MPR News Update

The State of the State, the decline of the moose and the meaning of 'The Book of Mormon'

by Phil Picardi, Minnesota Public Radio,
Hart Van Denburg, Minnesota Public Radio

Feb 7, 2013

Today on the MPR News Update: The governor signals his support for same sex marriage, the impact of the sequester for Minnesota, the embattled St. Paul Police crime lab won't be drug testing anymore, the moose population is in dramatic decline and a theologian looks at a wildly popular show now playing in the Twin Cities.

STATE OF THE STATE: Gov. Mark Dayton used his third State of the State address last night to make an expected defense of his budget proposal. But he also used his pulpit to declare support for legalizing same sex marriage. Dayton stopped short of calling on legislators to send him a marriage bill to sign this session, but he told a joint convention of the House and Senate that he wants Minnesotans to marry whomever they choose. Tim Pugmire was there. And the transcript of his speech is here.

PULLTAB GAMBLING REVENUE FALLS SHORT - AGAIN: Minnesota's roll out of electronic pull tabs continues to fall short of revenue projections. After a strong debut in a handful of bars in September, the expansion of the games designed to help fund the new Vikings stadium has been slow, and the games in bars aren't drawing the crowds backers had hoped. Now, Tim Nelson reports that calls for change are starting at the Capitol.

STADIUM WATCH: In related news, we just launched the new Stadium Watch blog, which tracking more than a billion dollars worth of pro sports facilities development underway in the Twin Cities for the Vikings, the Timberwovles and the St. Paul Saints.

SEQUESTRATION DAMAGE ASSESSMENT: Experts say sequestration, the across-the-board budget cuts scheduled to kick in March 1 that were part of the 2011 debt limit deal, wouldn't hit Minnesota as hard as it would other states. Brett Neely reports that Minnesota Management and Budget says the state is ranked 49th in terms of federal dollars spent per resident, which would lessen the impact seen in Minnesota.

COSTS MORE, DOES LESS: The St. Paul City Council released more than a million dollars in funding to fix the troubled St. Paul police crime lab. The lab will not resume drug testing, work which will be outsourced, but instead will focus on fingerprints, crime scene processing, video analysis and reconstructing crash scenes. Madeleine Baran has more here.

DYING MOOSE: The DNR announced the results of its annual aerial survey yesterday. It shows the northeastern Minnesota moose population at about 2,700 -- down from about 4,200 just a year ago, representing a 35 percent drop. Elizabeth Dunbar reports it's a bigger decline than the DNR expected, and has prompted cancelation of this year's moose hunting season.

"BOOK OF MORMON": The touring production of the Broadway musical "The Book of Mormon" is now playing in the Twin Cities. It's a story about two Mormon missionaries who are sent to Africa. As you might expect from something written by the creators of "South Park," the show is outrageous and profane. Morning Edition producer Jim Bickal went to see the show with Bruce Forbes, an ordained United Methodist minister and professor of Religious Studies at Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa.

POSTAL SERVICE REACTION: News that the postal service plans to trim its delivery to five days a week has letter carriers worried. Ending Saturday delivery service is expected to save the U.S. Postal Service about $2 billion. But in Minnesota and surrounding states, it may cost thousands of jobs, Tim Nelson reports.

BURNED SUGAR WORKER: Officials are saying little about an accident that seriously burned a worker at the American Crystal Sugar Co. plant in East Grand Forks last week. A Crystal Sugar spokesman says the man "came into contact with lot liquid and was burned," and that the Moorhead-based sugar beet processor is investigating.

FLOOD REPAIR MONEY: The impact from flooding last year continues to be felt: The Rushford-Peterson and Moose Lake districts plan to join forces to ask the Legislature for $20 million each to offset part of their rebuilding expenses, hopeful that a collective approach will boost their chances. Liz Baier has more.

CONFLICTED OF INTEREST? Liz Baier also reports that some residents in Red Wing say their mayor, Dennis Egan, should not have accepted a job with the newly created Minnesota Industrial Sand Council. It's a group of companies with interests in silica sand mining -- a quickly growing industry that is also creating controversy in a number of cities and counties in southeastern Minnesota, including Red Wing.

EATING ELY: The mere mention of the phrase "February in Minnesota" is enough to get some people sprinting to the airport for a flight to somewhere tropical, or least vaguely Southern. But, if you love ice fishing or other winter sports, or you're just looking to embrace winter and have a good time in the deep freeze, you might head the opposite direction, to a place like Ely. Food writer James Norton from the Heavy Tabletraveled there for a cold long weekend in January, and came back with a sampling of the town's local winter flavor for Tom Crann on All Things Considered.

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