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MINNESOTA NEWS ROUND-UP: Pres. Obama expected to announce minimum wage hike for federal contractors in speech

WASHINGTON D.C. - President Obama is expected to announce an increase in the minimum wage for federal contractors during tonight's State of the Union address. 

White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough from Stillwater says he will raise the wage to ten-dollars-and-ten cents by executive order.  He says they want to make sure there's access to good paying jobs, high-tech manufacturing and retirment security and rather than waiting for Congress to take action, "we're going to go ahead and roll out on our own." He adds that the Obama administration is following the extremely cold weather in the Midwest and his home state of Minnesota.


A St. Cloud doctor is in Washington, D.C. today getting ready to go to President Obama's "State Of The Union" address.  Doctor Julie Anderson was invited after writing a letter to Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-Stillwater) about her concerns with the Affordable Care Act.  Anderson says she doesn't expect the president to spend a lot of time talking about health care during his speech.  She says she'd like to hear what Obama has heard in terms of positive outcomes from the Affordable Care Act and what he plans to do the last few years of his presidency.  Anderson says she's scheduled to meet with Bachmann and other Republican leaders this afternoon.


Minnesotans are feeling the effects of the propane shortage across the Midwest.  Bob Worth of Lake Benton is vice president of the American Soybean Association and says this past fall he was buying propane for 1.38 a gallon and in recent days over five dollars a gallon.  Worth says the U.S. is currently exporting about 20 percent of its propane supply and he can't understand why that's continuing and why that isn't stopped when there is such shortage in the U-S.  He's calling for at least a temporary moratorium so we can get some propane back in our areas.  Not only is propane used to heat some homes, many farmers also use it to heat their barns and shops.


Temperatures were around -5  Sunday night when a Grand Meadow man crashed his snowmobile near the southeast Minnesota community of Stewartville. The Olmsted County Sheriff's Department says 45-year-old Paul Haugen was by himself when he crashed and was not able to seek help. Haugen's girlfriend got worried when he didn't come home and contacted friends, who went looking for him. They found Haugen about an hour after the crash and called 911. A spokesman says he suffered several broken bones and frostbite. Haugen was hospitalized in fair condition at last check.


The Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women has released the 2013 Minnesota Femicide Report, which shows that at least 37 Minnesotans were killed in domestic violence situations statewide last year.  The coalition says as many as 24 women were killed by a husband, boyfriend, or ex; at least six family members of friends were killed in such situations; and seven men were killed by an intimate partner or former partner.  While the murders of Danielle Jelinek, Mandy Matula, Kira Steger and Annarae Schunk captured much of the media attention, there were almost three-dozen other such homicides.  At the same time the report was released, Minnesota Representative Paul Rosenthal outlined a bill he intends to introduce which would make it easier for police to arrest domestic violence perpetrators who leave the scene of such a crime.


There is an informational hearing today in St. Paul to discuss on-line voter registration.  House Elections Committee Chair Steve Simon has introduced a bill to make on-line voter registration and absentee ballot requests permanent options for all eligible Minnesota voters.  There is currently a lawsuit pending challenging Secretary of State Mark Ritchie's on-line voter registration system.  Opponents say Ritchie exceeded his authority, but Simon says if there is doubt, if there is ambiguity about the authority of the office to do this, let's write it explicitly into law.  Simon says on-line voter registration is less costly, more accurate and gives Minnesota voters another option when it comes to elections. 


Three people from New Ulm were hospitalized Monday for carbon monoxide poisoning.  Police, public utilities staff and medical personnel confirmed that a high level of the deadly gas was present in the home.  The three residents were able to notice the signs and get out before it was too late.  They were taken to New Ulm Medical Center and then flown to Hennepin County Medical Center's hyperbaric chamber for treatment.  Police say it appears that snow was blocking a furnace vent which may have caused carbon monoxide to go into an air intake pipe.  They're expected to be released today from HCMC. 


New public safety strategies for the University of Minnesota and area neighborhoods is the focus of a session today on the Minneapolis campus.  U of M President Eric Kaler (KAY'lur) will deliver opening remarks and give an overview of current public safety activities and recent crime data.  There will also be small group breakout sessions to develop short-term actions related to student engagment, law enforcement collaboration and strategies for neighborhoods and local businesses.  There was a rash of robberies and assaults on and near the U of M campus during fall semester.   


A woman police say was driving drunk from one bar to another ran over and killed an off-duty firefighter in western Wisconsin, about 20 minutes northeast of St. Croix Falls.  Polk County Sheriff's investigators say Milltown Deputy Fire Chief Chad Hansen was walking in the traveled portion of Highway 35 in blizzard conditions Sunday night when a 32-year-old woman from Frederic, Wisconsin hit him.  The accident report states that the woman, "tried to miss him but couldn't."  She told investigators that she had four drinks at one bar and was driving to another when the accident occurred.  A breath test at the scene registered .13.  She was arrested on suspicion of homicide by a drunk driver and causing injury by drunk driving.  The Duluth News-Tribune reports that Hansen was promoted to Milltown's deputy chief one year ago and had been with the department since 1997, his entire adult life.