nearly $100 million dollars per year have been fraudulently billed to the state of Minnesota. This breach of public trust indicates that DHS has failed in its duty to protect Minnesota taxpayers, and ensure childcare assistance dollars are going to those who truly need it to afford childcare. This bill starts the conversation as the legislature now intends to prevent future cases of fraud and hold DHS accountable.

The Dayton administration is filled with cronies who weren’t held accountable. This is why a legislator shouldn’t be elected governor. They’ve never run things. Gov. Dayton, as a former US senator, never ran things. That shows in this list of Dayton administration mistakes:

Unfortunately, the widespread fraud of childcare assistance funds is just the latest in a series of blunders by the Dayton Administration’s state agencies. This repeated pattern is highlighted by complications with MNsure’s rollout; MN IT Services’ failed handling of MNLARS; and the inability of DHS to accurately bill tens of thousands of MNcare enrollees. Failures such as these demonstrate the lack of accountability within this administration, and each instance of mismanagement has cost taxpayers millions of dollars. Simply stated, Minnesotans have grown frustrated with this administration’s inability to effectively provide services through taxpayer-funded government programs.

The thieves in the DFL got embarrassed this week when Rob Undersander testified in front of a House committee. Specifically, he testified that “he received food stamps for 19 months to prove a point: Not everyone who gets the aid needs it.” The DFL, meanwhile, was livid. Here’s what happened.

During his testimony, the “Waite Park resident did it to call attention to a bill from Rep. Jeff Howe, R-Rockville, that would require personal assets to be included in the government’s formula for food stamp recipients. Undersander legally collected food stamps during a period in which he had little income, the key criteria for receiving the benefit.” The article states that Undersander is a millionaire.

That made DFL heads explode. “Rep. Laurie Halverson, DFL-Eagan, joined others in her party to criticize Undersander. ‘I am finding it incredibly offensive that $6,000 in benefits were taken,’ Halvorson said. Added Rep. Jennifer Schultz, DFL-Duluth: ‘I think it is inappropriate to apply for these benefits.'” Meanwhile, “Rep. John Considine, DFL-Mankato, said ‘You knew this was wrong and you did it anyway. I find it pretty despicable. … I am just sorry there is no way we can prosecute you.'”

Undersander isn’t the thief in this instance. As far as we know, he didn’t lie on his application. If he had, they’d prosecute him.

Rep. Mary Franson, R-Alexandria, praised the Waite Park man. “I am really sorry about the line of questioning that has been put forth, and the accusations,” she said. “You should be able to come to a committee without being accused of being a thief.”

If the legislature is going to write sloppy bills, people will take advantage of the loopholes. If the DFL wants to complain, they’re best off complaining to the person in the mirror. They wrote the bill, then voted for it, too.

The DFL owns this problem. As usual, Republicans have submitted a bill to clean up the DFL’s mess.

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I just wrote this post about Rose and John Lang. They’re farmers near Richmond, MN. Rep. Mary Franson represents a rural district with lots of farmers. This morning, Rep. Franson took to Twitter to tell people about the crisis-causing health insurance premiums. One story she told talked about Vern. According to the notification letter Vern recently received, Vern’s monthly premium for 2016 was $961.12. According to the letter, Vern’s plan isn’t a MNsure plan so it isn’t available anymore. The cheapest plan available to him through MNsure will charge him $1,898.56 a month.

According to Tina Liebling, “Obamacare was set up to make a failed insurance system work better. People need health care, not insurance.” That’s DFL propaganda. Further, it’s a dodge from the heart of the matter. The ACA is failing so badly that people who have health insurance can’t afford to use it. One of those people is Mary Katherine Ham. Mary Katherine wrote about her situation in this article for the Federalist. What she wrote is heartbreaking. Here’s the heartbreaking part:

This year, my premium is going up 96 percent. Ninety-six percent. My monthly payment, which was the amount of a decent car payment, is now the size of a moderate mortgage. The president refers to these for thousands of citizens as ‘a few bugs’ when to us it feels like a flameout. For this astronomical payment, I get a plan with an astronomical deductible that my healthy family of three will likely never hit except in the most catastrophic of circumstances.

Rep. Liebling, the ACA created a situation where people are insured but they’re paying for most of their medical costs out of pocket. As for the good things that the ACA has done, the truth is that Minnesota’s pre-ACA system was insuring a high percentage of Minnesotans at a fraction of the cost that farmers are getting hit with in these notices. Here’s Vern’s notification letter:

The fact that Gov. Dayton, Tina Liebling and the DFL are attempting to defend the indefensible is offensive. Repealing the ACA isn’t throwing out the baby with the bathwater. The ACA is nothing but bathwater.

In the end, in-home child care providers rejected AFSCME’s forced unionization plan. In fact, the vote wasn’t that close. According to this article, the “vote was 1,014-392 in a Tuesday count by the state Bureau of Mediation Services from ballots mailed to providers last month.”
Don Davis, who wrote this article, is right in saying that the “election was a defeat for Gov. Mark Dayton and other Democrats who promoted the unionization effort. Republicans declared the results show that childcare providers do not want state interference.”

When the DFL pushed the forced unionization vote down the child care providers’ throats, LFR reported on the fight between the child care providers and the DFL’s special interest allies. Though I wasn’t there at the Capitol, I watched until 6:00 am via the House’s livestream. That’s how I gathered the information that went into this post.

The DFL loves to talk about how they’re the party of the little guy. That’s BS. Child care providers rejected AFSCME unionization by a 72%-28% margin. The only time they side with the little guy is when the little guy agrees with the DFL’s special interest allies. Period.

Senate Minority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, said Dayton administration “did not follow the law” when it set up the election, ruling that many providers did not qualify for ballots.

“This vote should be the final word on Dayton’s shameful effort to pay back the AFSCME union for their early support of his campaign for governor,” Hann said. “Senate Republicans will now push to have the law repealed in the face of such strong opposition from providers and parents.”

House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, joined Hann in delivering harsh reaction. “Gov. Dayton tried and failed to rig an election that would have increased childcare costs for hardworking parents and caused headaches for independent providers.”

Sen. Bakk will block the GOP’s attempt to repeal the law because he can’t afford to piss off AFSCME in an election year. It’s that simple. Sen. Bakk isn’t about to fight the special interests that contribute to DFL campaigns and comprise the DFL’s GOTV operation.

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One of my favorite GOP legislators, Mary Franson, apparently has a challenger for the GOP endorsement for HD-8B:

Greetings all Conservatives of the Republican Party of Otter Tail County!!!

After much deliberation, thoughtful prayer and talking with my family, I have made the decision to seek the Republican endorsement for the seat in the Minnesota State Legislative House of Representatives belonging to District 8B.

According to the Otter Tail County Constitution, any elected member of the Leadership Committee, except state central delegates, who announce their candidacy for Federal or State elected public office shall be placed on immediate leave of absence. I have talked with Representative Franson and told her personally of my intentions and will hope that we will all act in the spirit of a conservative family and make decisions that will best serve our district and our state. You all know me to be issue based, and with that I ask that we realize that the true threat to our freedoms is the march of liberalism and those ugly tentacles that would destroy our rural way of life, our families, and our economy.[emphasis added]

I have notified our deputy chair, Jim Eitzen and he will be taking over the reins and the gavel. I have started work on our County convention for March and will turn that over to Jim and others to make that convention highly successful. I trust that we will all pull together behind our acting chair and his committee to continue the outstanding work of Otter Tail County.

As always best to you, God’s peace and thank you for the opportunity to work with and for you!!

Sue

As I said in the opening paragraph, Mary is one of my favorite conservative legislators so I won’t pretend to be unbiased. That said, Ms. Nelson has the right to challenge my friend if she chooses. The purpose of this post is to simply tell both ladies that this race is now on my radar screen so they’d better play nice. Think Reagan’s Eleventh Commandment. (PS- That goes for associates or supporters, too.)

Since Ms. Nelson brought it up, I’ll pay attention to whether she runs an issues-oriented campaign. I hope she does.

Finally, one of the reasons I like Mary is because of the leadership role she’s taken in defending the First Amendment in the context of fighting the DFL’s forced unionization scheme. Mary has fought the right fight against a formidable opponent because it’s the right fight to pick. Mary, along with Hollee Saville, were the best leaders in the fight to protect small business owners and the First Amendment.
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Rep. Sarah Anderson issued this statement about the DFL’s tax increases:

Dear Neighbors,

As a kid, you dreaded hearing the phrase, “other figures sold separately,” at the end of a toy commercial. It meant you weren’t really getting what you were seeing on the TV. That’s kind of how I feel about the upcoming special session in September.

Shortly after session ended in May, I heard some Democrats say they wanted to repeal the business to business taxes included in the final tax bill. However, when the opportunity to stop the bleeding from this tax came upon us with the proposed special session, we only got the “other figures sold separately” line. This refusal to correct a “bad tax policy” means Minnesota will lose businesses and the jobs these businesses provide along with consumers being forced to pay more for products.

The B2B tax on storage and warehouse services alone could cost our state over 7,000 jobs. Four states who tried the warehouse tax repealed it within six months. One state repealed it in two days.

Today, we heard from former Democrat Speaker Margaret Kelliher asking the Legislature to repeal the telecommunication tax. It is estimated this tax will cost our state 3,300 jobs. I agree with the former Speaker that we need to take action now and repeal all of the business to business taxes. See her comments here: http://kstp.com/article/stories/S3134462.shtml?cat=89

It’s not just jobs we stand to lose; every Minnesota family will pay more for groceries, medicine, personal care products, and much more. The Department of Revenue study notes that families will pay more when new business tax increases are passed on to consumers. In fact, this same study shows that the people who earn the least amount of money will pay the most for the $2.4 billion in tax and fee increases passed by the Democrat-controlled Legislature and Governor’s office.

Though the Democrat leaders announced today that they won’t fix this problem in the September special session, my Republican colleagues and I will continue to encourage them to correct this huge mistake. We cannot afford to lose any more jobs and we should not force higher prices on already struggling families.

The DFL imposed huge new tax increases this session, including a telecommunications equipment sales tax, a farm equipment repair sales tax, the warehouse sales tax and a gigantic cigarette tax increase.

I wrote here about Speaker Kelliher’s call for repealing the telecommunications equipment sales tax. I wrote here about Gov. Dayton, Speaker Thissen and Sen. Bakk breaking their promise to farmers. I wrote here about how the cigarette tax is hurting convenience stores, especially in the Moorhead area. This morning, Rep. Mary Franson confirms the damage being done to convenience stores in this tweet:

met with a wholesaler in my district this week. C-stores along border struggling.

Gov. Dayton and the DFL have made overtures towards green energy companies in an attempt to lure them here from other states. Unfortunately, they’re punishing companies already operating in Minnesota. Playing favorites with the economy is what helped drive the US economy into the Great Stagnation. Apparently, Gov. Dayton and the DFL didn’t learn. Apparently, they think that they can follow the same pattern and get better results. That’s either foolishness or arrogance. Either way, it’s counterproductive, which is what Gov. Dayton’s and this DFL legislature’s reputation should be.

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