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MINNESOTA NEWS ROUNDUP: Congressional Dems loved the State of the Union, Reps not so much

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Ellsworth Wisconsin 126 S. Chestnut St. 54011

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A Minnesota Democrat was pleased with President Barack Obama's sixth State of the Union Address, delivered last (Tue) night. U-S Senator Al Franken feels that highlighting job training in the hour-long speech was important, saying that with so many people still unemployed the government has to help train Minnesota workers and those nationwide to fill open, high-skilled positions. Nationwide, Franken says there are more than three million jobs that manufacturers, I-T businesses, and health care companies want to fill but can't because people don't have the skills. Franken has proposed legislation that would help fund partnerships between businesses and community colleges in order to develop workforce training programs.

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A Minnesota Republican Congresswoman is responding to President Barack Obama's State of the Union Address from the other side of the political aisle. Michele Bachmann called the State of the Union a lofty speech, filled with political promises that have little reality of ever coming true. Bachmann responded to the President's announcement that he would issue more executive orders to get around what he says is Congressional gridlock by saying Obama continues to disregard the Constitution, and that reduces faith in his office.

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On the heels of the President's State of the Union address, Minnesota Democrat Congressman Rick Nolan says it's clear to him that the President is determined to get things done for the American people and make 2014 a year of action and accomplishment. Nolan supports President Barack Obama's challenge to Congress to put aside partisan politics and be a partner - not a barrier - in rebuilding the middle class, creating new jobs, and stimulating the economy by raising the minimum wage. He also stands behind the emphasis on job training, education, college affordability, high-tech manufacturing, rural development, and retirement security. 

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Minnesota's Congressional delegation continues to respond to last (Tue) night's State of the Union Address. Republican Congressman John Kline says the President discussed a number of critical challenges that need to be addressed, including strengthening job training assistance, supporting small businesses, fixing a broken education system, and putting more Americans back to work. However, when it comes to the President Obama's announcement that he'll use executive order privileges to advance legislation stalled in Congress, Kline says any executive order or unilateral action will not help working families if it simply perpetuates the same flawed agenda and failed status quo. The President has called for a year of action - but Kline says it must be a year of bipartisan action because no one party has all the answers. 

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Punch Pizza restaurants in Minneapolis could get a little busier from those who were paying close attention to President Obama's State of the Union speech. Co-owner and CEO John Soranno was a guest of First Lady Michelle Obama last night after increasing wages to a minimum of ten-dollars an hour in November for entry level workers. The President mentioned Soranno initiative as part of his overall plan to increase the federal minimum wage. On Twitter, former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak called on people in the Twin Cities to buy a pizza at Punch to thank them for paying their employees what they are worth.

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The credit and debit card security breach last year at Target has resulted in banks replacing 15-point-three-million cards so far. The number was released by the Consumer Bankers Association yesterday, noting it cost banks over 153-million to make those replacements. The group wants Target to pay some of the costs associated with protecting customers after the massive data theft.

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Governor Dayton and Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken are urging President Obama to take steps to ease the propane shortage in Minnesota and elsewhere -- including lessening restrictions on its transport and restricting propane shipments to other countries. The governor says he's been told there's no place in Minnesota that suppliers and distributors know of that's out of propane -- but Dayton says supplies are low and the weather forecast for both February and March is for colder-than-normal weather. Dayton says it's "touch and go" and they're doing everything they can to make sure no one in Minnesota runs out of propane.

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 The Salvation Army is adding 100-thousand dollars to its HeatShare program to help low-income Minnesotans who use propane to heat their homes. Spokeswoman Annette Bauer says they're dipping into reserve funds due to the propane shortage. Bauer says they have a total of one-point-five-million dollars for the program which will assist about 42-hundred households. Additional funding is going to Salvation Army centers in Brainerd, Duluth, Cloquet, Fergus Falls, Grand Rapids, Hibbing, International Falls, Virginia, Willmar - and Fargo and Grand Forks, North Dakota.

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Protesters will be outside Governor Dayton's office this morning (9am) with hundreds of postcards on empty paper plates, demanding the state increase welfare grants. Linden Gawboy with the Welfare Rights Committee says grants have not been increased since 1986 and they're currently 437 dollars a month for a family of two -- not enough to rent a closet in a Twin Cities apartment. Gawboy says the money is there and "the governor can put his muscle behind it and do the right thing for the poor kids in this state." The governor responds he's not making any commitments for anything until he sees the next budget forecast at the end of February. Dayton says his priority is tax reduction for middle-income Minnesota families, plus eliminating business-to-business taxes enacted during the last legislative session.

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Governor Mark Dayton will not be in New York City this weekend to promote the state's bid to bring the Super Bowl to Minnesota in 2018 after all. Given the shortage of propane and heating fuel statewide, Dayton has opted instead to convene an emergency meeting of the state's Executive Council Friday afternoon. Dayton has declared a state of emergency due to the severe propane shortage, but a governor's emergency order can last no longer than five days. The Executive Council could extend it for up to 30 days. Prices nearly doubled in the past week, to near five-dollars per gallon, compared to $1.59 a year ago. Dayton says business and community leaders will still make the trip to pitch Minneapolis as a 2018 Super Bowl site to NFL officials.

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