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MINNESOTA NEWS BRIEFS: Special session underway at state capitol

ST. PAUL  --  State lawmakers are back at the Minnesota Capitol for a one-day special session to pass a storm relief bill.  The opening gavel in the House was at 10:10 A.M; the Senate shortly after. 

Both chambers will have what backers hope will be quick hearings on the storm relief bill and then the final floor votes, probably sometime this afternoon.  The bill appropriates four-and-a-half-million dollars in state aid for June's storms and flash flooding.  Eighteen counties will get state money to help repair damaged infrastructure, and there's also money for Rock and Nobles counties for last winter's ice storms.  The package is a 25 percent match for federal money that became available when President Obama declared the 18 counties a federal disaster area. 


A car rear-ended a parked piece of farm equipment on Highway 71 south of Olivia Sunday night, killing two people and injuring one.  The State Patrol says a car driven by 76-year-old Thomas Kopel of Olivia struck an unoccupied piece of farm equipment that was parked on the shoulder of the highway with its hazard lights on.  The implement extended about 2 feet onto the highway beyond the shoulder.  Kopel was flown to North Memorial Hospital where he died.  His wife, 74-year-old Carla Kopel, was dead at the scene.  A backseat passenger was taken to a local hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.


An eight-year-old Brooklyn Park boy was killed Saturday when he was hit by a car on Highway 33 near New Germany.  The Carver County Sheriff's Office says Lorenzo Cotto was on a scooter when he was hit.  The boy was taken to a local hospital where he was later pronounced dead.    


A St. James man is dead is after a collision between a motorcycle and a deer Sunday night in southern Minnesota.  The Watonwan County Sheriff's Office says 61-year-old Randall Lang struck the deer on a county road and was thrown from his cycle.  Lang died at the scene.  Deputies say he was not wearing a helmet and that alcohol is not believed to have been a factor in the crash.    


Mayo Clinic patients in Austin, Albert Lea, Fairmont, and Mankato as well as Eau Claire and La Crosse, Wisconsin, are benefiting from a new Enhanced Critical Care program, which is intended to shorten hospital stays and improve care.  It operates somewhat like a call center, with an operations center located in Rochester staffed with nurses and doctors that continuously review the vital signs of patients at those Mayo locations.  Program medical director Dr. Sean Caples says the minute they notice a potential problem they alert the local care team.  Caples says the way Mayo is delivering care is changing, but the end goal remains the same: providing the best care possible to patients.