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MINNESOTA NEWS ROUNDUP: Little Falls murder trial resumes today

LITTLE FALLS, Minn. -- Byron Smith's trail is set to resume today (MON 9am) after a weekend break.  The Little Falls man is charged with murder in the deaths of 18-year-old Haile Kifer and 17-year-old Nick Brady after they broke into his home on Thanksgiving 2012. On Friday, Smith's lawyers argued that he had become increasingly fearful during the fall of 2012 after repeated break-ins and had had one of his guns stolen in a prior burglary. The prosecution argues Smith went beyond what a reasonable person would do in light of the perceived danger.  


The search for a car that apparently went into the Mississippi River in Minneapolis will resume today (Mon) after lightning, wind, and rain forced investigators out of the water yesterday (Sun).  The Hennepin County Sheriff's Office got a call Sunday morning about a car floating in the river near the 10th Avenue bridge  Police don't know if anyone was in the car when it went into the water  The sheriff's department's Water Patrol Unit is using boats equipped with sonar equipment in their efforts to find the vehicle.


Just three weeks remain in the 2014 legislative session, and lawmakers still have much on their plates.  A bonding bill for state buildings and public works projects is the biggest item.  The DFL-controlled House already has its plan on the table but Democrats in the Senate haven't rolled out their bonding bill yet.  Democratic leaders are talking about a larger bill than the 855 million dollars they and G-O-P leaders agreed on last session, but Republicans would be reluctant to agree to a larger figure without getting something in return, perhaps additional tax cuts or reductions in government spending.  If Governor Dayton wants to push things a certain direction, he'd have an high-visibility opportunity in Wednesday night's State of the State address. Also this week, Senate and House negotiators continue trying to hammer out a compromise on a second round of tax cuts, and on a supplemental budget bill to spend part of the state's expected surplus. 


The debate over medical marijuana is heating up at the State Capitol.  A bill to legalize it has a second committee hearing tomorrow morning (Tues 9am) in the Senate. Backers say the drug would be tightly controlled and available only to those who need it for legitimate medical reasons.  Opponents warn that's impossible to do.


The first meeting of the newly-established bi-partisan Senate Select Committee on Disparities and Opportunities takes place at the Capitol today (MON 9am).  D-F-L Senator Jeff Hayden of Minneapolis says Hayden says the group will focus on disparities in economic security, educational attainment and health outcomes.  And they'll explore why some previous efforts to close the opportunity gap have been ineffective. 


Today (MON) is Worker Memorial Day in Minnesota.  The day of remembrance is meant to honor those killed or injured while working on the state's transportation system.  This year, the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) is using Thunderclap, a social media tool, which allows many people to share at the same time (9 am) a message of support and make a pledge to drive safely in work zones.  If you'd like to join in the effort, you can find a link to Thunderclap at MnDOT's web site. (


Emergency Departments across Minnesota see injuries that change with the seasons. In spring people show up with things like inhalation injuries and chemical burns ... thanks to spring cleaning. Mayo Clinic preventive medicine specialist Doctor Clayton Cowl says one of the hazards comes when cleaning the bathroom.  He says you should never mix ammonia and bleach together. Cowl says families with small children should also remember not to store cleaning agents under the kitchen or bathroom sinks, because many contain caustic chemicals that can be dangerous and even deadly.


A new Center for Disease Control and Prevention study shows childhood vaccinations not only prevent disease and death, but also results in billions of dollars in societal costs.  Kris Ehresmann is with the Minnesota Department of Health when we immunize children across the country, we are preventing approximately 42-thousand early deaths and 20-million cases of disease.  And the study found that the net savings to society is 69 billion. 

This week is National Infant Immunization Week.


 Firefighters, have been searching the rain swollen Otter Tail River in Breckenridge this morning(Monday_ morning for a person believed to have jumped into the water from the Main Street Bridge.  Fire Chief Brian Conzemious  says a driver reported seeing a woman on the bridge jump in about 3:00 AM and notified police.  Conzemius says police will be talking to the eyewitness who reported the jumper but he says at this point investigators have no reason to doubt the report.  Conzemius says they've checked with area law enforcement agencies and so far there's been no report of anyone missing.


It is one of the most dangerous jobs in the state and today, those workers who have been injured or killed in Minnesota's highway construction zones are being remembered.  This is "Workers' Memorial Day" and Judi Holloway with the Minnesota Department of Transportation says since 1960, 33 Mn-DOT employees have lost their lives in work zones.  She says it's important not just for the Department of Transportation, but for people all over Minnesota, to recognize people that may have died doing the job that they were paid to do.  Holloway is an information technology specialist for MnDOT and a member of the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees. MAPE is among the lead sponsors of this afternoon's "Workers' Memorial Day" ceremony to be held at the Chaska Truck Station.


The Hennepin County medical examiner and Plymouth police are investigating the weekend drowning death of 16-year-old Benedict Richardson.  He drowned in the indoor swimming pool at an apartment complex Friday night, with the medical examiner ruling it to be accidental.  The teen was pronounced dead at North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale about an hour after authorities were called to the scene.


An FCC decision is expected on May 15, on a plan that would allow broadband Internet providers to give content providers faster download speeds for higher prices.  Chairman Tom Wheeler has indicated he's leaning toward allowing an Internet "fast lane" but it's been strongly opposed by Minnesota U-S Senator Al Franken and others.  Norman Solomon of believes it's a matter of free speech - whether providers can decide to limit some users' content, or at least, slow it down.  In January, more than one million people signed a petition advocating a free and open Internet, and many thought that would be enough to convince the five FCC commissioners. And Solomon points out they could still vote to protect "net neutrality." 


A Minnesota couple got a big surprise when a bald eagle crashed into their shrink-wrapped boat on Interstate 94 near Menomonie, Wisconsin.  The "Chippewa Herald" reports the bird survived despite going through the plastic into the boat as Scott and Marilyn Kregness of Tower were towing it from Florida to northern Minnesota.  Wildlife Rehabilitation and Release was contacted after the couple were unable to reach anyone from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources on Friday morning.  If the bird is in good condition, it will be released back into the wild but will be taken to the University of Minnesota's Raptor Center if it's unable to survive on its own.


Benilde Saint Margaret High School senior Jack Jablonski is the talk of the town after escorting ESPN reporter Michelle Beadle to his high school prom.  Jablonski was paralyzed in a hockey game two years ago, and asked Beadle to be his prom date.  Beadle called it a "no-brainer" that she would "want to hang out" with Jablonski.  She told a Twin Cities television station that her date is "just a cool human being" and said she had more fun in Minneapolis than at her own high school prom.