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MINNESOTA NEWS ROUNDUP: Two Minneapolis police officers injured in two-car crash

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MINNESOTA NEWS ROUNDUP: Two Minneapolis police officers injured in two-car crash
Ellsworth Wisconsin 126 S. Chestnut St. 54011

MINNEAPOLIS -- Police are still investigating the cause of a two-car crash that sent two Minneapolis Police Officers to the hospital Officials say the squad car they were in was T-boned at an intersection by an SUV. While the two people in the civilian vehicle refused medical treatment, the two officers were taken to the hospital. They are expected to be released.

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Even though spring has sprung, a number of public utilities across the state continue asking home and business owners to remain diligent about running water to prevent freezing water lines. You may have heard that frost actually drives deeper into the ground briefly as weather warms up. But Assistant State Climatologist Pete Boulay (boo-LAY') says there is a lag time in how long it takes for a cold wave to reach the lowest point in the ground -- so it can start warming up outside but the cold waves are still penetrating far down underground. Boulay says there is still quite a bit of frost underground. He adds frost always drives deeper under pavement than beneath your yard.

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Nobody believes it, say top Republicans about MNsure's announcement that it surpassed its enrollment goal, helping over 136-thousand Minnesotans access affordable health coverage. Governor Dayton calls it "significant progress" and a "major achievement." House Republican Minority Leader Kurt Daudt responds the only way MNsure met its goal was by adjusting it. Daudt says in reality they're 87 percent shy of meeting their goal, and that's not real progress.

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The chief financial officer for Target is set to update Congress about one of the biggest computer security breaches in U.S. history. John Mulligan is appearing today before a Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee hearing on protecting Americans against cyberattacks. Dozens of consumers are suing Target for what could turn out to be hundreds of millions of dollars. The suits blame Target for not preventing hackers from gaining access to credit and debit card information for as many as 110-million shoppers during last year's holiday shopping season.

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A second day of hearings in the Minnesota House today (Wed) on a controversial bill that would prohibit those with restraining orders against them from possessing weapons. The measure passed one committee Tuesday, Vernon Center Republican Tony Cornish telling his colleagues gun groups are worried because in the 1970s they were told no one would come after their long guns, and then not too long ago it happened. Bill sponsor, Saint Paul Park Democrat Dan Schoen responds he doesn't want to take away guns from law-abiding owners, but if someone beats women and children, they don't deserve to have a gun. Minnesotans convicted of domestic violence are already prohibited from owning handguns, and this bill would add rifles and shotguns to the state law.

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Another day of hearings in the state Senate today (3pm) on bills that would set uniform requirements for pipeline companies and railroads to deal with oil spills in Minnesota.

Prompting the proposed legislation are recent oil spills in northeast and southeast Minnesota and in eastern North Dakota.

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A House committee debates a bill that says public officials' communications by social media would not be subject to Minnesota's open meeting law. A bill to regulate payday lenders has a hearing in Senate committee. House Democrats are scheduled to unveil their second bill this session making tax changes, after the legislature last week passed and Governor Dayton signed a 400-plus-million-dollar tax cut package. There are also hearings in the Senate today on a bill requiring a "kill switch" on smartphones to disable them if they're stolen, and a proposal to require minimum training standards for lifeguards at public beaches.

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A Minnesota teenager is celebrating a legal victory against the Minnewaska School District. The American Civil Liberties Union sued the district on behalf of Riley Stratton in 2012 after she was punished for a comment on Facebook about a staff member at the school. She has been awarded 70-thousand dollars in damages, and the district will be forced to changes its policies on privacy protection for students. Stratton was in sixth grade at the time and was forced to give the school the log-in information for her Facebook and email accounts, and also had her Facebook page searched at school by police without parental consent.

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Environment Minnesota is applauding a new rule proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency that would close some loopholes in the Clean Water Act. Spokeswoman Samantha Chadwick says they've been pushing for a decade to restore protections for all of the state's waterways. She says loopholes that currently exist mean that about half of Minnesota's smaller streams and millions of acres of wetlands might not be protected under the Clean Water Act and could be more vulnerable to pollution and development. Chadwick says the proposed E-P-A rule would preserve existing Clean Water Act exemptions for the agricultural sector, but the American Farm Bureau Federation still plans to lobby against it. 

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Five companies are sharing over two and a quarter million dollars as the first funding projects announced under the Minnesota Job Creation Fund. The new 24-million-dollar program was approved last spring. The state Department of Employment and Economic Development says the five companies are expected to create 240 new jobs. The funding recipients are Axis Clinicals in Dilworth, Bluegrass Proteins in Dawson, Harmony Enterprises in Harmony, Heraeus Medical Components in White Bear Township and Valmont Industries in Farmington.

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An Oakdale man has been convicted of aiding in the shooting death of a St. Paul bar owner. 27-year-old Yia Her is accused of asking his brother-in-law, 23-year-old Cheng Vang, to come to Malina's Sports Bar with a gun, after Her got in an argument with owner Vone Moua over a twenty dollar pool table rental. After a lengthy argument, prosecutors say Vang shot the victim in the head at close range with a handgun. Two other bar employees were also shot, but have recovered from their injuries. Vang pled guilty last month to murder and attempted murder, and will be sentenced April 7.

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Five jurors have been chosen in the Brok Junkermeier murder trial in Willmar. Jury selection began Tuesday morning, when prosecution and defense lawyers interviewed a panel of 20 potential jurors. Five were chosen, and they will go through a list of 25 more candidates today (Wed). Eventually they need to choose 12 jurors and 2 alternates to hear the case. 19-year-old Junkermeier is charged with several counts of murder in the July stabbing and strangulation death of 79 year old Lila Warwick.

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The pre-trial hearing for Byron Smith of Little Falls, who has been charged with 1st degree murder for the deaths of Haile Kifer and Nick Brady on Thanksgiving of 2012, was held yesterday (Tue) in Morrison County District Court. Motions were made by both the prosecution and defense regarding what evidence and testimony will be allowed at the trial. One notable motion by the defense was to dismiss the case the defendant's lawyers have not received requested photos and other pieces of evidence. The court will take about a week to rule on any motions. Jury selection is scheduled to start Monday, April 14th.

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The National Transportation Safety Board has released the cause of an airplane crash that killed the pilot last year near Hawley. 48-year-old Kevin Ferris died when his Cessna 152 went down in dense fog last March near the Hawley Airport. The NTSB says Ferris made an "improper decision" to conduct a flight in weather conditions that he wasn't qualified to fly in -- resulting in a loss of control. Ferris was en route from Superior, Wisconsin to Moorhead. The report says Ferris did not file a flight plan, but did obtain a weather report before the flight. The NTSB says an examination of the airplane revealed no mechanical problems.

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Felony terroristic threat charges have been dropped against former Dilworth fire chief Kurt Kennedy. As part of a plea agreement, Kennedy has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge. Court documents say Kennedy threatened to burn down the homes of Dilworth Fire Chief Mark Empting and other members of the fire department. Assistant Clay County Attorney Lori Conroy says the agreement calls for a suspended jail sentence. Kennedy is currently being treated in an outpatient chemical dependency program. He'll be sentenced in May.

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