>>MN House Continues Debate Over Straw Purchasing Bill

(St. Paul, MN) — Democrats in the Minnesota House appear ready to move forward with a bill in committee this morning that would make buying a firearm for a criminal (“straw purchasing”) a felony, with even tougher penalties if that person uses it within a year to commit a violent crime. Republicans have been pushing a similar bill, but Elk River Representative Paul Novotny says, “We’re not about taking credit. If they want to clone it and get it done, whatever we can do to close that straw purchase bill, that’s our goal.” But House Republicans *are* continuing to demand hearings — as tomorrow’s deadline looms — on about a half-dozen bills they say will support officers and make their jobs safer. Among them: stiffer penalties against those riding along in stolen vehicles… and making a grand jury indictment necessary to prosecute any officer who’s charged in a suspect’s death.


>>Stevens County Goat Kid Tests Positive for HPAI, 1st Case Reported in U.S.

(Stevens County, MN) – A baby goat in Stevens County tested positive for highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), the first reported case in the United States. Dr. Brian Hoefs with the Minnesota Board of Animal Health believes this is an isolated case. He says a backyard flock of 23 chickens and ducks had recently been diagnosed with bird flu around the same time the goat kid was born. Due to a “somewhat fragile and immature immune system at that point,” the goat kid could not fight off the viral load left behind by the birds that had died from the virus. Hoefs says the baby goat shared the same space and water source as the poultry flock.


>>MN DEED February Unemployment Rate Holds Steady at 2.7%

(Undated) – Minnesota’s unemployment rate held steady at 2.7% in February. DEED (Department of Employment and Economic Development) Deputy Commissioner Kevin McKinnon says the state’s labor force participation rate is at 67.9% while the national labor force participation rate stayed at 62.5%, “But our population is aging, and as people get into their 60’s and 70’s, many people want to retire.” He highlights the state’s need to draw younger workers to Minnesota and help more people who aren’t in the labor market or are underemployed to prepare for and land jobs in high-demand sectors. Over the year, Minnesota gained 37,565 payroll jobs (up 1.3%), and the private sector gained 15,274 jobs. (up 0.6%)


>>MDC Sees Homeowner Insurance Complaints Double Since 2020

(Undated) – The Minnesota Department of Commerce has noted a significant increase in homeowner insurance complaints, with numbers doubling since 2020, rising from 569 to 1,185 in 2023. Deputy Commissioner of Insurance Julia Dreier says a majority of the complaints were concerns about claims being denied, or facing high out-of-pocket costs due to wind and hail damage. She notes in the past, people’s homeowner’s insurance coverage may have covered all of a policyholder’s costs to replace things like broken roofs or siding, but not anymore. Dreier urges homeowners to review their policies during the next insurance renewal.


>>Hot Air Balloon Hits Power Lines in Rochester, 2 Passengers Suffer Minor Injuries

(Rochester, MN) — Two people are recovering from minor injuries after a hot air balloon crash Wednesday evening in Rochester. MnDOT traffic cameras captured the balloon hitting a set of power lines and sparks flying in the air. Rochester firefighters were called to the scene to put out a 100-by-100-foot grass fire. Police say the balloon detached from the basket and fell 20 to 30 feet with three passengers inside. Officers say two suffered minor injuries. The preliminary investigation indicates the balloon was trying to land in a field when a gust of wind pushed it into power lines.


>>MN DNR Recognizes International Day of Forests

(Undated) – Today is International Day of Forests. Minnesota D-N-R’s Jeremy Fauskee says it’s an important time to recognize “how important forests are to our lives, in so many ways. We’re talking about forest products. We’re just scratching the surface, too, with what potential exists in the forest for resources.” Because they are a carbon-neutral resource, Fauskee says select species – including some native to Minnesota – are being used for sustainable aviation fuels.


>>U of M Encourages Multilingualism Education

(Minneapolis, MN) – As the state and country continue to see high levels of immigration, the University of Minnesota highlights the importance of multilingualism in both native and new residents. Multilingual Professor Kendall King says many students who come to our schools have an “interrupted education,” entering formal education after missing years at a time and having to learn basic school skills. She explains, “They’re new to print, new to English, and new to school. So that requires special expertise, special approaches and it’s here where we see multilingual approaches being particularly helpful.” King says these approaches include family outreach on top of literacy and English skills, as well as community support and acceptance.


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