- Associated Press - Saturday, February 8, 2014
Dignitaries, family bid farewell to Joan Mondale

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Political dignitaries joined family members at Saturday’s memorial service for Joan Mondale, the wife of a former vice president who was remembered as “a highly charged battery of positive energy” for her passion and persistence about arts, politics and community.

Vice President Joe Biden, former President Jimmy Carter and their spouses Jill and Rosalynn were at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Minneapolis to pay tribute to Walter Mondale’s devoted partner, who died Monday at age 83 after an extended illness. Leading Minnesota officials, along with Japan’s consul general, filled rows of pews at the two-hour service.

Carter credited Joan Mondale for bolstering a facet of his legacy: a commitment to art and artists across the country and beyond. He recalled her as dogged in pushing his administration to build lasting support for the fine arts.

“Until I met Joan Mondale, I thought Rosalynn was the most persistent woman on earth,” Carter said, noting 22 entries in his personal diary about Mondale lobbying him on the arts in one year alone.

“I tried to find a phrase to describe Joan, and I found this one: ‘Live your life as though it was a work of art,’” Carter said.


Budget model uncertain for state health exchanges

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - The 14 states running their own health insurance marketplaces had all their startup costs footed by the federal government, but they’re supposed to pay for themselves starting next year under the federal health care reform law.

In several states, it’s not clear whether it will work out that way. Projected enrollments are lower than expected, meaning the insurance surcharges designed to sustain the exchanges might not generate enough revenue in the years ahead without significant changes in the financing model.

Officials in some states are stashing away federal grant money to continue paying for operations beyond the January 2015 target date for financial self-sufficiency. Others are contemplating staffing cuts or boosting insurance surcharges.

To date, the 14 states operating their own exchanges, plus the District of Columbia, have received nearly $3.8 billion to start and operate their health insurance exchanges, according to a state-by-state tally by The Associated Press.

Several states already are considering options to stave off concerns about solvency:


St. Paul teachers union might take strike vote

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Union officials who represent St. Paul public school teachers say they’ll decide Monday whether to put a strike to a membership vote after eight months of contentious contract talks.

The St. Paul Federation of Teachers and St. Paul Public Schools apparently made progress during about 12 hours of negotiation Thursday, but union President Mary Cathryn Ricker said the executive board will decide whether to call for a strike-authorization vote, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported (https://bit.ly/Nlo8eKhttps://bit.ly/Nlo8eK ).

“It’s helpful to make incremental forward progress,” Ricker said. “But we’re serious about making progress on the issues that are most important to us.”

The two sides have struggled to agree on union proposals that include capping class sizes, reducing time spent on standardized tests and hiring more counselors and other student-support professionals

Ricker said talks on a new two-year contract have been productive at times but there’s still work to be done. The previous contract expired last summer.


UM Duluth’s share of state money drops

DULUTH, Minn. (AP) - The University of Minnesota Duluth received about 20 percent less in state funding than the Twin Cities campus did over the past four years, prompting calls from school officials and a lawmaker to reverse the trend.

The amount of unrestricted state money that UMD received from 2009 to 2013 fell 42 percent, from about $48 million to $28 million. During the same period, the Twin Cities campus saw its share drop 23 percent, the Duluth News Tribune reported (https://bit.ly/LZEE3bhttps://bit.ly/LZEE3b ).

Part of the reason is that Duluth increased its tuition during that period to help the University of Minnesota handle its limited resources, UMD Chancellor Lendley Black said. That led to less state help.

There are other reasons for the disparity. The Twin Cities campus produces more research, but since that isn’t supported by tuition, it creates a need for greater state funding.

Black said he hoped to see state funding for the campuses even out in the future. He has an ally in Democratic state Rep. Mary Murphy, who said the state needs to make sure Duluth gets a bigger share of the money.

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