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Minnesota News Briefs: State Senate approves day care unionization bill

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ST. PAUL - After nearly 17 hours of debate and a very close vote, the Minnesota state Senate approved a bill that allows some day care providers and home health care aids to unionize.

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Republican Senator Julie Rosen of Fairmont says she's concerned about the impact the bill would have on the state's children. Rosen is also concerned that day-care providers will opt to get out of taking children of families that receive state aid rather than dealing with the costs and paperwork being a union member entails. Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk of Cook is a retired union member, and says such membership benefits workers. He says his union card put food on the table and put his kids through college..."because without it, you're alone." The bill passed on a close vote, 35-32.

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An amendment to a Minnesota House of Representatives bill that deals with lawmaker salaries has been approved. As written, it would establish a council to decide on any legislative salary changes. Republican Representative Jennifer Loon's proposal would remove the requirement to change the state constitution. She proposed replacing it with a requirement for a three-fifths majority vote for raising legislative salaries. Loon says she also wants to eliminate the council requirement. She says it's possible that both leaders charged with appointing the council could be members of the same political party and that would create an unfair balance of power. The amended bill will now be considered by the full House.

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State GOP legislative leaders are wondering when the DFL majority will bring their state budget bills up for a vote. With just five days left in the session, House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt said they're waiting with anticipation for the state's budget. He asked if leaders can give an idea when those bills will come back tot he House floor? Majority Leader Erin Murphy said they could see jobs and public safety later today, depending on the work of the revisor. So far none of the tax and spending bills required to keep state government operating for the next two years have been approved. House Speaker Paul Thissen has said many of the budget bills could be ready for floor votes by tomorrow.

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>Crews Making Some Progress on "Green Valley Fire" Near Menagha

Fire departments from as far away as Moorhead are battling a large wildfire about two miles north of Menahga in northern Minnesota. The "Green Valley Fire" has burned at least 12-hundred acres since yesterday. Fanned by high winds, the blaze spread quickly in the dry brush and timber. Some structures have been lost but there's no confirmation on the number and type of buildings lost. There have been some scattered evacuations. EMS on-site Commander Dave Cuppy says crews have made some progress, but the fire is far from contained. Governor Dayton has signed an emergency order to help fight wildfires across the state. It allows for military help in fighting the fires. The Governor's office says at least 25 wildfires had broken out by last night.

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Local and state investigators are hoping to soon wrap up their investigation into the destruction of a pioneer cemetery in western Minnesota's Grant County. The investigation started late last fall after descendants of those buried there reported the site had been cleared. Sheriff Dwight Walvatneand State Archeologist Scott Anfinson were able to use a GPS and locate the cemetery's four corners. They didn't find any evidence that the bulldozing hit the graves themselves. Scott Boerner's great-great grandparents and other relatives are buried there. He says his family wants to re-establish the cemetery and reset the grave stones once the case is settled. The farmer whose field included the cemetery has admitted clearing the site. It will be up to the county attorney to decide charges. Under state law, damaging a cemetery can be a felony.

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