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MINNESOTA NEWS ROUNDUP: Final push at Legislature to finish 2014 season

ST. PAUL -- With only a few days until the Minnesota Legislature's adjournment deadline next Monday, lawmakers are scrambling to wrap up a bonding bill for state buildings and other public works construction projects.  House and Senate negotiators are reportedly quite close on agreement, but some lawmakers also want to cancel a soon-to-be-enacted requirement for fire sprinklers in high-priced new homes.  Governor Dayton wants it left in place, and he said Monday he'd veto the entire bonding bill if the legislature does otherwise.  Some lawmakers believe Dayton is bluffing -- that he wouldn't jeopardize jobs created by construction projects all over the state over that one provision -- and they say send the bill to him with it.  There are some high-profile policy bills (medical marijuana and e-cigarettes among them) that lawmakers want to finish before next Monday's deadline.  And they appear on track to wrapping up a second tax-cut bill and a supplemental budget bill  Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk said last night in the hallway, "We're doing fine." 


The Minnesota House and Senate remain well apart on a medical marijuana bill with only six days remaining in the legislative session.  Lead Senate negotiator, Minneapolis Democrat Scott Dibble says they'll continue to have conversations, build upon things they agree on, and see how far they can get. Dibble says the House bill as it's constructed would not pass the Senate, and House leaders tells him the Senate bill wouldn't pass the House.  The Senate bill is much less restrictive than the House version.  Governor Dayton on Monday voiced concerns about significant areas of the Senate bill, including types of marijuana allowed, number of access points and which medical conditions qualify. 


Minnesota Senator Al Franken is urging his colleagues and the public to support his Student Loan Emergency Refinancing Act.  Franken says the legislation he co-sponsored will help students and families saddled by college loan debt, allowing students and graduates with existing loans to refinance and take advantage of lower interest rates -- the same way homeowners do with mortgages.  Franken says those currently paying nine or ten percent interest could refinance for a rate under four percent.  Minnesota has the fourth highest average four-year loan debt, at more than 30-thousand dollars per student.  


 New numbers from the U-S Department of Transportation show a record four-point-six percent of flights were cancelled this winter.  That's the most since the government began collecting data 20 years ago.  Spokesman Pat Hogan says Minneapolis-St.Paul International Airport had its share of cancellations, but in the first quarter MSP was fifth-best for on-time arrivals and sixth-best for on-time departures.  Hogan says Minnesota has the equipment and personnel to handle winter storms.  He says airports in places like Atlanta and Dallas struggled to operate because of unusually cold weather and precipitation.    


 The Greater St. Cloud Development Corporation is trying to reach central Minnesota businesses that have operations in the Bakken oil fields.  There's a meeting tomorrow (Thursday) to talk about exploring options for air service between St. Cloud and western North Dakota.  Development Corporation President Patti Gartland says the first thing they need to determine is what type of demand there is locally, and whether there's enough "critical mass" to improve flight availability.  Gartland says businesses currently must drive their employees out to the Williston, North Dakota area or charter expensive flights.  The meeting will be at St. Cloud regional Airport Thursday at 9:00 a.m. and it's open to any business that may be interested.


 Tomorrow (May 15th) is "Rise Above Seizures Day" in Minnesota.  The non-profit Epilepsy Foundation of Minnesota is hosting a contest to help raise awareness about the condition, which affects 60-thousand people in Minnesota and North Dakota.  The Foundation's Vicki Kopplin says entrants can order a special free, red balloon -- and then send photos and video of the creative way they display it.  The person or organization with the best display wins two airline tickets.  For more details on the contest, visit epilepsyfoundationmn-dot-org.  Gopher football coach Jerry Kill will throw out the first pitch at Thursday's Twins vs Red Sox game at Target Field.  


A new study by Wallet Hub says Minneapolis is the best city in the U.S. for small business.  Using ten different factors, such as net job growth, average wages, and cost of living, Minneapolis ranked number one among the largest cities in the U.S.  


Assault charges are expected to be filed today against Trevor Shelley for allegedly attacking former Minnesota State Mankato football player Isaac Kolstad on Sunday.  Kolstad remains in critical condition after surgery yesterday.  Former Minnesota Golden Gophers quarterback Philip Nelson was charged earlier this week and posted bond.  Nelson was released yesterday from the Rutgers University football team, where he had transferred after this past season from Minnesota.


A man who allegedly flashed a handgun at another driver on Interstate 694 Tuesday morning turned out to be a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agent.  According to the Minnesota State Patrol, the agent allegedly displayed the gun on the highway in Brooklyn Park, and was followed into Minneapolis on I-94 by the other driver.  Part of the freeway was closed down for authorities to make the arrest, and the ATF agent was released after his credentials were confirmed.  The incident remains under investigation by the State Patrol and ATF.


Superior Police are investigating a child abuse case after the mother of a 3-month-old boy called to report injuries to her son.  When officers arrived at the home they found the infant's body covered in bite marks - on his legs, torso, and face.  The child's 24-year-old father was arrested at the home and taken to jail.  The baby's injuries are limited to severe bruising and he was treated at the hospital and then went home with his mother.