Minnesota News Briefs: Minnesota House votes to approve voter ID
ST. PAUL - In recent hours, the state House passed a voter ID bill that would go before Minnesota voters this fall. The measure went through after long hours of debate and along strict party lines 72-62.
Rochester Democrat Kim Norton argued, instead of a photo ID requirement with all its drawbacks, use an "electronic poll book" with voters' photos right on the register that they sign before receiving their ballot. Norton says it would cost less than half as much as providing free photo ID to those who can't afford it -- and would protect veterans' voting rights and absentee voting. Big Lake Republican Mary Kiffmeyer there are "some good ideas" in Norton's plan that lawmakers could use next year -- but first a photo ID constitutional amendment must be on the ballot in November. The state Senate takes up the proposal next.
A hearty round of cheers and an official resolution last night as the Minnesota House honored the University of Minnesota NCAA champion women's hockey team. Teammembers watched from the gallery as lawmakers sent their congratulations. Goalie Elisa Grogan from Eagan says they faced a lot of adversity this season and the team came together. She says it's "really exciting" to bring something so meaningful as a championship back to Minnesota where Gopher hockey is "such a prideful thing."
Decreasing and then phasing out the statewide business property tax is the centerpiece of a Republican-backed bill up for debate and a vote tonight(5 p m. start) in the Minnesota House. Dilworth Democrat Paul Marquart objects there's no guarantee it will create one single job, but Preston Republican Greg Davids says "when businesses have more money to spend, they will help create jobs." Another controversial measure in the bill would reduce the renter's property tax credit.
Preliminary numbers show a significant drop in DWI arrests on St. Patrick's Day last Saturday. The State Patrol's Eric Roeske says there were 246 arrests -- a far cry from over 500 arrests in 2007 when St. Patrick's also fell on a Saturday. Roeske says this year's number will likely rise as more arrest reports come in but he says the overall drop is still encouraging.
Spring has more than arrived but it's not too late to apply for winter heating assistance. So far, 165,000 Minnesota households have applied for LIHEAP funds. Commissioner of the state Department of Commerce Mike Rothman says, so far this heating season, the state has received 116-million dollars in federal funds -- down from 142-million last season. Minnesota's Cold Weather Rule expires April 15th and Rothman expects an uptick in applications between now and then. He says the heating assistance program runs through May.
The fight against invasive species could go to court as some residents near the Twin Cities have filed a lawsuit against the commissioner of the DNR. The lawsuit from three lake associations in Carver County alleges that DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr has not done enough to prevent zebra mussels from eventually getting into three area lakes. The suit also alleges that the commissioner's permission to launch uninspected watercraft in three lakes will likely cause pollution and lead to their destruction. The suit claims Landwehr has not allowed proven solutions to be used in the fight against invasive species -- and cites DNR data that the number of lakes infested with zebra mussels continues to grow in Minnesota. There's been no response on the lawsuit yet from the DNR.
With recent warm weather and continued statewide highs expected in the 50's, 60's and 70's, Minnesota farmers are itching to get into their fields early. Crookston area agronomist Jochum Wiersma says this is extremely early and one of the problems is there is not much data on extreme warmth during March. He says it's unclear if there would be a much greater advantage planting this early compared to say, going the first week of April. Wiersma say says late planting last year caused a drop in crop yields so there is a definite advantage to planting early.
Bullying is a serious problem in Minnesota -- especially in schools. This week, Governor Dayton formed a task force to explore the problem and find ways to deal with it. The group has held its first meeting and plans to travel the state and talk to victims of bullying directly and their families. Brenda Cassellius heads Minnesota's Education Department and serves on the task force on bullying. She notes that the group is working against an August first deadline to hand over its recommendations to the governor and legislature. Bullying is linked to serious injury, even death, especially among young people.
Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-Stillwater) is back in Minnesota's 6th district after a trip to Israel. She says, while she was there, Israel was in the middle of a days-long firefight by Hammas-aligned militants. But thanks to to interceptor missiles, no civilian lives were lost. Bachmann met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu while on her trip. Bachmann is running for re-election in Minnesota's 6th District this fall -- even though her current residence is now in the newly aligned 4th District No opponent has lined up to run against Bachmann yet.
Runners are signing up in big numbers for Grandma's Marathon in Duluth this June. The Marathon is really three races and the biggest which holds 10-thousand has already attracted six-thousand registrants. Marathon spokesman Bob Gustafson says one of the two shorter races is already full. The big race is set for June 16th along the North Shore.
Authorities in St. Paul have identified the victim of a homicide earlier this week. Police say 38-year old Andrew Braun of St. Paul was found unresponsive on the front porch of a home on Monday. It is believed Braun's murder was not random but an official cause of death has not been released.
Former governor and GOP presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty has whittled down his campaign debt. The remaining $17,500 in red ink is detailed in a monthly federal campaign report filed Tuesday It is down considerably from the nearly half-million dollars Pawlenty owed last fall. Minnesota's former governor dropped out of the White House race in August after a poor showing at the Iowa GOP's straw poll. Pawlenty now backs former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney in the race.
Today is national "Kick Butts Day." The program is aimed at getting young smokers to kick their habit or avoid starting. The United Health Foundation says there are 443-thousand tobacco-related deaths each year in the U.S. Organizers say college campuses play a big part in raising awareness through peer education, dorm decorating contests and promoting tobacco-free policies. There's more information at Kick-Butts-Day.org.
Here are the winning numbers from the Minnesota State Lottery for Tuesday, March 20th, 2012. The Daily Three: 5-0-1. Northstar Cash: 2-5-6-20