MINNESOTA NEWS ROUNDUP: MNsure glitches fixed
State officials say the glitches in Minnesota's new online health insurance marketplace website have been fixed. MNsure executive director April Todd-Malmlov says almost everyone, 96 percent, trying to create accounts yesterday (Wed) were able to do so successfully - and she attributes user error to those that still had trouble. Identity verification problems kept about half of the people who tried earlier from creating accounts in order to compare the policies available. MNsure will release the number of Minnesotans who have purchased coverage through the exchange at the end of next week.
Catholic Church officials statewide are being pressured to make public the lists of priests accused of sexually abusing children. There are six court hearings in the next few months scheduled involving every diocese in the state. The lists have been hidden away for nearly a decade by the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. St. Paul attorney Jeff Anderson alleges all bishops in the state have similar lists that are being kept secret.
Dozens of gang members police say are among the most violent in St. Paul have been arrested in a months-long sting. St. Paul Police Chief Thomas Smith says Operation Screeching Halt rounded up 16 members of the East Side Boys gang yesterday (Wed), and another 12 arrests were made earlier. The charges include robbery, weapons crimes, and dealing drugs.
A holiday tradition in downtown Minneapolis is downsizing. The Minneapolis Downtown Council announced the 2013 Holidazzle season will only consist of eight parades -- down from 19 last year. The eight parades will take place each Friday and Saturday night between November 29 and December 21. After this season, the 22-year-old tradition will be retired. Organizers aren't saying what exactly will replace the Holidazzle festivities.
The wait is over; Chick-fil-A is opening two stand-alone restuarants today in Minnesota. People have been camped out at the restaurant's parking lot in Coon Rapids from all over the country awaiting today's opening. Another is also opening today in Maple Grove. Chick-fil-A has three locations in the state already, but they're inside the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, and on the campuses of the University of Minnesota and Minnesota State University in Mankato.
Experts call next week's deadline on paying America's debts the biggest threat to the economy, and Wall Street has responded with a sizable downturn. The U-S Treasury will be down to 30 billion dollars in cash by October 17 -- which is equivalent to about 30 dollars in the average family bank account. Minnesota Senator Al Franken says not only will the Minnesota economy suffer if the debt ceiling isn't raised and the U-S defaults on its financial obligations, but it would have a global impact. Franken says if the U-S government defaults, the Great Recession would look like child's play in comparison.
Winona High School hosts a community forum tonight (6pm) to discuss a recent incident involving a student with a firearm on campus. The 15-year-old boy is facing multiple charges for allegedly bringing a loaded handgun to school and pointing a gun at a female student during a football game. The unnamed juvenile was placed in a detention facility. Superintendent Scott Hannon, school administrators and law enforcement will lead the discussion and talk about the next steps.
Minnesota dropped two spots in the latest State Business Tax Climate Index by the Washington, DC-based Tax Foundation. The Gopher state fell from 45th last year to number 47 in this year's rankings. That's the fourth-worst business tax climate in the U-S, according to the conservative think-tank. Tax Foundation economists say Minnesota enacted a package of tax changes that reduce the state's competitiveness, including a hike in the individual income tax rate. Democrats argue tax increases will fuel investments in education and infrastructure that will help Minnesota be more competitive in the world economy. Wyoming and South Dakota have the top two business climates while New York and New Jersey are tied for last place.
Target Corporation has laid off about 150 corporate employees in the Twin Cities amid uncertainty about the behavior of shoppers in the coming months. That's about one percent of the headquarters workforce. Target spokeswoman Amy Reilly says the layoffs were made because of the, "Future model not supporting the current size of the team," and eliminating duplication of responsibilities in an effort to make the business operation more cost efficient. Target and other retailers have lowered their financial expectations for the rest of the year and plan to hire fewer seasonal employees than last year. The most recent ShopperTrak estimate expects U-S holiday sales to rise just 2.4 percent this year, the smallest gain since 2009. Experts are warning that a continuing Washington standoff over the budget and the national debt could jeopardize even that small gain.
The task force compiled by the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis to review policies and procedures concerning sexual abuse by priests has been finalized. It was formed by Reverend Reginald Whitt after one priest pled guilty to sexual misconduct last year and another has been accused of possessing child pornography. The group is made up of Catholics and non-Catholics and includes a lawyer and a former police officer. They will work together to compile a report on the problem and made recommendations for church officials to follow. Critics say the Archdiocese's policies are not the problem, the behavior and actions of church officials are, and the task force is simply window dressing.
One man had been charged in connection with a disturbing crime in St. Paul early this week. Police say a woman was standing on the sidewalk when a car carrying four men wearing wigs pulled up, ostensibly to ask for directions, and one of the men ripped the victim's cell-phone from her hands. The report says the men all got out of the car and she was pushed to the ground. Investigators say her pants were pulled down and one man grabbed the woman by the hair and urinated on her. A few hours later police came across the suspect vehicle, which they say smelled strongly or marijuana, and found the woman's phone inside. The driver, 18-year-old Miklos Dates Jr., was arrested. The car was stolen from Enterprise rental. Dates is charged with aggravated robbery and criminal sexual conduct.
Around 170-thousand kids are enrolled in 4-H across Minnesota, making us one of the leading states in the nation. National 4-H President and C-E-O Donald Floyd says when he travels the country and world, he often runs into someone from Minnesota with strong 4-H ties. Floyd says a person in 4-H is twice as likely to take on a career in science -- really important, he says, because the U-S lags behind the rest of the world in science and math preparation of its students. This is National 4-H Week.