ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Gov. Mark Dayton sounded off on a handful of issues Tuesday including his own health, as he prepares for two weeks out of the public eye to recuperate from a scheduled procedure at Mayo Clinic to repair a damaged muscle in his left hip. Here are a couple of things the Democratic governor touched on in a briefing with reporters:
— ONLINE VOTER REGISTRATION: Dayton said he supports letting Minnesota voters register online, which was recently implemented by Secretary of State Mark Ritchie. But Dayton said Ritchie, a fellow Democrat, should have obtained the Legislature’s OK before implementing the system.
Ritchie’s office implemented online voter registration last month. The system can be used both by new registrants and those who want to update an existing registration. Ritchie’s office has pointed to a law that recognizes use of electronic records in government as justification, but his move set off a round of criticism from Republican state lawmakers who said he lacked the authority to bring it about unilaterally.
The Democratic chairwoman of a Senate committee that oversees election law also said lawmakers should sign off on it, and Dayton agreed. “It’s a good one, but one that should have legislative support,” Dayton said. He said both political parties should get behind efforts to increase voter turnout.
Ritchie’s spokesman did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
— HEALTH OVERHAUL: Dayton said he’s pleased so far with the performance of Minnesota’s health insurance exchange, but that it would be at least a year before it can be judged a success or failure.
The governor said he hoped people would distinguish between efforts in Minnesota and those at the national level. A day earlier, President Barack Obama said he’s angry about technical problems that have plagued healthcare.gov, the federal government’s consumer portal for uninsured people and others to buy health insurance.
Minnesota is one of 14 states to build its own health insurance exchange, meaning residents who want to buy insurance don’t have to interact with healthcare.gov. Its state counterpart, MNsure.com, launched two weeks ago and so far has seen the creation of about 18,000 user accounts. Of those, about 3,700 people so far have successfully signed up for insurance. MNsure has faced some of its own technical problems, and officials with the new agency said last week they expect enrollment to speed up in December.
“I think the MNsure beginning has been not perfect, but given the complexity and the scope of the project, I think it’s performed phenomenally well,” Dayton said.
— MAYO PROCEDURE: On questions about his own health, Dayton said the Wednesday procedure at Mayo Clinic was recommended by his doctors there to reduce pain that’s plagued him since June, when he tore a muscle in his left hip. Dayton also spent time at Mayo Clinic last January, when he had back surgery.
“It’s been painful the last four months, but that’s part of life,” said Dayton, who is 66. “I’m pretty tough, and hopefully this will correct it. If not, I’ll limp along.”
The procedure is known as platelet rich plasma injection, which involves extracting concentrated platelets from the patient’s blood and injecting them back into damaged muscle tissue. Dayton is planning two weeks of recuperation. He’ll work from the governor’s residence and skip public appearances.
Dayton said no matter how the procedure turns out, it won’t affect his plans to run for a second term next year.
“Last I read, brain cells are located in the head, not the hip,” he said.