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MINNESOTA NEWS ROUNDUP: Minnesota House passes Supplemental Budget Bill

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MINNESOTA NEWS ROUNDUP: Minnesota House passes Supplemental Budget Bill
Ellsworth Wisconsin 126 S. Chestnut St. 54011

ST. PAUL -- Minnesota House Democrats last night (Thurs) passed a bill that would spend one-quarter of the state's expected budget surplus -- about 300 million dollars -- to increase funding for a variety of state programs.  Republicans proposed spending 72 million dollars less than that -- Democratic Majority Leader Erin Murphy saying it's "refreshing" that they finally agree with Democrats on investing in Minnesota rather than saying "Give it All Back."  House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt fired back Republicans were trying to "put the reins on just a little bit" -- but Democrats just keep spending.  "What's another 320 million dollars, on top of the four billion you've already spent," Daudt told D-F-L lawmakers.

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****HIGHLIGHTS OF THE BILL:

5 percent wage increase for those who provide in-home or community-based services to Minnesotans with disabilities

Increased funding for rural nursing homes

$75 million increase in state funding for E-12 education, including fully-funding school lunch program

$25 million to increase broadband Internet access in Greater Minnesota

$50 million for transportation, $25 million of that for fixing potholes

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A winter storm warning remains in place that stretches from southwestern Minnesota, across the central portion of the state - including the Twin Cities metro - and into the northeast. Forecasters with the National Weather Service in Chanhassen say six to 12 inches of snow is expected in those regions by the time the warning lifts at 1:00 p.m. A winter weather advisory is in place in southeast Minnesota, with a storm total of three to five inches expected. 

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MN-DOT crews have been in out in full force overnight treating roads and plowing the wet spring snow.  Spokesman Kevin Gutknecht says it's easier to clear highways in April than in January when it's really cold.  He says pavement temperatures are pretty warm as is the air temperature -- relatively speaking.  Gutknecht says they should be able to get the snow off fairly quickly and it probably won't freeze to the roadway.  But he adds heavy traffic can pack down heavy snow and make it harder to remove.  Gutknecht recommends drivers slow down and give themselves extra time this morning.  

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The DFL-controlled Minnesota Senate last night (Thurs) passed a controversial anti-bullying bill over objections of Republicans, who warn there's no parental notification, definitions of bullying are not enforceable, and costs to school districts are unknown.  And Maple Grove Republican Warren Limmer objects the bill doesn't give those accused of bullying the right to confront their accuser -- something the Constitution guarantees.  Bill sponsor, Minneapolis Democrat Scott Dibble, responds it's not as if kids are being charged with crimes.  Dibble says without the anonymous reporting provision, kids won't step forward to tell adults they're being bullied at school.  The House passed a different anti-bullying bill last year and now must decide whether it will go along with the Senate version.

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 A Minnesota lawmaker is blasting Wednesday's U.S. Supreme Court decision to undo caps on campaign contributions, saying it will further concentrate political power in the hands of billionaires and wealthy corporations.  D-F-L Senator Al Franken says the ruling in "McCutcheon v. Federal Elections Commission" was just the latest in a series of court decisions that do away with limits on money in politics.  Franken says combined with the court's 2010 ruling in the "Citizens United" case, it represents pro-corporate judicial activism designed to give millionaires and corporations far too much influence in the nation's democratic process.

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The Minnesota couple who lived in the lap of luxury while collecting welfare benefits in two states will not fight extradition.  Colin Chisholm the Third and his wife Andrea were arrested in Florida and are accused of collecting more than $167,000 in medical and food-stamp benefits there and in Minnesota from 2005 to 2012.  Officials say they lived in two luxury homes at that time, had several million dollars in bank accounts, owned a million-dollar yacht.  The Chisholms have agreed to return to Minnesota to face fraud charges, but Hennepin County officials have not said when that may happen.

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Around 1:30 this morning authorities received a report that a car drove into the Mississippi River in Ramsey north of the Twin Cities.  When rescue crews arrived, they spotted the vehicle with two people inside.  One person was found and got out of the car safely, but another is still missing.  Rescue crews are on scene searching for that man.  More information is expected to be released later today.  

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The interim leader of Minnesota's health insurance exchange has told U-S lawmakers that the program's problems are in the rear view mirror. MnSure acting CEO Scott Leitz (lights) told a House committee that the exchange and it's website are secure, stable, and successful after recent changes in policy and leadership. He also told the panel that the bonuses awarded to MnSure executives even as the exchange continued to face a myriad of problems late last year were not given under his watch. Leitz says the software that runs the exchange had just a 70% success rate in December but is now running near perfectly, at 99%.

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Three southeastern Minnesota teenagers were injured in a crash yesterday (Thu) in Winona.  Minnesota State Patrol says 16-year-old Kaitlin Ingle was seriously hurt in the two-car crash and is being treated at a hospital in LaCrosse. 17-year-olds Carissa Drackley and Abby Partington were hospitalized with injuries that are not life threatening. The driver of the pickup that t-bones the car the girls were in was not hurt.

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Four college students are still alive following a Dinkytown house fire thanks to the quick action of a neighbor.  Firefighters were called to the home in the 800 block of 13th Avenue Southeast just before 2:30 Thursday morning and found the flames quickly moving to the upper part of the building.  Mike Brennan had just returned home to the area from work and ran inside to wake up his neighbors and get them outside to safety.

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A jury in federal court in Duluth has found a 47-year-old Ponemah man guilty of strangling a woman on the Red Lake Indian Reservation last summer. Terry Iceman was convicted of one count of strangulation and faces a potential maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. A sentencing date has not yet been set.  The U-S Attorney's office says such violence against American Indian women occurs at epidemic rates, and American Indian women are nearly three times more likely to be battered than Caucasian women. That's why they've created the Violence Against Women Federal and Tribal Prosecution Task Force, which will explore the issues and recommend best practices in prosecution strategies involving domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking. 

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A man wanted for murder in Detroit, Michigan has been arrested in Moorhead.  Acting on a tip from federal authorities in Michigan, the Marshals High Plains Fugitive Task Force set up surveillance of a Moorhead home yesterday(thurs) where they arrested 32-year old Clifford Biddles without incident.  Biddles had been sought in connection with a July, 2013 killing.  A warrant for his arrest was issued April 1st.  U.S. Marshal Paul Ward says Biddles is being held in the Clay County jail to await an extradition hearing to return to Michigan.

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Two men were arrested for solicitation of prostitution in Moorhead.  Misdemeanor charges have been filed against 61-year-old David Skoglund, of Canova, South Dakota, and 58-year-old Mark Hayes of Harwood.  The two were caught in a prostitution sting at a local hotel.

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