The city of Park Rapids is back to normal after a potentially explosive case of mistaken identity on Thursday. The Crow Wing County bomb squad was called in to diffuse a donation that looked like dynamite left at a recycling store. A good portion of Park Rapids was closed off as authorities examined the box which turned out to contain old road flares.
A man is in custody after the bodies of a man and woman were found in a home in the suburb of Eden Prairie. No identities have been offered on the bodies found after a welfare check early Thursday. A 38-year old man was brought in as a person of interest in the case which is now being investigated by the Hennepin County crime lab.
Extra patrols are out across southern Minnesota this holiday weekend. The State Patrol is teaming up with South Dakota authorities to watch for speeding, texting and seatbelt use on Interstate-90.
Lawmakers finished their work on the state budget around 3 o’clock this morning, adjourned the special session and went home. House Speaker Kurt Daudt says Republicans accomplished what they set out to accomplish, including “the largest amount of tax relief in 20 years…. We have a historic amount of road and bridge money…. In fact, it’s the largest transportation increase without a gas tax [increase] in state history.” Republicans and Governor Mark Dayton both wanted to spend more money than is in the transportation budget, but couldn’t agree how to pay for it. House Democratic Minority Leader Melissa Hortman says, “With Republicans in control of the House and the Senate, these may be the best budgets we’re able to get through.” Hortman says the health and human services budget the legislature passed in the final hours of the special session is “really a cruel bill” and will hurt elderly people and those with disabilities.
The Minnesota Legislature just before adjourning also passed a 988-million-dollar bonding bill for state public works projects — a replacement for the bill that failed one year ago. D-F-L Representative Alice Hausman from Saint Paul says she’s never seen a bonding bill pass so fast and so overwhelmingly: “And what that tells you is, we all worked together. It’s fair to all, everybody’s reflected in this bill, and so the support is broad.”
There’s 120 million dollars in the bonding bill for the U-of-M, including 66 million for a health sciences education facility. Minnesota State colleges and universities get 92 million dollars. There’s 254 million dollars for transportation projects, including rail crossing upgrades in Moorhead and Red Wing. 70 million dollars goes for upgrades at the state Security Hospital in Saint Peter, 15 million for the Duluth steam plant, and 12 million for a miners memorial on the Iron Range. The bonding bill designates 117 million dollars for water and sewer projects around the state, including three-and-a-half million for the Lewis and Clark Regional Water System in southwest Minnesota.
Protesters were back at the Capitol Thursday night, urging Governor Mark Dayton to veto a bill banning drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants in Minnesota. Catalina Morales says, “If immigrants pay taxes, if immigrants support this economy, if immigrants have built this country, it is time that we at least should get [a] drivers license, minimum.” The governor said earlier he strongly disagrees with banning drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants, but contends to reach agreement on a public safety budget bill he had to go along with Republicans’ demand.
As legislators waited early this morning for the last of the budget bills to be wrapped up and floor debate to begin, Representative Bob Loonan brought out his harmonica and played traditional favorites for his colleagues. The Shakopee Republican reportedly said he’d only bring out the bagpipes if the legislative session spilled over to the week after Memorial Day, but apparently changed his mind as Scottish strains were heard early Friday morning at the State Capitol.
Minnesota’s public schools get a two-percent increase in state funding, under an E-12 education budget bill the legislature gave final approval to Thursday night, per the agreement between Governor Mark Dayton and Republican leaders. Democratic Senator John Marty from Roseville warns of teacher layoffs even with a bump in state funding. Marty adds, “I have not heard anybody from the D-F-L or the Republican Party say, best way to improve education is lay off teachers and increase class sizes.” Republican Representative Jenifer Loon responds the increase in her bill is the largest in over 12 years. Loon says, “I can’t make any guarantees about each individual school district…, but there should not be massive layoffs with a $371-million increase, and that’s just the money for the [education] formula funding.”
The bill also provides 50 million dollars for a pre-school program called School Readiness Plus targeted toward those needing extra help. Governor Dayton was pushing to expand pre-kindergarten programs in Minnesota but compromised with Republicans on a modified approach.
A pay raise for state legislators is *not* in a final budget bill the Minnesota Legislature approved Thursday night. A special commission authorized by voters approved an increase, but House Republican leaders refused to appropriate money to pay for it. Top Senate leaders from both sides of the aisle are unhappy about that, arguing the state Constitution requires that approved salary increases be implemented. Senate Republican Majority Leader Paul Gazelka says, “We’re gonna keep working hard for that. Both Senator [Tom] Bakk and I will not give up on that one.”
House Speaker Kurt Daudt says lawmakers should not take a pay raise when many Minnesotans aren’t getting one. His political opponents say Daudt is pushing the issue because he plans to run for governor. Many analysts predict the courts will order that lawmakers get the increase.
After an investigation, authorities have confirmed that a 12-year old girl from Alexandria drowned while longboarding, a type of skateboarding back in late April. JaLysa Cook was found in about three feet of water between Lakes Cowdry and Darling on the west side of Alexandria. Cook was taken to the hospital where she died. The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office says Cook entered the water on her own before getting swept up in the current and going underwater.
A school bus driver was arrested in the west metro suburb of Minnetonka after being seen driving erratically on Highway-169. The driver had just finished dropping off a group of special-needs students in New Hope. She was reportedly arrested on suspicion of driving while impaired by drugs, after completing field sobriety tests. The driver has not been charged.
The city of Park Rapids is back to normal after a potentially explosive case of mistaken identity on Thursday. The Crow Wing County bomb squad was called in to diffuse a donation that looked like dynamite left at a recycling store. A good portion of Park Rapids was closed off as authorities examined the box […]