(Update) Minnesota News Roundup: State economic landscape looking brighterMinnesota News
-- Negative trends have leveled off, leaving things looking a little brighter across Minnesota's economic landscape.
Negative trends have leveled off, leaving things looking a little brighter across Minnesota's economic landscape. The latest report from the U.S. Census shows encouraging signs for Minnesota, which is among several states that rank above the rest when it comes to economic stability. In 2011, household median incomes stopped declining and the poverty rate stayed the same -- while unemployment dropped overall. More young Minnesotans picked up health insurance and there was a drop in the jobless rate among men and women in their early 20's. However, the number of young Minnesotans who are unemployed remains much higher than it was before the start of the recession.
A central Minnesota man could soon learn whether he is violating the state's raw milk laws. Alvin Schlangen of Freeport is charged with three misdemeanor counts including distributing unpasteurized milk and operating without proper licensing. Current state law prohibits raw milk sales except directly to consumers on the farm when it's produced. Schlangen alleges he doesn't sell milk, instead he operates a private buying club that distributes raw milk to members, mostly in the Twin Cities. He claims all he does is deliver the end product to members who lease the cows from Amish farmers. Schlangen's case is now in the hands of a Hennepin County jury.
Guilty pleas Wednesday in two high-profile cases in Hennepin County. Forty-four-year-old Michael Hamer of Minneapolis pleaded guilty to soliciting a child for sexual conduct after contacting Little League players from Crystal on Facebook. He'll be sentenced November 16th and it's expected will receive five years' probation plus time in the workhouse. Also on Wednesday, 40-year-old Gerret Parks of Bloomington admitted to first-degree assault for throwing a vice out of his car, smashing the windshield of another vehicle and seriously injuring Iraq war veteran Jon Stacke. Parks will be sentenced Tuesday and it's expected he'll receive six years in prison and be ordered to pay restitution.
Minnesota's unemployment rate inched up one-tenth of a percent in August to 5.9 percent. State jobs analyst Steve Hine says employers eliminated two-thousand jobs last month and July figures were also revised, cutting an additional two-thousand positions. Hine says only four of the 11 major sectors were able to gain jobs. Government increased by 5,400 during the month. Education and healthcare added 1,900 jobs. Information was up by 900. And leisure and hospitality inched up 300. Over the past year the state has added 24,500 jobs. Minnesota remains well below the national unemployment rate of eight-point-one percent.
With the exception of the tip of Minnesota's Arrowhead, the entire state is now in a drought or abnormally dry. The latest U.S. Drought Monitor shows the most extreme conditions still in portions of southern Minnesota. It's even drier off Minnesota's southwestern corner, where "exceptional" drought has taken over portions of Iowa and South Dakota.
Fire danger in northwestern Minnesota is once again up to "extreme." State officials also have the upper two-thirds of the state is under a "very high" fire danger rating and burning restrictions are in place across most counties from the Twin Cities northward. And beginning Sunday, the DNR will put restrictions on campfires and open burning in 22 counties, ranging from the northwestern corner of the state through central Minnesota. Officials say campfires or recreational fires outside of city limits will only be allowed in a designated fire pit designed for that type of use. However, campfires will still be allowed at staffed campgrounds and resorts. In addition, no burning permits will be issued to the public, and the use of fireworks is prohibited outside city limits.
Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty is stepping down as national co-chair of the Mitt Romney campaign to become a bank lobbyist. The Financial Services Roundtable tweeted this morning that Pawlenty will become its new president and CEO November 1st. The lobbying group says Pawlenty resigned from the Republican presidential ticket because the Financial Services Roundtable is a non-partisan organization. Pawlenty was an early rival of Romney and often mentioned as a potential running mate before Romney chose Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan.
Lieutenant Governor Yvonne Prettner Solon is joining the U.S. Army Parachute Team next Tuesday for a skydiving exercise in St. Paul. Prettner Solon will jump from an altitude of 12,500 feet and fall at 120 miles per hour before landing on the State Capitol's lower mall. The lieutenant governor said she is honored to join the "Golden Knights" in a public demonstration of support for those who selflessly serve the nation at home and abroad.