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MINNESOTA NEWS ROUNDUP: Reports show Minnesota economy improving

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A series of reports show positive growth in Minnesota's economy.  A Creighton University study shows a three-year high of 60.6 for the Midwest economy, with any score above 50 suggesting growth.  Another recent study by CNBC ranks Minnesota sixth best in the nation for business.  Commissioner of Employment and Economic Development Katie Clark Sieben says the surveys all show that businesses have confidence in the current economy and are expecting to continue to grow in the months to come.  Clark Sieben says there have been 150 business expansions across the state over the past year.  Critics point out Medtronic, a company started in Minnesota, is moving its corporate headquarters overseas.

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 As much as 50-million-dollars is being set aside by the feds to help mitigate flooding in the Red River Valley.  U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack made the announcement yesterday.  The money will be available over the next five years through a new regional conservation program.  Vilsack says it's being made possible through a new designation in the new farm bill to improve soil and water quality.

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Minneapolis-St. Paul has the lowest unemployment rate in the nation.  The U.S. Department of Labor report didn't cite specific industries that are driving the Twin Cities' employment improvement, but recent state numbers have shown substantial gains in construction, manufacturing, information and professional and business services.  The labor department puts the Minneapolis-St. Paul unemployment rate at an even 4 percent.  

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A South St. Paul meat packing plant has temporarily closed.  The temporary shutdown of Dakota Premium Foods will idle about 300 employees.  Officials for Dakota Premium Foods' parent company, American Foods Group, are blaming the shutdown on a short supply of cattle.  

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The great Minnesota get-together is number one.  Bustle.com chose the Minnesota State Fair as the best in the nation, because of the variety of food offered, the butter sculpting contest and free Wi-Fi.  This year's fair runs Aug. 21 through Sept. 1.    

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 Formal charges have been filed against the Brooklyn Park man who allegedly left his critically injured children inside a crashed vehicle in St. Paul.  Earl Ward was charged with child endangerment, criminal vehicular operation, and violating a no-contact order.  Ward was driving a vehicle that crashed early Tuesday morning, and was arrested at a relative's house several hours after running from the scene.  Fourteen-year-old Amarya Ward-West suffered a broken neck, eight-year-old Almond Ward-West suffered a broken femur.

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A convicted murder who assaulted guards at the Stillwater prison has been sentenced.  The "St. Paul Pioneer Press" reports that Derrick Delmar Brooks was sentenced to an additional 98 months for assaulting a female prison guard and knocking out several of her teeth in January 2013.  Brooks is already serving a life sentence for shooting and killing a man in Hennepin County in 1996.

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A St. Paul woman could spend the next two years in prison if she is convicted of animal cruelty.  WCCO reports Anna Bertha Robole allegedly placed two puppies into the recycling dumpster of the Scenic Hills Animal Hospital in St. Paul hoping someone would save them.  Hospital staff found the puppies, one of which was dead, on May 7th and called police.  Witnesses at the nearby Creek Point Apartments apparently saw Robole kicking the puppies on different occasions and added that the animals were seen with their mouths covered in duct tape.  

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The Rochester Police Department is investigating the death of a man who was found unresponsive at Silver Lake Park earlier this week - and for now they are treating the case as suspicious. 54 year old Roger Ingalls was found Monday morning, and died later that day at the hospital. The Medical Examiner has determined he may not have died from natural causes and more tests are being conducted.  Ingalls was last seen Sunday evening riding his bicycle and investigators believe they found his bike at an elementary school on Monday.  They are working to uncover more information about what happened to Ingalls during the 12 hour period between when he was last seen and when he was found.

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 State officials have taken the blame for a mistake that has left thousands of Minnesotans awaiting health coverage.  The "St. Paul Pioneer Press" reports that at least 16-thousand low-income Minnesotans never received letters from the state notifying them that they needed to provide additional information on their applications through the state's new health insurance exchange, part of the Affordable Care Act.  Minnesota Department of Human Services deputy commissioner for policy and operations Chuck Johnson says that the problem was caused by "human error" and that they are trying to fix it as quickly as possible.  

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 The Taste of Minnesota kicks off today (Thurs) at the Carver County Fairgrounds in Waconia.  The location had to be changed after the Taste's original spot--Harriet Island in St. Paul, succumbed to flooding from the Mississippi River.  Taste of Minnesota organizers say the change of venue will not have much of an impact on food or entertainment that was planned for the St. Paul site.  Only three food vendors pulled out due to the location change.  This year marks the festival's return after a three-year hiatus.  Admission is free until 3 pm each day and $10 after that -- with half of admission going toward food and beverage tickets.  Kids 12 and under are free with an adult.  The Taste of Minnesota runs through Sunday. 

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 MN-DOT urges drivers to be careful in work zones as you're traveling to your 4th of July destination.  Spokesman Kevin Gutknecht (GOOT'-neckt) says all work will halt from sometime this afternoon (Thurs) through Monday morning, but work zones are still there.  Gutknecht says there are lane shifts and could be barriers and rough roads -- all of which add up to potential problems.  He suggests people take their time when they're in work zones and watch their speed, because the important thing is to get to your destination and enjoy the holiday.  To plan your trip to avoid workzones, go to 511-mn-dot-org (511mn.org)

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The Rock County man accused of killing a woman bicycling with her two children in a trailer behind the bike is a member of the Army National Guard who served a tour in Afghanistan four years ago.  The criminal complaint shows that Andrea Boeve of Steen was riding her bike on Highway 270 when 25-year-old Christopher Weber stuck her with his pickup.  Weber apparently told police he was accessing online banking on his cell phone and didn't see Boeve -- and didn't know what he had hit until he felt a thump and looked in his rear-view mirror.  Boeve was pronounced dead at the scene. The two children, ages 4 and 1, received non-life threatening injuries.  Bail has been set at $20,000 with conditions that include staying on contact with the court, limiting travel to the states of Minnesota, his home state of South Dakota or Iowa unless approved by the court, and he can't drive commercial vehicles or use a cell phone while driving.

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 A new law that just took effect in Minnesota is aimed at protecting the well-being of dogs and cats raised by commercial breeders.  The regulations apply to operations with ten or more adult breeding animals that produce at least five litters per year.  Dr. Paul Anderson with the Minnesota Board of Animal Health says the real purpose of this law is to set up a program for licensing and inspection, so the Board of Animal Health can verify that dog or cat breeders meet certain standards of care.  Anderson says optional licensing and inspections began July 1st but will be mandated one year from now.  He adds that most breeders in the state do a very good job taking care of their animals.

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 Minnesota officials this week added 150 million dollars to the state's "rainy day" budget reserve, bringing it to the highest level ever at 811 million dollars.  But state Management and Budget Commissioner Jim Schowalter says Minnesota's budget reserve is still less than what the standard would be for a "Triple-A" state.  He says rating agencies would suggest Minnesota have significantly more money in reserves, and other states have done that.  But Schowalter says the 150-million-dollar increase is a "great first step," plus the legislature and governor put a mechanism in place to increase the budget reserve in the future.

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