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At last, there's a light at the end of the bridge. The Minnesota Department of Transportation announced Wednesday that it hopes to move up the replacement process of the Hastings bridge to June 2010. "We have established a goal of getting the Hastings bridge under contract by June 1, 2010," MnDOT Commissioner Bob McFarlin said in a press release. "Achieving this objective will require significant cooperation from our local, state and federal partners.
ST. PAUL - Many coaches working with Minnesota school children are hired without first submitting to a criminal background check. That's surprising to many, and some lawmakers want to do something about it. Though most, if not all, head coaches in Minnesota's schools undergo criminal background checks, the same precaution is not always taken for assistant and volunteer coaches. "It's important to have a consistent policy regarding background checks on coaches," said Rep. Karla Bigham, DFL-Cottage Grove. "We don't want some districts to do it and some don't.
ST. PAUL - Minnesota's diesel vehicles will burn more renewable fuel if state policymakers agree on a plan to boost biodiesel production. Proponents of increasing biodiesel fuel use in Minnesota by tenfold in the coming years are optimistic the plan will be put into law this year. It would be the next step in Minnesota's pursuit of increased renewable fuel production. At a farm festival last summer, Gov. Tim Pawlenty said Minnesota should expand the use of biodiesel in the state's diesel supply from 2 percent to 20 percent.
House and Senate plans to cover an expected $935 million budget deficit vary, but the two and Gov. Tim Pawlenty's plans contain more similarities than differences. House, Senate and the governor's plans cut the most from health and human services programs. The bill senators will debate would cut those programs nearly $200 million out of a $9 billion budget. The House would chop $133 million and the governor's plan cuts more than $530 million. In all three budget plans, public school classrooms would not be cut; in fact, the House and Senate budgets increase spending slightly.
The Minnesota Vikings should not count on money from legislators this year to begin building a new stadium. "I guess we are going to have to figure that out next year," Assistant Senate Majority Leader Tarryl Clark, DFL-St. Cloud, said Friday. A provision in the Senate tax bill requires a new study for a new Vikings stadium, which Gov. Tim Pawlenty said must be at least the 10th such study. The football team would pay $1 million and the state the other $1 million needed for the study. House leaders were cool toward the idea and Pawlenty was strongly against it.
The House passed 81-51 its version of a bill that allows Minnesotans to sue their insurance companies for failing to act in "good faith." The measure is similar to one senators earlier passed, but there are enough differences that a House-Senate conference committee will need to work out differences. "It is a right which literally every other citizen in the United States possesses right now ... that their insurance companies should act in good faith," Rep. Joe Atkins, DFL-Inver Grove Heights, said. "It helps the little guy against big insurance companies," he added. Rep.
ST. PAUL - A statewide smoking ban has cost Minnesota's charitable gambling industry $100 million a year in revenue, according to a report that confirmed ban opponents' predictions. Ban supporters questioned the report. Charitable gambling organizations in recent years have experienced a steady, 2.5-percent annual decline in gross receipts, Tom Barrett, executive director of the Minnesota Gambling Control Board, told lawmakers Monday. But in the last three months of 2007 - after the smoking ban went into effect - receipts dropped 12.8 percent from the same period in 2006.
Minnesota House Democrats would boost K-12 funding to students 1 percent next year under a supplemental budget bill unveiled Wednesday. And Assistant House Majority Leader Frank Moe, DFL-Bemidji, would eliminate operating referendums on property taxes as a way to fund schools. Moe had a hearing on his bill Tuesday in the House K-12 Finance Committee, and said later in an interview that he intends to attach the bill as an amendment to this year's omnibus education bill. On Wednesday, House K-12 Education Finance Division Chairwoman Mindy Greiling, DFL-Roseville, outlined a $49 million supple
A non-profit organization plans to ask Minnesotans about problems they see in the health care system, and how they think those problems could be solved. "21st Century Community Conversations on Health Care" will be held in several communities, but pre-registration is required at www.mnfirst.org . Meetings will be 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday in Albert Lea, Andover, Brainerd, Cloquet, Hutchinson, Marshall, Moorhead, Roseau and St. Paul. Only 20 people will be allowed per site.
Results of a new report no doubt will bolster arguments to increase Minnesota's requirement that 10 percent of gasoline be ethanol. Ethanol fuel, now mostly produced from corn, does not harm engines in blends up to 20 percent, state officials said. "Using homegrown renewable fuel is an important part of Americanizing our energy future and unhooking our country from foreign sources of oil," Gov. Tim Pawlenty said. "This study shows that we can safely increase the amount of ethanol blended with gasoline for use in today's vehicles."