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MINNESOTA NEWS ROUND-UP: State House to vote on bill for more heating fuel assistance

ST. PAUL--  The Minnesota State House Ways and Means Committee got an update this morning about a bill that will come up for a vote later today, when the gavel officially falls on the 2014 legislative session. 

That bill would set aside an additional $20-million state dollars in emergency heating assistance.  Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman says there are currently about 23,000 additional Minnesotans who have submitted applications or are in the process of having them.  And Rothman says the propane crisis has led to at least two cold injuries in Minnesota.  He adds that the situation is not likely to improve much in the near future, especially with the Cochin Pipeline from Canada switching from propane to crude in April or May.


Hundreds of Minnesotans pushing for an increase in the minimum wage are rallying this afternoon at the state Capitol.  The Raise the Wage coalition wants the state's minimum wage raised to at least $9.50 an hour and they're calling on legislators to pass the bill early in the session.  State House Speaker Paul Thissen (DFL-St. Paul) and Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk (DFL-Cook) are scheduled to speak and local hip-hop artist Brother Ali is among those performing at the rally. 


A group of southern Minnesota banks is suing Target Corporation over costs of the data breach that compromised millions of credit and debit cards.  The five First Farmers & Merchants National Banks accuse Minneapolis-based Target of negligence, breach of contract and violating the Minnesota's Plastic Card Security Act.  The 2007 law requires merchants that wrongly retain card data to reimburse financial instituions for the costs of replacing cards.  This is believed to be the first federal lawsuit filed against Target in its home state. 


The St. Cloud City Council has approved a two-year contract agreement with Skywest Airlines as they prepare to start offering daily flights to-and-from Chicago's O'Hare Airport.  Airport Director Bill Towle says the agreement allows the airline to use a $750,000 federal grant to help offset any losses in the initial start-up. Towle says the grant also comes with a local match of $250,000 for a total of $1 million in the account.  The daily flights will begin on May 6th.


An investigation is now ongoing into a salmonella outbreak at an Old Country Buffet in Maple Grove that sickened nearly two dozen people last month  According to the Minnesota Department of Public Health, the outbreak appears to be over and one person had to be hospitalized.  The restaurant has remained open after being inspected and cleared by the health department in Hennepin County.


A Lindstrom man is dead after a two-vehicle crash Monday afternoon on Highway 8 in Chisago County.  The Minnesota State Patrol says a car driven by 71-year-old Douglas Hillstrom crossed the centerline and collided head-on with a semi truck.  Hillstrom died at the scene.  No word on whether the semi driver was hurt.  The accident report shows Hillstrom was not wearing a seatbelt. 


 Authorities have identified the man killed in a drive-by shooting over the weekend in south Minneapolis.  The Hennepin County Medical Examiner's office says 35-year-old Adrian Carr of St.Louis Park died of a gunshot wound to the head.  Police found Carr's body Sunday afternoon in the back of an SUV.  Investigators are still looking for suspects in the homcide.  


Police in the metro suburb of Maplewood are investigating an armed kidnapping.  According to police, the suspect kidnapped the adult woman last (SUN) night as she was leaving a Maplewood fitness club.  The suspect got into her car and threatened to shoot her if she tried to escape.  After driving a short distance, the man told the victim he intended to rape her.  The woman told investigators that the man eventually got out of her without harming her.  The suspect is described as a white male, 30- to 40-years-old.  He was wearing a black ski mask and light-colored surgical-type gloves.  The incident occurred just 15 minutes after North St. Paul Police were called on a report of an attempted carjacking with a similarly described suspect.  Anyone with information on either incident is urged to call police. 


Troy Lewis, the father who lost five of his children in a Minneapolis duplex fire on Valentine's Day, is now out of the hospital.  He was released this weekend.  Two of his surviving children remain hospitalized.  Officials have said the cause of the fire is "undetermined". Funerals for the five children who died in the fire will be held Saturday at New Salem Missionary Baptist Church in Minneapolis.


With Minnesota one of the top states for infection, new numbers coming in on Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus are showing some alarming trends.  Liz Wagstrom is chief veterinarian with the National Pork Producer's Council, and says University of Minnesota research shows the virus is "very" contagious.  A thimbleful of virus might be enough to infect the entire sow herd in the United States. While there is no vaccine to prevent the illness, the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine has developed two porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV) diagnostic test to help stem it's spread.  Animal health company Zoetis (zoh-EH'-tis) is partnering with Iowa State University in the quest for a PED-V vaccine.


A man wanted by Otter Tail County authorities has been arrested.  Thirty-year-old James Caswell was arrested at the Dilworth Walmart over the weekend on shoplifting charges.  Caswell and another man were arrested in May for pimping three women at a Fergus Falls motel.  Caswell pleaded guilty, but a warrant was issued when he failed to show up at his sentencing hearing on December 30th.