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MINNESOTA NEWS ROUNDUP: Medical marijuana bill clears third State Senate commitee

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ST. PAUL -- A medical marijuana bill continues moving forward at the Minnesota Legislature after clearing its third committee late Wednesday following a five-plus-hour hearing  Burnsville Republican Dan Hall proposed that *smoking* of medical marijuana *not* be allowed, but the committee disagreed.  Columbia Heights Democrat Barb Goodwin said pills or oil won't work for cancer patients who become very ill from chemotherapy and can't eat because of nausea.  To garner at least some Republican support, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed the bill without recommendation and it now moves to the Finance Committee.

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An unidentified 17-year-old has been arrested in connection with the homemade bombs found on a Waseca school playground in March.  Waseca Police and the Bloomington Bomb Squad searched a home and storage facility in Waseca and then arrested the teen.  KSTP-TV is quoting a law enforcement source close to the investigation as saying the teen was plotting to kill his family, create a diversion to get first responders out of the area of the school, and then kill as many as possible at the school before killing himself when confronted by police.  The source also says more than five handguns and assault rifles were found in the teen's bedroom, along with explosive devices and ammunition.  More improvised bombs and chemicals were apparently found in the storage locker.  More information is expected to be made public at a joint press conference with the Waseca Police Department and Waseca Public Schools this (Thu) afternoon (3 p.m.) 

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Governor Dayton is drawing fire from Republicans after, in last night's (Wed) State of the State speech, he called for fewer standardized tests in Minnesota schools.  Dayton said the state needs more efficient and effective school testing because current tests are excessive and counterproductive, and many children come to school terrified on high-stakes test days.  Lakeville Senator Dave Thompson, one of Dayton's Republican challengers for governor, says Minnesota must compete in a global economy -- and yet Dayton and Democrats supported getting rid of basic skill tests for teachers and eliminating the graduation standard exam for students.

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A hearing today (Thu) in a U.S. Senate committee will focus of the causes of this winter's propane shortages, in an effort to ensure the problem doesn't come up again next winter or any winter in the future.  Minnesota Senator Al Franken says beefing up storage of the heating fuel is one possible step.  Franken says the shortage drove up prices and hurt tens of thousands of Minnesota families, farmers, and businesses who rely on the fuel to heat their homes and power their operations.  The hearing will focus on improving the storage, infrastructure, and supply of the domestic propane industry.

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April 2014 will go down in the weather record books as a wet, rainy month in Minnesota.  Assistant State Climatologist Pete Boulay says that was the case in several locations.  He says it ranged from the second wettest April on record for places like the Twin Cities and La Crosse, third wettest at St.Cloud and a little bit above normal as you go farther north like Duluth despite all the snow they've seen...they're only about a half inch above normal for precip.  Boulay says west-central Minnesota was also very wet in April while some areas in the southwestern part of the state were an inch below normal.  

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This month marks the one-year anniversary of Zach Sobiech's death.  Zach died last May 20th at the age of 18 after losing his battle to Osteosarcoma.  Zach also wrote the hit song "Clouds."  On Sunday, Zach's mother Laura will be signing copies of her new book "Fly a Little Higher" at the Mall of America.  Sobiech says it's more than a book signing but a time to celebrate Zach's life a year later.  In addition to the book signing there will be a performance of "Clouds" by Zach's former band mate Sammy Brown along with other special guests.  "Fly a Little Higher" hits bookshelves statewide Tuesday.  

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It's been a cold and damp week in Minnesota, with some snow flurries mixed in with rainfall, but that's nothing compared to what Minnesotans experienced a year ago today.  With more than a foot of snow in some spots beginning on May 1, 2013 daily and monthly snowfall records were set in areas across the state, and the date is recorded as Minnesota's heaviest 24-hour May snowfall totals ever.  Craig Schmidt of the National Weather Service in Chanhassen says, in theory, it could happen this May if the pattern is cool enough but right now it's not looking like that.  Schmidt says the long range forecast shows Minnesota experiencing below normal temperatures for the next several weeks.

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Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton wants the state to increase spending on education and roads.  In his State of the State address last night, the DFL governor also defended the state's health insurance exchange system.  MNsure has been exceeding early enrollment goals after the launch was problematic  Republican leaders blasted the address as Dayton's reelection campaign kickoff speech.

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The Minnesota House has passed legislation that would keep all guns out of the hands of convicted stalkers and domestic abusers.  Current law bans them from having handguns but doesn't address rifles, shotguns or other firearms.  Research shows that the presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation makes it five times more likely that a woman will be killed.  Marree Seitz of Duluth says her daughter Carolyn was murdered by her husband several days after she filed for divorce. Because he stalked her prior to the murder, she believes the legislation may have prevented her daughter's death had it been in place at the time and she's urging the Minnesota Senate to also pass the bill.  Rebecca Lowen of the Minnesota chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America says keeping guns away from domestic abusers isn't a partisan issue-- it's a safety issue.

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The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers closed three Mississippi River locks in the Twin Cities to commercial navigation because of high flows caused by the recent heavy rainfall. The locks had already been closed to recreational boaters for several days.  The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has also placed slow no-wake speed limits on the St. Croix River because of high water levels.  The intention is to reduce shore erosion in the area between Taylors Falls, Minnesota and Prescott, Wisconsin.  The lowered speed limits will stay if effect until the St. Croix falls below 683 feet at Stillwater.

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 St. Paul Public School leaders are apologizing after an 11-year-old boy was left sleeping on a bus, and they say the driver has been let go.  Officials say the boy fell asleep on the way home, and the driver didn't notice the sleeping child when the bus was parked for the night.  Drivers are required to check the bus thoroughly at the end of each route.  The boy woke up about 15 minutes after the bus was parked and walked to a nearby business and called his mom.

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