MINNESOTA NEWS ROUNDUP: President Obama will be in the Twin Cities this afternoon
MINNEAPOLIS -- President Obama arrives in the Twin Cities early this afternoon (1230pm) and holds a town hall meeting (210pm) at Minnehaha Park in Minneapolis. The president will highlight a "Day in the Life" of a Minneapolis mom named Rebekah. State Republican Party Chairman Keith Downey says women's poverty has increased and women's median income has dropped, with over 50 percent under-employment among Minnesotans in general. Downey says the president can talk about his economic recovery, but the 140 thousand people who lost health insurance policies will be voting based on their own personal experiences. Minnesota D-F-L Party Chairman Ken Martin responds Republicans can say what they want, but thanks to the leadership of Governor Dayton and D-F-Lers on MNsure and Obamacare, 95 percent of Minnesotans are covered. Martin adds there's been a 40-percent decline in the last year in the rate of uninsured in the U-S.
Republicans say Democratic Senator Al Franken is trying to dodge President Obama's visit to Minnesota today (Thurs) and tomorrow. State G-O-P Chairman Keith Downey speculates on the cause of Franken's reluctance -- "if you look at the president's poll numbers and then Al Franken's own poll numbers in Minnesota, especially with independents, and you realize that they can come to Minnesota and talk about their positive policy initiatives, but obviously people's real-life experiences are different." Franken's office hasn't commented. Republicans say half of Minnesotans are under-employed and because of Obamacare over a hundred thousand lost health insurance policies they wanted to keep. Democrats respond Minnesota has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation and more Minnesotans than ever have health insurance.
A number of interest groups are trying to catch President Obama's ear during his visit to Minnesota today (Thurs) and tomorrow. Opponents of the Keystone XL and Alberta Clipper pipelines will be outside the president's dinner fundraiser in Minneapolis this evening, warning that those projects endanger Minnesota's water and increase carbon emissions. Andy Pearson with the group MN-350 says these pipelines really are all risk and no reward for Minnesota, and we want to send the president a message to make sure that he knows that he should reject these expansion proposals."
Meanwhile independent restaurant owners from around the state have a downtown Minneapolis news conference this morning (1130am) talking about how Minnesota's minimum wage increase affects customers' bills -- and proposing the minimum wage be handled differently for tipped employees.
A man in his early 20's is dead after coming in contact with a live elecrical line while trimming trees in Minnetonka Wednesday. When rescue crews arrived on scene they lowered the man to the ground and started CPR. He was then rushed to the hospital where he was pronounced dead. Xcel Energy said 2,500 customers were without power from the incident starting at 1:45 p.m. Xcel spokeswoman Patti Nystuen said most of the power was restored by 2 p.m. The victim's name has not officially been released.
A Rochester man with a history of lewd behavior has asked that he be sent to prison, and the Olmsted County judge hearing his case complied. 29-year-old Lloyd Armstrong was sentenced for a string of crimes. He was originally charged with forcing his way into a woman's apartment and groping her. He pleaded guilty and was placed on probation and given a stayed four year prison sentence. But in a court appearance in April, court officials say Armstrong was in shackles when he suddenly stood up and exposed and manipulated his genitals in the courtroom. He's also accused of assaulting a deputy that was taking him back to his jail cell. Armstrong was later charged with both crimes and pleaded guilty. Armstrong asked the judge to execute the 4-year stayed sentence in the earlier crime and his request was granted.
What a difference a year makes. Lake Superior has risen to above-normal water levels so fast that an emergency order was issued this week to open more gates and release more water from the lake to avoid flooding. Last year officials were concerned that the lake level was too low, and now they say it's too high. The International Lake Superior Board of Control has fully opened seven gates where the lake ends and the St. Mary's River begins. The extra water spilling out of the lake will likely cause the river to run exceptionally fast, and the board is warning boaters and fishermen on the river to be aware of rising water. Lake Superior is now 6.3 inches above normal for this time in June, and is more than 14 inches higher than this time last year.
Construction could start in the coming days on the Sandpiper oil pipeline project. The North Dakota Public Service Commission gave its final approval for the pipeline yesterday. When completed, it will run from Montana, through North Dakota and into Minnesota. It's expected to come online in 2016, moving over 225-thousand barrels of oil a day.
A pair of Bemidji icons have ranked fourth on the list of greatest "Quirky Landmarks" in the United States. USA Today conducted an online poll to rank the quirkiest, and Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox came in at number four, behind Big Tex at the state fairgrounds in Dallas, the Longaberger Home Office building in Ohio -- shaped like a giant basket -- and Carhenge, a replica of Stonehenge made out of cars in Nebraska. The landmarks were nominated by USA Today staff
Damage assessments are underway throughout Minnesota from storms and flooding by state officials and federal agents from FEMA. Governor Dayton declared disasters in 35 counties as a result of the storms last week. The Mississippi River is expected to crest today in St. Paul at 20-point-five feet and is in major flood stage. Forecasters are expecting another round of heavy rain tonight.
Law enforcement and safety officials continue to warn about dangers associated with flooding areas, rushing water and high lake levels. Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek says when someone gets in trouble in high or fast-moving water, emergency responders have to bring them back to safety and that puts everyone in danger. Stanek says if you see someone struggling in the water, do not jump in and attempt a rescue, but instead call 9-1-1 or try to throw a flotation device to the victim as quickly as possible.
The state will review the case of convicted sex offender Eric Terhaar, who has been behind bars since 2009. A federal judge ordered an expedited review of Terhaar yesterday as the constitutionality of the state's sex offender treatment program remains under investigation. The 24-year-old committed his crimes before the age of 15 and has never been convicted of a crime as an adult. Minnesota law allows for sex offenders to be jailed indefinitely, even after their sentences have been completed.
Twenty five percent of kids who have excess body fat may be obese, despite their doctor's failure to diagnose the condition using body mass index, or BMI. Mayo Clinic researcher Doctor Francisco Lopez-Jimenez led a study that found the diagnostic tool misses children who actually should be considered obese -- because they still have an excess of body fat. Childhood obesity can lead to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and Lopez-Jimenez says doctors may delay treatments or not be aware of the risk related to obesity in those particular children, if they rely on body mass index alone.
There will be 28 new food items and six new food vendors at the 2014 Minnesota State Fair. Spokeswoman Brienna Schuette says they tried really hard to choose foods of excellent quality this year. She says LuLu's Public House is a new restaurant that will be serving up the Breakfast Juicy LuLu -- an English muffin with two American cheese-stuffed sausage patties. Another new breakfast item is PB&J French Toast at the Robbinsdale OES Dining Hall. Other new foods include Beer Gelato at Mancini's, Chicken in the Waffle at The Blue Barn, and North Shore Pasta - Walleye Mac&Cheese at Giggles' Campfire Grill. (mnstatefair.org)
Minnesota is ranked sixth in CNBC's eighth annual "America's Top States For Business" study. The Gopher state climbed from 15th place one year ago. The business news T-V network ranked states on 56 measures of competitiveness and then separated those measures into ten broad categories Minnesota ranked fifth in overall economy, fifth for infrastructure, fourth in quality of life, 11th for access to capital, and 11th for technology and innovation. DEED Commissioner Katie Clark-Sieben says the study "recognizes our strong business climate, which is driving job growth and corporate expansions statewide."