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MINNESOTA NEWS ROUNDUP: One week until lawmakers return to St. Paul

The opening gavel of the 2014 Minnesota Legislature is one week from today and one of its main tasks is to pass a bonding bill for public works projects. Governor Dayton has proposed a billion-dollar bonding bill, but he needs Republican votes and they've said that number is too large. House G-O-P Leader Kurt Daudt says he's heard rumors that the Democrats might consider paying for some of the public works projects with cash, rather than bonding. Lawmakers get the next budget forecast at the end of this month.


Compared to the last few weeks it's going to feel like a heat wave across Minnesota. Temperatures are expected to climb into the 30's and 40's this week. The DNR's Pat Arndt says keep in mind Minnesota state parks are open year round and great way for the family to get outside and enjoy the outdoors. Arndt says many state parks also host a number of naturalist programs throughout the winter. There are 76 state parks across Minnesota.


One issue likely to pop up early in the coming legislative session is the potential legalization of Sunday liquor sales in Minnesota. Duluth D-F-L Senator Roger Reinert says doing so would remove an unnecessary government intrusion into the private sector and give decision-making back to business owners. Reinert says tap rooms have helped this issue gain momentum within the liquor industry, and the governor has indicated he would sign the legislation if it reaches his office.


The names of nine more priests accused of sexual abuse are now public. The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis released the names on its website yesterday. Church officials note none of the accused are still practicing priests. The alleged abuse connected with the latest release of names dates back to 2004.


Authorities are expecting a nine-year-old girl pulled from a burning basement in St. Paul to survive. Firefighters were sent to a home on Maple late Monday morning, and were told upon arrival by other residents of the house that a child was still trapped inside. The little girl and her family members were taken to Regions Hospital for treatment. Investigators don't yet know what caused the fire.


The Hennepin County Medical Examiner has identified the five kids who were killed in a duplex fire in Minneapolis Friday. The report says 3-year-old Troy, 8-year-old Christopher,and 18-month-old Gwendolyn Lewis died of smoke inhalation and carbon monoxide poisoning from the house fire, 6-year-old Mary was killed by a combination of smoke inhalation and burns, and 4-year-old Fannie died due to "inhalation of products of combustion." Two other children remain in critical condition, and their father Troy Lewis is still hospitalized in satisfactory condition. The fire remains under investigation.


The 2014 Minnesota Legislature opens one week from today (Tues), and it's looking like Democrats will try again to pass a minimum wage increase after not being able to agree on it last year. House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt argues a better approach is to create an environment where businesses provide more job opportunities. He says Republicans feel like the minimum wage is the wrong approach, and "frankly it's just not fair to the people that are gonna lose their jobs." Democrats say there's no evidence that a minimum wage increase will result in job losses. Republicans also want to repeal three business-to-business taxes the DFL-controlled legislature passed last session.


The mercury is expected to top the freezing mark statewide today and tomorrow with highs in the 30s and 40s. National Weather Service Meterologist Mike Griesinger says the brief warm-up won't melt all the snow that has fallen in Minnesota. But says we will get rid of a little bit of that top layer...and certainly the roads and driveways will start to look a whole lot better. Griesinger says this week might be a good time to take down those outdoor Christmas lights. He adds that sub-zero temperatures could return next week.


The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will begin drawing down Lake Traverse today(tues) in western Minnesota in preparation for the spring melt in the Red River Valley. Corps officials are encouraging caution to everyone near the river during this time because of the increased river flows. Ice conditions will deteriorate and become unsafe on the Bois de Sioux River as far downstream as Wahpeton, N.D. and Breckenridge, Minn. The goal is to lower the reservoir to target levels by March 1. The water will flow through Mud Lake and White Rock Dam before entering the Bois de Sioux River. The Corps plans to complete basin-wide snow surveys at the end of February. The survey results will help determine the target spring drawdown elevations for Lake Traverse and Orwell Reservoir, near Fergus Falls.


Demolition of the Metrodome is expected to get back underway later this week. Contractors had to hit the pause button on Monday after a beam fell unexpectedly, but no one was hurt and no equipment was damaged. The beam came down out of sequence according to a statement from Mortenson Construction. The Minnesota Vikings are preparing to move into a nearly billion-dollar new stadium in 2016 on the site of the Metrodome.


 The Vikre Distillery in Canal Park now has product available in area liquor stores and in selected restaurants. The first spirits out of the craft distillery, co-founded by Joel and Emily Vikre 18 months ago, are Boreal Gin in three varieties: spruce, juniper and cedar. Vikre prides itself in using Lake Superior water and local ingredients whenever possible. Other products including bourbon, rye and single malt are still a few years away since they need to age before they are ready to drink. Get more information at