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Minnesota News Briefs: DNR to do extensive study of moose population

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The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is conducting an extensive study in finding answers to why the state's moose population continues to decline in northeastern Minnesota.

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This is one of the most extensive moose mortality studies ever done. DNR Wildlife Research Manager Lou Cornicelli says they are using a helicopter to capture and radio-collar 100 moose for the study. He says they can't make any definitive changes in management until they know why the animals are dying. Information from high-tech equipment that tracks moose movement and health functions will help wildlife managers as they weigh future management options. Cornicelli says DNR researchers hope to have some answers within the next couple years.

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The Minnesota Department of Transportation is receiving national honors for planning the Mississippi River Trail bikeway. The 800-mile route follows the Mississippi from its headwaters in Itasca State Park down to the state's southern border. Minnesota was the first state to develop a comprehensive plan for bicycling along the river. MnDOT's Tim Mitchell says the MRT connects highways and off-road trails that already exist and repurposes them to provide a different opportunity for bicyclists. The 150-mile stretch from Hastings to the Iowa border was designated as U.S. Bicycle Route 45 last spring.

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The walleye harvest in Lake Mille Lacs is being cut in half due to a decline in walleye population in the lake. State and tribal officials recently agreed on the decrease. Sue Erickson with the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission says anglers and tribal fishers together will be able to harvest no more than 250-thousand pounds of walleye on Lake Mille Lacs this year. Erickson says anglers will be allocated just over 179,000 pounds and tribal anglers will be allocated just over 72-thousand pounds.

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Today marks the 17th anniversary of the killing of St. Joseph Police Officer Brian Klinefelter. On the evening of January 29th, 1996, Klinefelter was stopping a pickup involved in a liquor store robbery when he was shot several times. The truck sped off and Klinefelter was left to die at the scene. Responding officers later shot and killed the triggerman, Thomas Kantor. Suspects Brian Ederhoff and Kenneth Roering were charged with first-degree murder but accepted plea agreements. In remembrance of Klinefelter, the McDonald's restaurant in St.Joseph is donating 20 percent of today's proceeds to the Brian Klinefelter Foundation.

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Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan is offering some support for what is being called a bipartisan effort on immigration reform. The current proposal would give undocumented immigrants currently living in the U.S. a way to earn their citizenship. The plan would also make it easier for students to earn a green card, track and penalize employers who hire undocumented workers and create a guest worker program. Ryan says he believes a bill which offers immigrants the option of an "earned citizenship" has a chance in Congress. The Republican says it's just not viable to round up the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living here and changes are needed. He says the current system isn't working. The Janesville Representative says the issue is "ripe for reaching a compromise" which respect the rule of law.

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One watchdog group says the state of Wisconsin shouldn't spend so much on new roads. Even though many people living here are driving fewer miles each year, the Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group says its study finds almost 30 percent of the State Transportation Improvement Plan has been earmarked for new road capacity. WISPIRG says that spending is out of pace with the expected demand. For example, Minnesota has double Wisconsin's expected population growth, but it's only spending six percent of its funding on new roads. WISPIRG says the focus should be on upgrading the 43 percent of existing roads said to be in "less than good" condition and the 1,100 bridges found to be structurally deficient.

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Governor Dayton's proposed budget is under an important microscope this afternoon as the House Tax Committee examines his proposal to increase top-bracket income taxes and extend the sales tax to business services and high-priced clothing -- while at the same time lowering the sales tax *rate.* Committee Chair Ann Lenczewski of Bloomington won't put odds on the governor's tax proposals, but does says the Minnesota House compared to the Senate will just naturally take a little longer on reviewing the budget before putting a take on things. Lenczewski does say, though, that the House would like to pay back schools for delayed state payments faster than Senate leaders are proposing.

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The first of several hearings concerning how the recession has impacted higher education in Minnesota has taken place, and sponsor DFL State Representative Gene Pelowski of Winona says there are several more to come. He says he does not want to hear about any new spending until he fully understands how the universities have spent the money the state has given to them in the past and the impact of cuts on both systems.(MnScu and the U) Lawmakers also want to know more about the big increase in tuition, fees, and student debt over the last six years, and administrative costs at both campuses.

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The Minnesota House public safety committee will hold hearings over three days next month to consider gun-related legislation. The ten bills will be presented including proposals to improve criminal background checks before buying guns and a plan that would allow teachers and school staff with conceal and carry permits to arm themselves in classrooms. The hearings are set to begin on February 5th.

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The debate on a "health insurance exchange" took place in the Minnesota House today, where a key committee talks about how to give Minnesotans more options for purchasing health coverage. Lawmakers have put themselves on tight timeline. House bill sponsor, Inver Grove Heights Democrat Joe Atkins says, if they don't get it done by the end of March, a federal health insurance exchange will be imposed on Minnesota with "higher cost and a worse product." Health insurance exchanges are part of President Obama's Affordable Care Act.

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Governor Dayton's proposed budget went under an important microscope today as the House Tax Committee examined his proposal to increase top-bracket income taxes and extend the sales tax to business services and high-priced clothing -- while at the same time lowering the sales tax *rate.* Committee Chair Ann Lenczewski of Bloomington won't put odds on the governor's tax proposals, but does says the Minnesota House will "take a little longer and think a little harder" than the Senate. But Lenczewski adds that she believes Governor Dayton is doing his best to do what he thinks is right for most Minnesotans. Republicans warn Dayton's tax increase plan will hurt small businesses and job creation in Minnesota.

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Local treatment facilities are seeing more patients seeking help for heroin addictions. More than 21-percent of people admitted to Twin Cities area facilities during the first six months of 2012 sought treatment for heroin and addictions to other opiates. Alcohol addictions were the most common reason for admissions during that time. Only about five-percent of patients sought treatment for heroin addiction in 2000.

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There were difficult driving conditions for the morning commute because of an ice storm. There is freezing rain at play this morning in most areas, leaving roads wet and icy, and freezing fog in areas as well. Black ice is a problem in spots, and snowfall in others. Airports in Minneapolis-St. Paul and in Rochester have experienced some flight delays in the past 12 hours because of the thick fog blanketing much of the state.

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Demand for the flu vaccine remains high in Minnesota and some health care providers have run out and are looking for more. As a result, the state Department of Health has set up an on-line influenza vaccine exchange. The Health Department's Kris Ehresmann says it's an electronic forum so that providers with vaccine can make that available, and providers who need vaccine can access it and be in contact with those who have it. For more information, go to the state Health Department's website.

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A Hopkins woman is facing charges after police say she left two toddlers in her car while she drank at a bar. Officers were called to the bar after an employee noticed the 2-and-3-year-old children in the back seat of the car, which had a broken window, and they weren't wearing hats or gloves or even coats. It was about 25 degrees Sunday night. When shown the driver license photo that matched the vehicle registration, investigators say witnesses confirmed 55-year-old Sarah Philbrick was in the bar, had two drinks, and was then helped into a cab. Police say she was the children's aunt, and was supposed to be caring for the children while their parents were at work. She is charged with two counts of child endangerment.

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The Stearns County prosecutor has ruled that a sheriff's deputy used reasonable force when he shot and wounded a murder suspect last fall. The Stearns County Attorney's office says Deputy Chad Meemken's use of force was justified when he shot and injured Marcus Barshaw after Barshaw pointed a gun at him, because he was protecting himself, other officers, and preventing a suspected killer from escaping. Barshaw is charged with first degree murder in the shooting death of Jeffrey Schutz of Rockville last October, and is awaiting trial.

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A Golden Valley church is serving as a massive meal-packing facility through this Sunday for up to 3,500 volunteers. Dawn Dresser with Calvary Lutheran Church says they're in the process of packing 750-thousand meals to go to Haiti. She says "Feed My Starving Children" meals are highly nutritious and formulated especially for kids who are malnourished or starving. Dresser says the rice meals cost 22 cents each and they hope to raise $165,000 dollars to pay for ingredients. People who would like to pack meals or make a financial contribution can go to calvary.org/haiti for information

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