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MINNESOTA NEWS ROUNDUP: Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis back in court

TWIN CITIES -- Representatives of th Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis were back in court Tuesday. The Archdiocese is asking the State Court of Appeals to throw out a lower court ruling forcing Archbishop John Nienstedt and former Vicar General Father Kevin McDonough to testify. They are also asking that another list of priests be kept sealed. That list contains names of priests who were accused of sexual abuse, but not "credibly accused" in the eyes of the Archdiocese. On Monday a judge ruled to uphold the decision that Archbishop Nienstedt and Father McDonough testify under oath about what they know about the alleged priest abuse within the diocese.


With under a week left until the 2014 legislative session begins in St. Paul, a southeast Minnesota lawmaker says one piece of legislation will need first priority. D-F-L state Senator Dan Sparks says the top priority needs to be the bonding bill. Governor Dayton's proposed $986 million bonding bill includes money that would fund improvements in higher education buildings at the University Of Minnesota-Twin Cities and other campuses, support downtown development in Rochester, Mankato, St. Cloud and the Twin Cities, and complete the restoration of the state Capitol.


After a challenge from a colleague, five members of the Minnesota State House will live for a week on the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. Golden Valley Democrat Representative Ryan Winkler invited lawmakers to participate in Working America's Minimum Wage Challenge, and Representatives Karen Clark, Frank Hornstein, John Lesch, Jason Metsa, and Shannon Savick accepted. Winkler has sponsored a bill to raise the state's minimum wage, which will be introduced in the upcoming 2014 session, and says he wanted to show the urgency of the legislation by taking on the challenge of living daily under the current conditions of many Minnesotans. Lesch says he accepted because he believes many lawmakers talk about, "Living within our means," without fully recognizing the reality of life on the minimum wage. The lawmakers will have about $33 to spend on a week's worth of food and around $9 to spend on transportation.


A Fergus Falls judge has granted a defense attorney's request for more time to prepare the case of 65-year-old Michael Alan Burris. The former Fergus Falls man is accused of murdering his nephew two years ago over a drug debt. Burris' next court appearance is in May, when he's expected to enter a plea. Burris and his son were arrested in Arizona and recently returned to Minnesota. The younger Burris is facing a charge of aiding an offender and is expected to testify against his father.


A relief effort is now underway for the Minneapolis family that lost five children in a fire last week on the city's north side. Clothes and other necessities are being accepted at the Shiloh Temple at Bloomington Avenue South and East 27th Street, while the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers is accepting the same donations at its headquarters. Troy Lewis and two of his young daughters survived the fire and remain hospitalized. The girls are in critical condition. while their father is listed in satisfactory condition.


A coalition calling itself "Move MN" is re-floating a controversial gas tax plan at the State Capitol. The group proposes, in addition to the current gasoline tax which is charged "per gallon," there would also be a wholesale fuel tax based on the *price* per gallon. Margaret Donahoe with the Minnesota Transportation Alliance argues the current gas tax can't provide enough funding for roads and bridges because cars are becoming more fuel-efficient. A proposal in the Minnesota Senate last session would have implemented an additional gas tax based on "price per gallon," while at the same time reducing the current gasoline tax based solely on consumption.


With a strike vote looming on Monday, St. Paul School District teachers are letting the administration and school board know they're standing together in their contract demands. The board tabled a vote on a plan to replace teachers in the event of a strike until next Tuesday at their meeting last night as teachers rallied outside the building. The teachers are demanding an increase of eleven-percent in wages and benefits over two years with the next contract. The two sides are back at the bargaining table tomorrow.


Skeptical local reaction to the Obama administration's plan to issue tougher fuel-efficiency standards for trucks by the spring of 2016. The Minnesota Trucking Association's John Hauslanden (HOWZ'-lodden) says efficiency is a function of the truck, the trailer, the fuel, and *what* and *where* you're hauling. He says the latest truck engines mandated by the government are having significant failures on the road. Hausladen says mandating new technology is one thing, but having it work properly is something else. He adds companies cannot afford to have trucks sitting on the side of the road.


 Graduation rates and Internet access are among topics at the State Capitol today as lawmakers get ready for the 2014 legislative session that begins next Tuesday. Activists release a study (9:15am) pointing to negative effects of the state sales tax on telecom equipment, arguing that repealing it is the way for the state to maximize broadband Internet access. The telecom equipment tax is one of several business-to-business taxes passed last session that lawmakers are considering undoing when they come back to Saint Paul. And State Education officials release data (11:15am) showing the highest graduation rates in over a decade. They'll credit reforms and increased education spending -- one of the interests competing for a chunk of the state's expected budget surplus. Lawmakers find out how large it is when the latest economic forecast is released at the end of next week.

Also today a Senate committee continues its tour of Twin Cities projects vying for state bonding money in the upcoming session. The panel visits the Ordway Center, Fort Snelling, the Minnesota Zoo and Dakota County Technical College.