MPR News Update

Bachmann's push for federal highway dollars; Minnesota's war casualties; education budget haggling

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

Mar 19, 2013

Today on the MPR News Update: Remembering fallen soldiers with Minnesota times, one by one, since the 9/11 attacks. Also, questions over how to pay school districts back the money owed by the state, driver's licenses for illegal immigrants, concerns about the cost of a statewide anti-bullying bill, Michele Bachmann finds some government spending of which she approves, and lastly, is Rochester ready for growth?

REMEMBERING MINNESOTA'S FALLEN: The opening salvo of the Iraq War began early on March 19, 2003, with a U.S. bombing raid on the Dora Farms community on the outskirts of Baghdad, where the U.S. military believed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was visiting family. The following morning, March 20, Operation Iraqi Freedom began with a massive bomb attack on Baghdad and other Iraqi cities. We've compiled a brief account of military personnel with Minnesota connections who have died in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan since the onset of hostilities that followed the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

DAYTON, LAWMAKERS LIKELY TO DIFFER ON PLANS TO PAY BACK SCHOOLS: Democrats in control of the House and Senate are set to release their budget outlines this week and one key spending difference will be in the area of education. The governor says his budget plan would increase state education spending by $640 million over the next two years. The money would go to early childhood education, K-12 schools and higher education. However, Dayton's budget plan does not fully pay back what's left of a $2.4 billion K-12 payment delay that was used earlier to help balance the state budget.

DRIVERS LICENSE RESTRICTIONS FOR ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS: A Senate panel passed a bill on Monday that would let illegal immigrants get a Minnesota driver's license, the most recent development in a push at the Capitol to train and ensure more drivers who aren't U.S. citizens. The Senate Transportation and Public Safety Committee endorsed the bill on a 10-7 vote -- with all Democrats in favor and all Republicans opposing the bill -- to ease the state's restrictions on driver's licenses.

SCHOOLS WORRY ABOUT COSTS OF ANTI-BULLYING PUSH: Minnesota lawmakers are considering beefing up the state's anti-bullying law, and for the most part, school administrators applaud the effort. But as with so many pieces of legislation, there's concern over the cost. The proposed bill would require schools to implement bullying prevention programs and better document incidents of harassment.

ROCHESTER ALREADY FEELS STRAIN OF EXPANSION: As the Mayo Clinic makes expansion plans and asks for state help to build infrastructure in Minnesota's third largest city, Rochester is feeling financial strain from the rapid growth it has already seen. The city's population has doubled since 1970, standing at more than 107,000, and forecasts predict another 32,000 residents in 20 years.

NORTHERN LIGHTS EXPRESS HIGH-SPEED RAIL CLOSER: The proposed high-speed rail line between Duluth and the Twin Cities inched one step closer to possible construction Monday. The Federal Railroad Administration has released the environmental assessment for the proposed Northern Lights Express. It's now open for public comment for a month. The rail line would cost an estimated $700 million to build for trains capable of 110 mph.

BACHMANN WANTS GOVERNMENT SPENDING IN HER DISTRICT: Republican U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann held a rare news conference Monday, not to speak out against Obamacare or the high price of gas but instead to call for more transportation spending in her district.

PROTECT NATURE, POOR, WEAK: Pope Francis urged princes, presidents, sheiks and ordinary people gathered for his installation Mass on Tuesday to protect the environment, the weakest and the poorest, mapping out a clear focus of his priorities as leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics.


MINNESOTA'S HEALTH INSURANCE EXCHANGE: WHAT'S NEXT? Gov. Mark Dayton has promised to sign into law the contentious health insurance exchange bill that was approved by the House and Senate. The legislation enacts a new online marketplace where more than a million Minnesotans will obtain health insurance starting in October. But that's only the beginning of the exchange story. Here's a list of six next steps to watch for as the health exchanges take shape.

NORTH DAKOTA MAY TRY TOTAL ABORTION BAN: North Dakota lawmakers who approved what would be some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the U.S. are now considering outlawing all abortions. The "personhood" measures would ban abortions by defining human life as beginning with conception. It's drawing opposition from some doctors who say it could cause problems for infertile couples seeking to use in vitro fertilization to conceive, but supporters insist that's addressed in the legislation.

ST. PAUL CRIME LAB EVIDENCE CAN BE USED TO CONVICT AFTER RE-TESTING: A Dakota County judge has ruled that evidence from the troubled St. Paul police crime lab can be reliably retested by another lab. The ruling came in the case of Richard Ellis Hill, Jr., who was charged with selling methamphetamine to an undercover informant working for the Dakota County Drug Task Force in April 2010.

NEW, TIGHTER CONCUSSION GUIDELINES FOR YOUTH: The American Academy of Neurology based in Minneapolis says any athlete suspected of having a concussion should be immediately removed from play. The recommendation is part of an updated set of guidelines the association released Monday after an extensive review of medical studies.


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