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Minnesota News Briefs: Legislature begins new session at noon

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News Ellsworth, 54011
Pierce County Herald
715-273-4335 customer support
Ellsworth Wisconsin 126 S. Chestnut St. 54011

ST. PAUL -- State lawmakers are back at the Minnesota Capitol to open the 2013 legislative session at noon today.

A big question is, with another state budget deficit and Democrats now controlling both the House and the Senate, will there be tax increases? Incoming Senate DFL Majority Leader Tom Bakk of Cook says there will be some "very difficult decisions" to reduce spending, and "there is gonna be some new revenue in this budget." As for *which* taxes, Bakk says he's not sure yet. He pledges no gimmicks and no borrowing to balance the state budget. Some analysts say Governor Dayton could propose wide-ranging tax reforms but politically it might be a stretch to get them through the legislature.

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The 2013 Minnesota Legislature can expect a push to legalize same-sex marriage after the controversial constitutional amendment was defeated last fall. But analysts say a law recognizing gay marriage in Minnesota is a long shot because of reluctance by not only Republicans but also rural Democrats. Roseville DFL Senator John Marty disagrees. Marty says he thinks some Republicans may vote for same-sex marriage because they can read the writing on the wall. And Marty predicts Democrats who who are worried about the politics of the issue will in the end do what they think is right. Marriage amendment backers, after suffering defeat at the polls in November, will now vigorously oppose any bill that would legalize same-sex marriage in Minnesota.

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U.S. House Eighth District Congressman Rick Nolan (DFL-Duluth) has been appointed to serve on the House Agriculture Committee. Nolan says he is ready to get to work on a new farm bill after House Republicans failed to bring the last bill up for a vote in December. He says they'll have to go back to the drawing board and start all over again, and there's a lot of work to be done. Nolan will also serve on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

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Fire officials were called to Waconia High School southwest of the Twin Cities Monday morning after a report of smoky fire set in a men's bathroom. Carver County Sheriff's officials say someone set fire to three rolls of toilet paper in the bathroom. The school was evacuated, no one was injured. The fire is under investigation.

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A Ham Lake woman is a million dollars richer. Cathy Murphy bought a Minnesota Millionaire Raffle ticket at a Holiday gas station in Garrison around Thanksgiving Murphy and her husband say one of the first things they will do with their winnings is add on a three-season porch to their home. Lottery officials say they are still waiting for the second million dollar winner to come forward.

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More than 40 percent of Minnesota homes have dangerous levels of radon gas and health officials say every home should be tested. Andrew Gilbert with the Minnesota Department of Health says testing is easy and inexpensive and most test kits are under 20-dollars. Gilbert says the kit should be put in the house for three to five days and is then sent to a laboratory to determine radon levels. Radon is odorless, colorless and tasteless, so the only way for homeowners to know if their home has radon is to test for it.

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Jury selection is scheduled to begin Wednesday in the trial of a Hutchinson man accused of killing a Little Falls man in October of 2011. 37-year-old Jason Dominguez is charged with first and second degree murder in the death of 30-year-old Dustin Brown of Little Falls. According to the criminal complaint, Brown was shot seven times after the two got into an argument over drugs and money. Browns' family members told police Dominguez was pressuring Brown to do something drug related and he didn't want to be a part of it. The complaint goes on to show the day of the killing Dominguez' girlfriend brought him back to the area where Brown lived and picked him up after the shooting. The girlfriend told police Dominguez admitted to her shooting Brown seven times and led investigators to where Dominguez buried the gun. Investigators did recover the same model gun used in the shooting. Dominguez is facing life in prison if convicted.

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St. Paul Police are investigating the death of a woman whose body was found inside a White Bear Lake garage Monday. Officials say a 34-year-old man from St. Paul was arrested Monday night in connection with the woman's death. Police are not releasing any details on how the woman was killed or if the suspect and victim had a relationship. More information is expected to be released today, including the victim's name.

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Good news for college graduates looking for work. This according to a new job outlook survey from St. Cloud State University. About half of Minnesota's employers plan to add staff this year, while only about three-percent say they'll cut staff. Eighty-five percent say they'll keep salaries the same. Industries with the most robust anticipated demand are: financial services, retail, and manufacturing. A couple other notes: survey respondents say the three most important skills for students to possess are honesty, communication, and a strong work ethic. The three skills students need to work on the most are more realistic job expectations, lose their sense of entitlement, and work on their communication skills. The 9th annual Minnesota College Job Outlook survey is conducted by the SCSU Career Services Center.

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Voters in the St.Cloud area will head back to the polls this winter to fill the seat of state Representative Steve Gottwalt. The four-term Republican plans to step down this month to take a lobbying job. Gary Poser of the Secretary of State's Office says Governor Dayton will have five days to set a special election once he receives Gottwalt's resignation letter. Poser says the special election would then have to occur within 35 days. The governor will also set the candidate filing period and date for a primary election if needed.

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State wildlife officials say the first-ever wolf hunt in Minnesota went well. Hunters and trappers took 411 wolves in the hunting season which is just over the target of 400 animals. Dan Stark of the DNR says the rate at which wolves were taken per day increased throughout the season. The group Howling for Wolves believes the number of wolves killed could be higher than the DNR reports because of poaching. Spokeswoman Maureen Hackett says they plan to work with lawmakers to stop recreational hunting of wolves in Minnesota.

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Prices at the gas pump continue to fall in Minnesota as the winter wears on. The statewide average for a gallon of regular unleaded is two-dollars-and-95 cents, according to minnesotagasprices.com. That's about a dime less than we were paying one week ago. The lowest priced gas is $2.80 in the north metro while the highest is $3.19 in St.Louis County. The national average is a bit higher at $3.26 a gallon.

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The mayor of Minneapolis and Minnesota's U.S. senators have to make good with their counterparts in Wisconsin after losing bets on the Vikings-Packers playoff game. Mayor R.T. Rybak is sending house-made sausages from the Butcher and Boar restaurant to Green Bay Mayor Jim Schmitt. U.S. Senators Al Franken (DFL-Minneapolis) and Amy Klobuchar (DFL-Plymouth) will be giving a case of Minnesota-made beer to Wisconsin Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-Madison) and Ron Johnson (R-Oshkosh). The Packers ended the Vikings season with a 24-10 wild card win Saturday night at Lambeau Field.

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Local officials gathered in St. Paul this weekend to address why a disproportionately large number of mentally ill people wind up in jail. Law enforcement and mental health representatives met with lawmakers for a round-table discussion about possible solutions. Sue Abderholden with the Minnesota office of the National Alliance on Mental Illness says much can be done, including utilizing mental health crisis teams so we don't need to call on the police. Abderholden acknowledges, however, that specialized police training could also go a long way toward helping prevent mentally ill people from hurting themselves or others and ending up in jail.

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St. Cloud police are not releasing the name of a man who died after crashing an SUV into St.Katherine/Drexel School Friday afternoon. Officers and the Ramsey County Medical Examiner have been unable to contact his next of kin. Investigators believe the victim had a medical episode prior to leaving the road and striking the northwest corner of the school. Four adults in the classroom escaped without injury. The driver was found unconscious behind the wheel and later died at St. Cloud Hospital.

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Clay County authorities are investigating after a man died of hypothermia early Saturday running from the scene of a rollover crash. A deputy was trying to stop the car when it rolled near Felton. One of the occupants was arrested but two others fled on foot and officers spent several hours searching for the suspects. A set of foot tracks led them to the dead man. It appears the other was picked by a vehicle. The victim's name has not been released.

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Criminal charges are expected to be filed against a male juvenile from Sleepy Eye accused of making threats towards several area school districts on Facebook. The threats were reportedly made on Friday, and the suspect was taken into custody around noon on Saturday. He is being held in the Prairie Lakes Detention Center in Willmar. Parents of many of the affected school districts, including Sleepy Eye and New Ulm, were notified of the threats and schools are opening as usual today, although extra security precautions will be in place.

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St. Cloud Police are investigating an early morning hit and run. A 27-year-old Waite Park man was found lying on the ground after being struck by a 1994 maroon Ford Tauraus in front of the Red Carpet bar in downtown St. Cloud. The car was left abandoned in the middle of the street, the driver hasn't been identified yet. Authorities say the victim was taken to St. Cloud Hospital with non life-threatening injuries. Anyone with information is asked to call police.

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