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MINNESOTA NEWS ROUNDUP: Minnesota House passes $500M tax cut bill

ST. PAUL -- The Minnesota House last night (Thurs) passed a 500-million-dollar tax cut bill that would eliminate the "marriage penalty" on state income taxes and repeal three "business to business" sales taxes. But Republicans say the cuts aren't enough. House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt told Democrats the state has a one-point-two-billion-dollar budget surplus, money they've overtaxed from Minnesotans. Daudt says it's taxpayers' money and wants to know why the House didn't pass a one-point-two-billion-dollar tax relief package. Speaker Paul Thissen responds House Democrats are already working on a second tax bill which will include additional property tax relief. But leaders of the DFL-controlled Minnesota Senate are hesitant about cutting taxes.

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It could be a tough commute for drivers in many parts of Minnesota Freezing rain overnight has left about a half-inch of ice on roads and streets in northwestern Minnesota. Although the rainfall has ended, forecasters with the National Weather Service in Chanhassen say cold air moving in behind it will freeze wet roads and leave them slick. Light snow and possibly freezing drizzle will impact drivers in Duluth and the surrounding area, and a winter weather advisory is in place until 9 a.m. Up to three inches of accumulation is expected. North central Minnesota is also under an advisory this (Fri) morning. In southern Minnesota drivers should watch for blowing and drifting snow to cause slick spots.

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Western Minnesota remains under an air pollution health alert through noon today (Fri). The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency says air quality monitors in Marshall, Fargo and Sioux Falls show fine-particle pollution has increased. The MPCA says a strong temperature inversion, snow melt and morning fog are trapping pollution near the surface, causing unhealthy levels for sensitive groups. An air pollution advisory was issued for the southern half of Minnesota, including the Twin Cities and Rochester.

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 Four special needs students are safe after their school bus caught fire in Maple Grove. Police credit bus driver Alfred Lewis for reacting quickly after the fire broke out. Two of the kids are wheelchair bound, and Lewis even had time after moving them to safety to try to put out the flames before the bus was fully engulfed.

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The families of two children killed and another who was injured in a landslide at Lilydale Regional Park in St. Paul will share a million-dollar settlement. The St. Paul City Council will vote next Wednesday on the largest settlement ever for the city. The families of nine-year-old Haysem Sani and ten-year-old Mohamed Fofana will each receive 400-thousand dollars following their deaths and the family of ten-year-old Devin Meldahl will receive 200-grand. The fourth graders were on a field trip when the landslide happened.

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A bill sponsored by Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken aims to make it easier to transport propane to communities impacted by the shortage. The bi-partisan legislation would extend the hours-of-service exemption until May 31st, allowing truckers to work longer hours to help transport propane where it's needed most. Backers say the bill would deliver much-needed certainty to hundreds of thousands of households throughout the region that rely on propane as their main source of heat during the winter. It's a companion bill to legislation introduced by Minnesota's U-S House delegation. The Senate version is also sponsored by John Hoeven of North Dakota and Wisconsin's Tammy Baldwin.

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 It's Consumer Protection Awareness Week and officials are reminding Minnesotans to beware of scammers--especially heading into tax season. State Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman says fraudsters will steal someone's personal information and submit phoney tax returns to get the refund. Rothman says phone scams in particular seem to pop up more at tax time. He says the I-R-S will never contact someone by phone to ask for personal information. He recommends if you're suspicious about a phone call asking for personal information--just hang up.  

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