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MINNESOTA NEWS ROUND-UP: St. Cloud City Council approves outdoor furniture ban

ST. CLOUD, Minn. - The St. Cloud City Council Monday night approved an ordinance that would prohibit residents from putting indoor furniture outdoors. 

The council conducted a study back in July that brought up an increasing concern of couches and chairs being put on porches, patios or yards.  Officials say first time offenders will receive a warning  A second offense would result in a $100 fine.  However, regulations will be in place for certain accommodations, such as placing furniture at the curb for garbage pick-up, or giveaway items.


A bill sponsored in the aftermath of the meningitis outbreak that impacted patients in 20 states, including Minnesota, has passed in both chambers and is awaiting the President's signature.  Sixty-four people died and hundreds more were infected with fungal meningitis after a drug compounding facility distributed a contaminated injectable steroid last year.  The bill sponsored by U.S. Senator Al Franken (DFL-Minneapolis) would increase federal oversight of compounding pharmacies and create a national system for tracking prescription drugs from manufacturers to pharmacies.  Franken says Minnesotans need to be able to trust that the medications they receive are safe."


They're calling it a win for northern Minnesota and a sign that it  is possible to get things done in a bipartisan manner in D.C.; a law championed by two Minnesota U.S. lawmakers is on the way to the President's desk.  The Small Airplane Revitalization Act of 2013, sponsored by Senator Amy Klobuchar (DFL-Plymnouth) and Congressman Rick Nolan (DFL-Duluth), has passed both in the House and Senate.  It requires the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to recognize that small, high technology planes like those produced by Cirrus Aircraft in Duluth should be viewed and regulated differently from giant airliners.  Nolan says by getting rid of outdated, unnecessary government regulations and red tape, the bill will help produce a whole new generation of the world's safest, most technologically advanced airplanes.


Republicans are blasting Governor Dayton after he announced late Monday that Minnesotans will *not* be able to keep health insurance policies for another year that are slated to be canceled, despite President Obama's request.  State House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt (R-Isanti) says the governor reversed course from last week -- and unfortunately hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans now have received notice that they're not able to keep the health plan they want and, in many cases, can't keep the doctor they want either.  Dayton says a letter from a group representing major health care providers in Minnesota makes clear that implementing changes offered by the president last week would be unworkable for health insurance providers and would, quote, "likely cause more expensive health coverage for Minnesotans."


U.S. Senator Al Franken's reelection campaign is looking to pull in more money to ward off any Republican challengers in 2014. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports campaign manager Matt Burgess recently sent out a fundraising email to supporters that noted the GOP is "suddenly excited about their chances" because of the problems with the website.  Franken has been at odds at times with the White House in recent weeks, with the hill newspaper reporting he was visibly "agitated" with officials after a briefing on the Affordable Care Act rollout.  His campaign is seeking to raise 150-thousand dollars this month.


Former State Representative Marty Seifert launches his campaign for governor Thursday with stops in Marshall, Saint Paul and Mankato.  The former House minority leader joins a rapidly-growing field of Republicans vying for the governor's office.  Seifert ran for governor in 2010 but did not win Republicans' endorsement at their state convention.  The candidate who did, Tom Emmer, narrowly lost to Democrat Mark Dayton.  Emmer is now running for Congress in Minnesota's Sixth District, as is Seifert's 2010 lieutenant governor running mate, Anoka County Commissioner Rhonda Sivarajah.


A busy stretch of southbound I-35 through downtown Duluth is closed for several days because of bridge problems.  The closure began last night (Mon) from 26th Avenue East to 21st Avenue West.  MnDOT says bridge inspectors identified a deteriorated piling that must be repaired before southbound lanes can be reopened.  District Engineer Duane Hill says the bridge is being closed as a precautionary measure due to the amount of deterioration identified during a recent inspection.


Amplatz Children's Hospital is being ordered to pay back millions of dollars in Medicaid reimbursements.  The state Department of Human Services has told the hospital it does not qualify for an exemption from cuts to Medicaid reimbursements after the exemption had been granted by a DHS official two years ago.  State officials are now working to determine how much the hospital was overpaid by Medicaid.


Retailers can expect holiday sales to be soft this year, says Economics Professor Tony Barrett at the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth.  Barrett says there are really no big ticket items luring shoppers in the door -- no hot consumer electronics that you have to go to the store to buy, no hot toy, no new phones.  He says increases in income will fuel some increase in sales, but it won't be anything dramatic.  The National Retail Federation expects sales in the months of November and December to marginally increase 3.9 percent, over 2012's three-and-a-half percent holiday season sales growth.  The good news for retailers: The forecast is higher than the 10-year average holiday sales growth of three-and-a-third percent.


More details have emerged in the murder of a prominent Minnesota doctor.  Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek first reassured the community of Orono, where 74-year-old OB/GYN Stephen Larson was gunned down in his home, that it was not a random act and the man police shot to death on the front lawn of the doctor's home is the lone suspect in the case.  Stanek also says 30-year-old Ted Hoffstrom's mother was Larson's patient and he was apparently angry over the care she received.  Neither the nature of the woman's care or the reason Hoffstrom was displeased were disclosed.  The four Orono officers involved in the incident, including the police chief, are on paid administrative leave as the investigation continues. 


A new study by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has good and bad news about recycling in the state.  The MPCA's Wayne Gjerde  says paper going into landfills has decreased nine percent since 2000 while plastics throw-away increased seven percent.  Gjerde says most grocery stores will allow customers to recycle plastic bags.  The study shows 41 million pounds of plastic beverage containers were discarded last year in Minnesota. 


The early wolf hunting season is now closed in the northeast zone of Minnesota.  The DNR's Dan Stark says hunters had taken 30 wolves through Saturday, close to the harvest target, so they decided to end the early season in the northeast zone.  But Stark says it continues through Sunday (11/24) in parts of the northwest zone where hunters have killed 43 wolves and the harvest target is 73.  The late season runs November 30th to January 31st, or when the total target of 220 wolves is reached. 


Authorities continue investigating after a dorm room stabbing Friday afternoon that resulted in a lockdown at Minnesota State University-Mankato.  Lily Kovak says she was in her room on the same floor as the attack, heard a disturbance, looked out her door and saw the suspects.  School officials say the man who was attacked was not a student and reportedly had lacerations to his hand.  Mankato police made two arrests but are not releasing any more information at this time. 


A new survey shows that as incidence of sexually transmitted diseases continues to rise, condom use by Minnesota teenagers has begun to decline.  Jill Farris with Teenwise Minnesota says one of the reasons is that young people may not have as much fear, since HIV is no longer considered a death sentence  and some education efforts around protection have fallen off.  Farris says in some ways it can be treated or managed, but there are some "pretty devastating" health consequences for young people if they don't get treated.  Sixty-one percent of Minnesota 12th-graders report using a condom in their last sexual encounter - a decline of about two-and-a-half percent over three years.  Despite that, Minnesota's teen birth rate is at its lowest point on record.