>>Free School Lunch, Breakfast Program Pushes Past Budget

(St. Paul, MN) – Strong demand for free school breakfast and lunch has pushed costs beyond what lawmakers anticipated and we asked Governor Tim Walz, with the larger projected budget surplus if this is an area you’d like to put some additional money into, Walz says, “Yeah, that’s the hill I’m gonna die on. Our friends in the other caucus said that’s the place they’re first gonna cut.” Republicans say, that with a budget deficit looming in 2026-27, families who can afford it should not get free school breakfast and lunch at taxpayers’ expense. Democrats respond free meals must be universal to avoid stigma in the lunchroom.


>>Sen. Smith Urges VA to Improve SA Care for Veterans

(St. Paul, MN) – Senator Tina Smith is urging the Department of Veterans Affairs to improve care for victims of sexual assault. This follows a report released by the Office of Inspector General (OIG) finding significant shortfalls in care provided by VA facilities to sexual assault victims. Smith says everybody who is a victim of sexual assault deserves the proper care and support, and that’s “no different for veterans.” The report cited how only 49 of 140 facilities reviewed by the OIG provided policies or guidance for VA police on responding to allegations of sexual assault and how 42% of VA emergency departments and urgent care centers surveyed did not have rape kits available onsite.


>>Bill to Require Secure Firearm Storage Continues to Move Through the MN House

(St. Paul, MN) – Bills requiring secure storage of firearms to prevent access by children, and requiring owners to report lost or stolen weapons, are both moving forward in the Democrat-controlled Minnesota House. Among backers is Hillary Brasel from Saint Paul, whose husband Michael was fatally shot by a car thief with a gun stolen from one of the assailant’s family members. Brasel recalls “He was murdered in the front yard of our home at 7:30 on a Saturday morning… and the ripples of his death have torn apart the lives of our family, our close friends, neighbors, and countless community members.” But Karl Kauffman with the Willmar Rifle and Pistol Club asks, if someone breaks into my house with the sheriff at least 10 miles away, how do I protect my family? Activists with Moms Demand Action are applauding state lawmakers for advancing what they call critical gun safety measures.


>>Number of Handgun Permits in Minnesota Holds Steady in 2023

(St. Paul, MN) — The number of handgun permits issued in 2023 in Minnesota is about the same as in 2022. The state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension’s annual report shows sheriffs issued 65-thousand-215 firearms permits last year compared to 65-thousand-257 the previous year. More than 47 hundred crimes were committed by permit holders, but only three percent were crimes where guns were used in furtherance of a crime. Most were D-W-Is and traffic offenses. A state record of 106-thousand-488 permits were issued in 2021. There are more than 402 thousand valid gun permits in Minnesota.


>>U of M Study Shows Link Between Air Pollution, Childhood Cancer

(Undated) – A recent University of Minnesota study suggests that exposure to air pollution and vegetation may impact childhood cancer development. Dr. Lindsay Williams says when analyzing data from birth and cancer registries in Texas that estimate air pollution exposure among children who developed cancer and those who did not, they found that increasing air pollution during that early life period increases the risk of developing childhood cancer overall, and increased the risk of specific types of cancer like leukemia and some brain tumors. Williams says surprisingly, increased exposure to vegetation was linked to a reduced risk of certain brain tumors but an increased risk of other cancers. The team plans to investigate further to understand why these factors affect different cancers differently.


>>St. Louis County Sauna Fire

(Pequaywan, Township, MN) — An early morning sauna fire in Pequaywan Township. According to the St. Louis County Sheriff’s Office, the homeowners took a sauna around 9 p.m. Thursday, leaving a few embers burning in the stove before returning to the house. Around 3:00 this morning they woke to the sauna and a vehicle nearby fully engulfed in flames. No injuries were reported.


>>MN to Probably See Warmest Winter Ever Recorded

(Chanhassen, MN) – This December through February will go down as the warmest-ever meteorological winter in Minnesota. Pete Boulay with the State Climatology Office says the average statewide temperature will probably be right around 25 degrees for the winter, which is 10 degrees above normal. Boulay says this means “we’ll probably be the warmest winter on record in the state, edging out 1997-98 which is about 22-point-two degrees.” He says Minnesota only had 13 days of “real” winter where the temperature was below normal. Warroad had the most snow in the state with about 40 inches.


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