Today on the MPR News Update, state lawmakers consider extending the sales tax to clothing, farmland prices are so high that new farmers can't find a row to hoe, Ramsey County officials take new steps to combat teen runaways and child sec trafficking, and the Bottineau light rail line in the Twin Cities faces another hurdle today at the Met Council.
TAXING CLOTHES? As Minnesota lawmakers once again find themselves facing a projected budget shortfall, some of the first bills they are looking at would extend the state sales tax to clothing. Supporters say that taxing clothes could help stabilize sales tax revenue and could bring in enough money to offset lowering the overall sales tax rate. Critics worry that Minnesota retailers would lose a competitive edge. We went to Heimie's Haberdashery in downtown St. Paul for some reaction.
FARMLAND PRICES DASH DREAMS: Farm fields in southwest Minnesota are frozen now, but Josh DeGreeff has a vision of a warm spring day. The sun is shining and he's on a tractor, planting his first crop. After working full-time for a farm family the last three years, DeGreeff feels he is ready to get out on his own. The problem is, land prices are skyrocketed and DeGreef has found himself priced out of the market.
TEEN SEC TRAFFICKING: Research shows that Minnesota girls who run away from their homes are not only more vulnerable to being sold for sex, but also face a higher risk of being raped or sexually abused in other ways. In Ramsey County, police, prosecutors, advocates, and nurses are focusing on runaways as they take on the broader fight against juvenile prostitution. And they're looking at ways to implement their approach statewide.
EARLY VOTING: There was a lot of focus on the state's election system last fall and with the DFL party now in control of state government, it could be a prime opportunity for Democrats to pass election law that would favor them in future elections. DFL leaders say that won't happen. However, there will likely be some changes to the system. The chairman of the House Elections Committee, DFL-er Steve Simon of St. Louis Park, spoke with MPR's Cathy Wurzer about possible legislation this session.
BOTTINEAU LIGHT RAIL: A light rail line planned for the northwest metro inches closer to becoming a reality Monday as Met Council officials meet to take preliminary action on the so-called Bottineau line. The council's transportation committee will decide whether to approve the first steps of the next phase of the line, which includes planning for the 13-mile route between Brooklyn Park and downtown Minneapolis.
RUSSIAN ADOPTION BAN: On the same day that thousands of people marched through Moscow to protest Russia's new law banning Americans from adopting Russian children, about a dozen Minnesota families concerned about the ban's impact met with U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar on Sunday to discuss how they might be affected by the new law.
TRAGEDY FOR MISSISIPPI FAMILY: Three members of a Mississippi family died and one was critically injured on an icy highway in northern Minnesota, the State Patrol reported Sunday. The one-vehicle rollover happed Saturday evening on U.S. Highway 2, about nine miles east of Cass Lake.
HEALTH EXCHANGE CRITICISM: Some members of a task force considering a state health insurance exchange voiced concerns last week about the governance structure proposed in bipartisan legislation. Lawmakers have introduced a bill that calls for a seven-member board to oversee the exchange. But health care attorney Mary Foarde says the bill leaves board member selection in the hands of the governor and legislative leaders. "All of the board members are political appointees," she said.
ICE BREAKER: Nearly one week after a tentative labor deal was agreed to by the league and its players, the sides agreed to a required memorandum of understanding on Saturday night that truly makes the lockout a thing of the past. Training camps will open on Sunday, and a 48-game regular season will begin next Saturday.
FLU SHOTS: Patients can refuse a flu shot. Should doctors and nurses have that right, too? That is the thorny question surfacing as U.S. hospitals increasingly crack down on employees who won't get flu shots, with some workers losing their jobs over their refusal.
FOOD STAMPS: More of Minnesota's elderly residents are signing up for food stamps. In 2012, the number of elderly on Minnesota's food stamp rolls jumped by more than 2,500 people. That was largely the result of a campaign by state officials and anti-hunger groups encouraging senior citizens to sign up. Older people have historically been reluctant to enroll in the program.