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MINNESOTA NEWS ROUNDUP: House Dems roll out second tax-cut plan

ST. PAUL -- House Democrats have rolled out a second tax-cut plan (Wed) after the Minnesota Legislature passed its first round of cuts last week. Bloomington Representative Ann Lenczewski says most reductions in her bill are *property* tax cuts for farmers, homeowners and renters. Lenczewski says they're also proposing tax cuts for businesses and for military and National Guard members. The bill would reduce taxes about 102 million dollars. But Republicans say all the rest of the budget surplus -- about seven times that amount -- should be returned to taxpayers. 


Officials say efforts to enroll Somali immigrants for health coverage via Medicaid in Minnesota have been largely successful. Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson says with the help of the Somali Health Solutions group, enrollment expectations are being exceeded. She says they had a goal of enrolling 500 before the end of march and have already enrolled over a thousand and many of them in public programs. Jesson says the outreach efforts have included events at mosques and community centers throughout the state. She says the high numbers are especially encouraging, because a recent Minnesota Health Access Survey shows that people of color are more likely than whites to be uninsured. 


Most Minnesotans are not financially ready to retire, according to a recent survey by AARP Minnesota. Seventy-six percent say they feel they haven't saved enough. Also, more than 1.2 million Minnesotans - or about 40 percent of the work force - don't have access to a retirement-savings plan at work. State AARP Director Will Phillips says they're pushing the state legislature to create a state-run savings plan. Nationally, the typical working-age household has only $3,000 in retirement savings while near-retirement households only have $12,000.


 Five more jurors have been selected in a Willmar teen's murder trial, bringing the total to 10 seated so far. 19-year-old Brok Junkermeier is charged with killing 79-year-old Lila Warwick in her east Willmar home last July. Officials hope to select four more jurors. If a jury is empaneled today(thurs) opening statements could be delivered tomorrow(fri) and witness testimony would begin Monday. The trial is slated to go through April 11th.


 The Fairmont Police Department says they have received reports of more than 200 different credit and debit card fraudulent purchases since early last week. Police officials say all of the credit and debit cards have been linked to a Mexican restaurant in Fairmont, El Agave, where officials say they believe a point of sale hack took place. Police say the restaurant was unaware of the hack prior to being contacted by law enforcement and the management is cooperating fully with authorities. Police say there is no evidence to show that any employee at El Agave took any part of the point-of-sale hack. The public is advised to look over their card and bank accounts for unauthorized charges. The investigation is expected to take several weeks.


 Pearson Candy Company is expanding in St. Paul, adding at least 40 new jobs and producing Bit-O-Honey candy in the Twin Cities for the first time. The company acquired the brand last year, and the candies were produced at the Pearson factory for the first time yesterday. Pearson was awarded a 200-thousand dollar forgivable loan from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development that won't have to be paid back if 40 jobs paying at least 13-dollars an hour are created by April 2016.


State officials release February unemployment numbers later this morning (10am) Minnesota's unemployment rate held steady at 4.7 percent in January. State job analyst Steve Hine says the biggest job losses occurred in trade, transportation and utilities--down 32-hundred. He said within that group most of the cuts were in retail. Minnesota's January unemployment was well below the national jobless rate of 6.7 percent.


State officials are making an extra push to get people enrolled in health care as a March 31st deadline looms. Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson says there's an emphasis to get young people signed up. Jesson says she talked to a young man who didn't have insurance, had to go to the hospital and ran up a 25-thousand-dollar bill that he's still paying off. MNsure, the state's health insurance exchange, reports it's helped over 145-thousand Minnesotans access affordable health coverage. Those who aren't signed up for health insurance by March 31st could face tax penalties under the federal Affordable Care Act.


Folks who operate golf courses in the state are hoping temperatures warm and all the snow melts soon. Minnesota Golf Association Executive Director Tom Ryan says an April 1st opening date is unrealistic this year but he's hearing something relatively close to April 15th. Ryan says they could use some cooperation from Mother Nature this spring after having snow on the ground until mid-May last year. Some superintendents report snow cover this winter has been good for their turf.


 D-F-L leaders of the state Senate sounded out their caucus last night (Wed) on the latest offer from the House to try to break the stalemate over increasing Minnesota's minimum wage. It proposes indexing the wage to inflation a different way than previously suggested, but top Senate lawmakers are reserving comment. Lead House negotiator, Representative Ryan Winkler, says indexing to inflation is a crucial component and it would be hard for the House to finish the session without having it in a minimum wage bill. But Winkler will not say whether they'd be willing to drop indexing, if the only other alternative is *no* minimum wage increase.


Hundreds of activists against domestic violence rallied and lobbied lawmakers at the State Capitol Wednesday. Liz Richards with the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women says anyone can find out what day an offender is released from prison, but victims should also know *where* the perpetrator will be living. Richards' group also wants the police to be given 72 hours to arrest a perpetrator after arriving at the scene of domestic abuse. The current limit is 24 hours under state law.


 The Benton County Sheriff has released the identity of the body found in east St. Cloud Tuesday afternoon. The Midwest Medical Examiners office says it's the body of 31-year-old Jamie Wylie of Foley. Wylie was reported missing in December. The cause and manner of death is still pending. Wylie's body was found Tuesday along Benton County Road 75. The investigation into his death continues.


Target chief financial officer John Mulligan says the retail giant is making steps to protect its computer system after last year's massive data breach. Mulligan testified Wednesday before a U.S. Senate committee looking into the breach. Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut cited a report showing Target of missed multiple warnings that could have prevented the issue. Mulligan said Target has separated key parts of its computer network, increased investments in malware protection and added another layer of authentication for those accessing the computers