(Update) Minnesota News Roundup: Football and fireworks are the focus at the LegislatureMinnesota News
-- Football and fireworks are the final focus today before lawmakers take off for Easter-Passover break at the state Capitol.
ST. PAUL - Football and fireworks are the final focus today before lawmakers take off for Easter-Passover break at the state Capitol. There's a state House Rules Committee hearing on a new Vikings Stadium bill this morning followed by a hearing in the full House over whether Minnesota should legalize more hardcore fireworks, similar to those in Wisconsin. Bonding money to help fix up the state Capitol building could also be debated today before the Legislature leaves for the holiday weekend.
The Republican-controlled state legislature has approved a proposed voter photo ID constitutional amendment, meaning it will likely go on the ballot this fall. Opponents say a court challenge is a definite possibility, centering around the issue of whether the question to appear on the ballot accurately represents how the Constitution would be changed.
Backers says the ballot question clearly states the basic change proposed -- that voters should have to produce photo ID -- and if approved it's then up to Minnesotans' elected representatives to work out the details.
Opponents of the measure say the question is misleading. It simply asks whether the Minnesota Constitution should be amended to require all voters to present valid photo ID to vote. DFL Senator Linda Higgins of Minneapolis says the voters need to know that same-day registration and vouching will be eliminated if it passes. Higgins called the ballot question "a sham." Republican Senator Scott Newman of Hutchinson says new provisional ballots will fix what he sees as problems with same-day voter registration.
Congressman Keith Ellison is blasting state lawmakers for passing a proposed constitutional amendment that would require voter ID at the polls. The Minneapolis Democrat says the photo ID amendment will turn over 700,000 Minnesotans' constitutional right to vote into a privilege. Ellison vows to run a vigorous grassroots campaign to educate Minnesotans about what he calls photo ID's dangerous consequences and maximize voter turnout in the Fifth District.
Minnesota Citizens Concerned For Life is applauding a bill signed into law yesterday (Wed) by Governor Dayton. It expands the Positive Alternatives program which gives pregnant women more options for medical attention, nutritional services, housing assistance, adoption services, child care, education and employment help. The change also modifies the eligibility requirements for Positive Alternative grants. The program costs two-point-four-million dollars a year and has served 25-thousand women in its first four years.
Governor Dayton as expected today vetoed a Republican-backed bill that would have paid back school districts ahead of schedule for delayed state aid payments. The governor objects to using money from the state's budget reserve. Dayton says he fully shares the legislature's desire to repay school districts as quickly as possible. He wants to raise the necessary money by closing a tax loophole on foreign operating corporations. Republicans say doing that will hurt Minnesota businesses.
The proposal to move this year's fishing opener one week before Mother's Day weekend is getting mixed reviews from the tourism industry. The Minnesota House passed an amendment that would move opening weekend from May 12th to May 5th. Mike Schultz owns Ten Mile Resort near Dalton and says he has lots of standing reservations for the opener and many come every year. He says he even has a few that fly in from out of state. Schultz says he will need to get the resort ready early and move his work schedule up if the Senate approves the measure. Some resort owners, bait shops and fishing guides would welcome one more week of possible revenue.
A $200-plus-million bonding package to repair and renovate the State Capitol building could come up for a vote as early as today in the Minnesota House. There's general agreement that the Minnesota Capitol is in need of major repair and upgrading, but how soon to do it is still under debate. The House bill would proceed much more quickly on the project than in the Senate version. Working out a compromise is one of the major items on lawmakers' agenda before the legislature's target date to adjourn at the end of the month.
A Clarkfield man is being recognized as a hero today (Thurs) for saving a Wood Lake man whose truck went into Tyson Lake two days ago. The Yellow Medicine County Sheriff's Office is crediting 23-year-old Evan Wintz for rescuing 84-year-old Harlan Schwerin. Deputies say Wintz swam out to the truck which was submerged eight feet of water and without his actions the incident could have become a tragedy.
Target Corporation is reporting a seven-point-nine-percent increase in total sales for the month of March. Revenues were up seven-point-three percent last month in stores open at least one year. The Minnesota-based discount retailer says warm weather helped boost its first-quarter earnings outlook. Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel said March sales were well above expectations. Analysts were predicting a five-point-four percent increase in March sales.
Just north of the Twin Cities, a Columbia Heights man has pleaded guilty to prostituting a 17-year-old girl out of a local hotel. Thirty-eight-year old Samuel Cozart changed his plea just as he was about to stand trial Wednesday. Cozart told the judge his decision stemmed from his consideration for the victim, whom he refered to as his girlfriend. Cozart could get up to 20-years behind bars. The teenage girl had been a runaway but is now back home.