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MINNESOTA NEWS ROUNDUP: Teen to get life in prison for murdering Willmar Grandmother

WILLMAR, Minn. -- Nineteen-year-old Brok Junkermeier of Willmar will be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole this morning (Wed) for the murder of 79-year-old Lila Warwick last July.  Last Wednesday, one week into his murder trial, Junkermeier surprised everyone by pleading guilty to first-degree murder.  His attorney, Kent Marshall, said Junkermeier wanted to spare Warwick's family and his own from having to see any more gory details of evidence during the trial.


Republicans call the anti-bullying legislation, which passed early this (Wed) morning in the Minnesota House fascist, an attack on conservative Christians, and warn it will impact free speech in schools while taking away local control.  Becker Republican Jim Newberger says people simply have to stand up to bullies, and kids need that experience to make it in the adult world.  But Shoreview Democrat Barb Yarusso (yuh-ROO'-so) says everybody doesn't get bullied to the same extent, and for some people it's much more devastating than others.  Yarusso points to dropouts, suicides and school shootings.  The bill passed the Senate last week, and today (Wed) in the House, but not without a hotly contested debate.  Governor Dayton will sign the legislation into law this (Wed) afternoon.


The Minnesota Senate is set to vote later today (Wed p-m) on a bill that would increase the state's minimum wage to 9-50 at large employers and 7-75 at small employers by 2016.  Republicans don't have the votes to block a minimum wage increase, but warn it will result in fewer jobs, particularly for young people entering the work force.  Governor Dayton responds he wants businesses to do well but also wants people to get adequate wages -- and says then they'll feed money into local economies which will invigorate further business growth.  Senate negotiators agreed to go along with the House and index the minimum wage to inflation.  Republicans allege it was in return for the House approving a new office building for the Senate. 


The state Senate last night (Tues) passed its supplemental budget bill, which would spend about 200 million dollars of the expected budget surplus on a variety of state programs.  High points:  A five-percent wage increase for those providing home- and community-based services to Minnesotans with disabilities...a funding increase for early childhood education...and more money for transportation, including pothole repair.  The House passed its version of the bill late last week.  Governor Dayton says both bills have a lot of good proposals, but each add up to more spending than he proposed.  The governor has asked for 165 million dollars in additional spending, versus about 200 million in the Senate bill and 300-plus million in the House version.  Dayton says he'll assess the proposals over the Passover/Easter recess and begin negotiations when lawmakers return.


Renewed political fire between Republicans and Governor Dayton as a legislative oversight committee meets this morning (9am) on the state's troubled MNsure health insurance exchange.  Republicans plan questions about the marketplace's rough launch last fall.  Dayton responds, quote, "They just want to trash MNsure.  They want to trash the Affordable Care Act.  They want MNsure to fail."  Republican Representatives Joe Hoppe and Tara Mack say oversight by lawmakers is necessary because MNsure wasn't ready for consumers.


Congressman Rick Nolan is inviting all high school students to submit entries in the 2014 Congressional Arts Competition.  The nationwide contest recognizes and encourages artistic talent in all 435 congressional districts.  Ten pieces of art will be chosen as "Best in District" and one of those ten will be selected as "Best In Show".  The winning artist and a companion will get tickets for a trip to Washington D.C. for the unveiling of their work which will be displayed in the U-S Capitol for a year.  Caroline Kriske from Duluth East was last year's winner.  Those interested in participating can log onto or call his Duluth office. (218-464-5095). The deadline for submittals is May 19th.