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Minnesota News Roundup: A key vote concerning background checks today in legislature

An all-important vote in a Minnesota House committee today (10am hearing start) on a bill that would require background checks for purchasers of pistols and semi-automatic assault weapons. Backers need to get a bill passed out of committee before Friday's deadline or the measure could be dead for this legislative session. Vernon Center Republican Tony Cornish, who opposes the measure, says he has the votes in House committee to stop it. A bill requiring universal background checks passed a key state Senate committee last week but backers need to also keep the measure alive in the House.


A fresh layer of snowfall combined with winds gusting to near 30 miles per hour in spots is affecting travel this (Tue) morning. The Minnesota Department of Transportation is asking people to stay off the roads in northern and northwestern Minnesota because blowing and drifting snow is causing white-out conditions. Although snowplows have been out in most places overnight, they've been unable to keep up with the weather conditions. Highway 2 from East Grand Forks to Crookston remains closed; the sheriff says county roads in Beltrami County are unpassable without a 4-wheel-drive truck; Hwy 72 near Blackduck is drifted shut, and MnDOT says there are no plows out there due to the strong winds. A winter weather advisory is in place for much of the state until 10 a.m. Wind chills are at minus-13 or colder.


Minnesotans get a look at rough outlines of House Democrats' proposed state budget when they release their so-called "targets" this afternoon (1pm). House Speaker Paul Thissen says the targets will show Minnesotans what Democrats believe are priorities for investments for the state's future prosperity. Thissen says in general House Democrats agree with the governor -- that education, property tax relief, jobs and economic development are important. House Republican Minority Leader Kurt Daudt says Democrats' budget targets will give Minnesotans "an indication of how many taxes we're gonna probably see." But decisions on tax increases won't come until later in the legislative session.


Minnesota has about 80-thousand farms and more than ten percent of jobs in the state are tied to agriculture. Those are some of facts being highlighted during Minnesota Agriculture Week (3/17-23). Department of Ag Commissioner Dave Frederickson says we rank fifth or sixth in the nation for agriculture production. Minnesota agriculture generated 18-and-a-half-billion dollars in 2011. Frederickson says we need to remember where our food comes from "because we are all eaters."


Smoking in Minnesota could soon become more expensive. A proposed cigarette tax remains in Governor Dayton's revised budget. If passed, the cost of a pack of cigarettes would increase 94-cents Lisa with "Let's Talk Tobacco" in Waite Park says taxing cigarettes is always an easy target for lawmakers and smokers are lucky it's not 12-dollars a pack in Minnesota. Backers say higher cigarette prices will encourage people to quit and discourage young people from starting. If the governor's proposed cigarette tax passes, it's expected to raise an additional 370 million in revenue for the next two years.