Shutdown 2011: July 8, 2011 Archive

Get me to the museum on time!

Posted at 10:30 AM on July 8, 2011 by Tim Nelson (0 Comments)

history center.jpgThe Minnesota Historical Society has closed some of its marquee destinations, like the Mill City Museum and the Minnesota History Center.

But besides being popular historical attractions, they're also matrimonial destinations. Both regularly host weddings in their event spaces and public areas.

Fear not, though: brides aren't being left without an altar. At the Mill City Museum and the History Center, private catering contractors actually control the space, and they aren't shutting down. "All the events are still happening," said a catering manager at D'Amico, which runs the Mill City Museum space.

Don Jensen's Linen Effects is one of the area's biggest wedding vendors. His company provides table linens, chair covers and all matter of event accoutrement. And they're still still working in some state locations, despite the shutdown.

Caterers are actually telling his staff it's kind of a welcome break. "They don't have to shoo people away" from the preparations, Jensen says.

Photo: Minnesota Historical Society

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Around MN: frustration mounts

Posted at 7:53 AM on July 8, 2011 by Michael Olson (2 Comments)

No new talks planned between Gov. Dayton and GOP leaders as Minnesota enters the second week of the government shutdown. There's little sense of optimism in news coverage around the state.

Rep. Larry Howes, R-Walker, is certain there's a way out of the impasse but it hasn't been found yet.

"If it (the shutdown) goes another two weeks it will be tough," he said. "If it goes to State Fair time, I see it going to January."

Rep. Mike LeMieur, R-Little Falls, said he hasn't heard much of any impending breakthrough, although the governor and Republican lawmakers are trying to get together. He said Republicans would like to get a lights-on bill to get some of the state employees back to work but Gov. Mark Dayton has refused to go along with that idea (Brainerd Dispatch).

Most news organizations relied on the wire to cover the Mondale-Carlson proposed compromise.

Original reporting this morning is focused on emerging shutdown related problems.

The lack of inspectors is expected to hamper efforts to build a new hospital near Mankato.

Kevin Burns, a spokesman for Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato, said the hospital's $29.5 million renovation of its emergency room needs state inspectors to review concrete and rebar, and Department of Health inspectors need to review expansion plans for the hospital's specialty clinic and heart center.

Department of Labor and Industry inspectors were supposed to be in early this week inspect concrete work. And next week, state electrical inspectors were slated to walk through and inspect all the wiring installed so far.

"It does reach a point where we cannot work on that particular aspect of the project until those inspectors give us clearance," Burns said. "There is other work going on in that project, but we may get to a point where the lack of these inspections will force delays in other aspects of the project that had not been affected so far." (Mankato Free Press)

KSTP reports that the shutdown is keeping Steel Toe Brewery from being able to open its doors.

22,000 state workers are out of a job. Some are looking for another job, others are trying to make the best of the time off.

Mike Denis prepared for a little walleye time. A short fishing trip to Devils Lake where his camper and boat await the angler. Mike works in the maintenance shop at Moorhead's DOT. (WDAY)

Help us cover this story. Share your observations and experiences with the shutdown with MPR.

Today's Question: After one week, how is the state shutdown affecting you?

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Food inspectors scarce at fairs, festivals

Posted at 10:00 AM on July 8, 2011 by Catharine Richert (0 Comments)
Filed under: Health

Fairgoers beware: food inspectors will be scarce at Minnesota's summer fairs and festivals.

20100827_food-tester_39.jpg

With only 20 percent of its food inspection staff on the job, the Minnesota Department of Human Services says they'll only be focusing on inspecting food at the largest events around the state.

MPR's Lorna Benson writes,

Inspectors will only go to fairs and festivals that are expected to draw 10,000 people or more, said Health Department spokesman John Stieger.

State food safety inspectors will visit food vendors at all the big festivals and fairs, including Moondance Jam in Walker next week and WE Fest in Detroit Lakes in early August.

"We'd actually be able to get out to those events with the staffing that we have," Stieger said. "So that's basically how we arrived at that number."

Read the entire story here.

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Shutdown trivia

Posted at 11:00 AM on July 8, 2011 by Catharine Richert (0 Comments)

Here's your Shutdown 2011 trivia for the day:

If the shutdown lasts until Sunday, it will be the longest state government shutdown since 2002, reports MPR's Tom Scheck.

You can read his entire story here.

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'Til shutdown ends, record-breaking rock bass is a fish story

Posted at 12:30 PM on July 8, 2011 by Catharine Richert (20 Comments)
Filed under: Parks and Outdoors

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For Travis Renecker, the government shutdown could not have come at a worse time for his fishing career.

Over Independence Day weekend, Renecker was fishing with his brother Rusty on Big Cormorant Lake when he caught a huge rock bass - what he believes is a record-busting fish.

"I think I have the world record frozen in a 5 gallon bucket in my freezer," Renecker wrote MPR this week.

Trouble is, he can't make it official until after the government shutdown ends. That's because Department of Natural Resources officials in charge of certifying his catch have been laid off.

I caught up with Renecker over the phone to hear more about his fish. He told me that the beast is about 19 inches long and he thinks it weighs in the range of 4 pounds; most rock bass are less than 10 inches long, and the state record is a mere 2 pounds.

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(That's Travis in the picture holding up his big fish. The quality isn't great because the pictures were taken with his brother's cell phone.)

Renecker may have also broken national and world records as well, according to the International Game Fish Association. Herbert Ratner Jr. caught a 3 pound rock bass in Lake Erie, PA back in 1998, and Peter Gulgin caught a 3 pounder in Ontario, Canada in 1974.

John Store, owner of Quality Bait and Tackle in Detroit Lakes, MN, said that if Renecker's measurements are correct, "he's got a big one."

Until the government shutdown is over and he can get it registered with the DNR, Renecker is storing the specimen in his freezer.

And if the fish turns out not to be the winner he hopes it is, Renecker's got another plan: smoke it and eat it.

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DHS: A complex agency at the heart of budget impasse

Posted at 1:00 PM on July 8, 2011 by Catharine Richert (1 Comments)
Filed under: Budget, Health

Madeleine Baran's analysis of the Department of Human Services, which has found itself in the middle of the states budget impasse and of the government shutdown, is a must read.

Madeleine's done a fanastic job of sorting out where DHS gets its money, and why it has become a political flashpoint in this epic debate over the state's finances.

I feel smarter having read it. Here's her entire story.

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Shutdown boosts Iowa lottery sales, hurts racing revenue

Posted at 3:12 PM on July 8, 2011 by Catharine Richert (0 Comments)
Filed under: Cities, Counties

This article in the Des Moines Register caught my eye.

According to the story, lottery ticket sales at stores along the Iowa-Minnesota boarder are getting a boost. The Minnesota Lottery has been shuttered during the shutdown.

The story quotes Iowa Lottery Vice President Mary Neubauer:

"We have checked with locations in a few different communities that are along the major highways that run between Iowa and Minnesota, and stores there are seeing an increase in Iowa Lottery sales."

The Jo Stop convenience store along Interstate Highway 35 near Northwood, which is just south of Albert Lea, Minn., has seen lottery sales running at two to three times normal. The North Star Express, another Northwood-area convenience store, reports lottery sales up 25 percent, Neubauer said.

Speaking of lost revenue, MPR's Annie Baxter takes a look at how Canterbury Park, a horse racing track in Shakopee, MN, is faring during the shutdown. The facility must remain closed because the Minnesota Racing Commission, which oversees Canterbury, is not considered a core government function.

Already, the park has been forced to lay off 1,000 of it's 1,300 employees. But Baxter reports that the shutdown is having a ripple effect on businesses in the surrounding area.

She writes,

Worker layoffs mean lost tourism and decreased spending for places like Canterbury. Lost revenue is one of the biggest costs of the shutdown, according to the economic forecasting firm Moody's Analytics. It estimates that the shutdown will siphon between $60 million and $75 million out of the Minnesota economy over a two-week period.

Read the rest of Baxter's story here.


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Budget showdown: MN vs. D.C.

Posted at 3:40 PM on July 8, 2011 by Catharine Richert (1 Comments)
Filed under: Budget

With all the debate that's over Minnesota's budget impasse and subsequent government shutdown, it's easy to forget that lawmakers in Washington are grappling with the same troublesome issues of spending and deficits.

Right now, President Barack Obama and members of Congress are at odds over whether to raise the debt ceiling and how to curb the nation's long-term spending deficits; Democrats want to see more revenue and Republicans are opposed to the idea.

Similar arguments are being made here in Minnesota, writes MPR's Brett Neely. He writes,

The debates are similar enough that members of Minnesota's congressional delegation are even taking heat for the state government shutdown. Over the July 4 weekend, Republican U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack was at a parade in Brainerd.

"There were a few people that were shouting out, 'Hey, you guys should be back to work,'" Cravaack said. "And I said, 'I'm on the federal side, but we'll probably be having that conversation in about a month.'"

Both in Minnesota and in Washington, Republicans like Cravaack say spending cuts, not tax increases, should be used to balance the budget.

For more on how Minnesota's budget battle mirrors the one happening in Washington, check out today's Midday interview with Minnesota native and political scientist Norm Ornstein.

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Weekly wrap-up

Posted at 5:52 PM on July 8, 2011 by Catharine Richert (2 Comments)
Filed under: Budget

The shutdown had its one-week birthday today. There are no budget meetings scheduled for the weekend.

But we have learned a few important things.

The court has issued a flurry of rulings dealing with services that were initially deemed non-essential. Among other services now open are the Minnesota Zoo, the Department of Human Services licensing division, and funding for some programs for the disabled and elderly.

Expect the court to issue more rulings next week.

A group of budget experts put forth their own plan to close the deficit, but neither Republicans or Democrats seem especially warm to the proposal.

The most recent budget offer came from Gov. Mark Dayton on Wednesday. He said he would agree to raising taxes temporarily on those making more than $1 million annually or increase taxes on cigarettes. Republicans said no to both plans.

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Shutdown threatens some bars and restaurants

Posted at 4:51 PM on July 8, 2011 by Catharine Richert (1 Comments)

Here's an interesting angle on the shutdown from MPR's Brandt Williams:

As my colleague Annie Baxter pointed out this morning, the longer the shutdown continues, the more private business are feeling the pinch. Add to that some bars, restaurants and liquor stores that are delinquent in their tax payments.

The Department of Revenue has listed more than 100 establishments across Minnesota that cannot receive shipments of booze until the shutdown is over. The list appears here. Under state law, a liquor license holder can only buy its supply of spirits from a licensed wholesaler. License holders who are behind on their taxes get placed on a list. It's against state law for wholesalers to sell to licensees on the list. It is also against the law for a business on the list to go around the system by buying liquor from another retailer.

The Department of Revenue's assistant commissioner for individual taxes, Terri Steenblock, says businesses had until the end of the day on June 28 to make their payments and avoid being placed on the list which was posted on the evening of June 29. She says while the department is collecting tax revenue during the shutdown, it is not a critical function to remove businesses from the delinquent list.

I called and visited several bars and restaurants on the list, but they all told me they had gotten their payments taken care of before the shutdown. When I stopped by Duplex in south Minneapolis, I saw lunch patrons enjoying wine and beer. The manager told me they weren't having a problem with their booze supply.

Steenblock says delinquent bars and restaurants may continue to sell booze they already have in stock.

However, many Minneapolis establishments need to restock each week. That's according to Grant Wilson, deputy director of licenses and consumer services for the city of Minneapolis. He says one bar on the delinquency list, The Independent in Calhoun Square, has been cited twice by the city for illegally restocking their shelves.

He says the shutdown will also affect liquor licensees that haven't applied for, or renewed their buyer's card. The $20 buyer's card is required for businesses to receive their booze shipments from wholesalers. Wilson says the card applications and renewals - which are handled through the state's Department of Public Safety - are also not deemed essential services.

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Judge: Financial crime investigators not 'essential workers'

Posted at 5:32 PM on July 8, 2011 by Madeleine Baran (0 Comments)
Filed under: Courts


A judge has ruled that seven detectives who investigate financial crime for the state commerce department are not essential workers. Ramsey County Judge Kathleen Gearin denied the state police detectives' petition on Friday. She wrote that while law enforcement is a core government function, the court doesn't have the authority to determine how many and what types of officers should remain on the job.

MPR's Laura Yuen reported on the petition this week. At the hearing yesterday, one of the detectives, Jonathan Ferris, asked to be allowed to return to work. He said:

As members of the law enforcement profession, each of us took an oath to uphold the constitution, our community and the agency we serve. We take that oath very seriously. As law enforcement officers, we ask that you allow us to recognize that oath and allow us to perform our duties.

Yuen writes:

The insurance-fraud division investigates financial crimes and takes down scammers and swindlers. Ferris said county and federal prosecutors often charge the targets of the investigations with felonies, including racketeering and arson.

The judge's ruling is available online here.

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Shutdown closes hotline for seniors, new hotline opens

Posted at 8:55 PM on July 8, 2011 by Madeleine Baran (0 Comments)

Who knew a free information service for older adults could get this complicated?

The Senior Linkage Line closed last week due to the shutdown. This week, a North St. Paul agency created a similar hotline to provide temporary help until the regular hotline can get back up and running.

Guess who's staffing the temporary hotline? The same people who answered the phone before the shutdown. But it's a different phone number, and the voicemail message for the now-closed Senior Linkage Line doesn't mention the new hotline.

Confused yet? Here's what happened:

The group, the Metropolitan Area Agency on Aging, had a contract with the state to answer the phones for the seven-county metro area. (Other agencies had contracts to answer the phones in the rest of Minnesota.) Executive director Dawn Simonson says her agency has enough money to continue to answer the phones, but that wasn't an option.

The hotline wasn't deemed an "essential service" and was shut down. Before the shutdown, state workers provided logistical help with the phone service and kept a computer database running, Simonson said. Without those workers and a state contract, the hotline was out of luck.

That worried Simonson and others at the agency. "It's well known," she said, "and with it gone, I think older adults don't readily know where to go for the kind of service we provide under the Linkage Line."

So the agency decided to use the same employees to start its phone help line. Staff are available Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. to answer questions about in-home services, respite, meals and other food support, transportation, housing, Medicare and other public benefits. They also provide information for caregivers. The number is: 651-251-5762.

The agency can't access their computer database that includes information on more complicated requests from frequent callers. And the state online resource database they relied on has also shut down.

Simonson said other agencies are also providing information over the phone during the shutdown. (A full list is below) Because the temporary number is meant for seven-county metro residents, Simonson said it would be too confusing to include it on the Senior Linkage Line's voicemail message.

If you call the Senior Linkage Line right now, here's what you hear:

Thank you for calling the Senior Linkage Line. If this is an emergency, please hang up and dial 911. Due to the state government shutdown, the Senior Linkage Line is closed and will remain closed for the duration of the shutdown. You may choose to leave a voicemail. However, we do not know when a specialist will be available to return your call. When the Senior Linkage Line service resumes, the specialists will return all voicemails as soon as possible. Should you choose to leave a voicemail, please leave a message after the tone, including your name, number and reason for calling. For more information, please go to www.bereadymn.com.

On Friday, 31 people called the new information line. Simonson said the Senior Linkage Line usually receives 100 to 130 calls a day from the Twin Cities metro area. But she said people are spreading the word about the new number. Callers today reported hearing about the new hotline from insurance companies, websites, Hennepin County workers and the State Attorney General's office.


Resources:

Aging Services Information Line (651-251-5762) - The phone line is staffed Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. It's for people in the seven-county metro area (Anoka, Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey, Scott and Washington counties).

The Disability Linkage Line is also closed, but Simonson said the Metropolitan Center for Independent Living is taking calls to fill the gap during the shutdown. (651-603-2005)

The Long-Term Care Ombudsman Office is open with limited staff to help people with questions related to care and rights in nursing homes. The Department of Human Services' website lists two numbers for the office: 1-800-657-3591 and 651-431-2555.

Arrowhead Area Agency on Aging, Duluth, 800-232-0707 and 218-722-5545

Central Minnesota Council on Aging, St. Cloud, 320-253-9349

Land of the Dancing Sky Area Agency on Aging, Warren, 218-745-6733

Minnesota River Area Agency on Aging, 507-389-8866

Southeastern Minnesota Area Agency on Aging, 507-288-6944

Minnesota Chippewa Tribe Area Agency on Aging, 888-231-7886 and 218-335-8585


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