State employees nearer to pay raise; plant fanatics up a treeby Matt Sepic, Minnesota Public Radio,
Hart Van Denburg, Minnesota Public Radio
In the news today, Minnesota state workers are getting closer to their first pay raise in more than three years. St. Paul considers shutting down drug evidence testing at its troubled police crime lab. Sen. Amy Klobuchar introduces a plan to make it easier for American companies to hire skilled foreign workers. And Edina schools will start before Labor Day.
PAY RAISE: A 2 percent pay increase for thousands of state employees is one step closer to reality after legislative action yesterday. The joint Subcommittee on Employee Relations is recommending the Legislature approve state contracts for thousands of state employees.
CRIME LAB: St. Paul police may decide to pay the state to conduct all drug analysis rather than resume testing at the troubled St. Paul police crime lab. The police lab suspended drug testing six months ago amid allegations of contamination and shoddy work.
EDINA SCHOOLS: The Edina School Board has approved a plan to start school before Labor Day, despite the objections of many parents. The board voted unanimously to begin classes on Aug. 25, starting with the 2014-2015 school year.
TUITION HIKES: University of Minnesota finances chief Richard Pfutzenreuter says colleges raise tuition in part, simply because they can.
JOB CUTS: Boston Scientific, which has a significant Minnesota presence, plans to cut as many as 1,000 additional jobs this year as the company expands a push to reduce operating expenses.
IMMIGRATION: DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar, along with Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, are introducing a bill today to help legal immigrants with advanced skills in science and technology to continue working in the United States.
HEROIN USE: A new report on drug trends in the Twin Cities shows heroin use remains a growing problem, while the abuse surrounding of opiate-based pain killers, like methadone and OxyContin, may be slowing.
WITCH'S BROOMS: Have you bought any shrubs or landscape plants lately? Chance are, they originated in a witches broom. We're not talking Harry Potter here, but rather about small, tightly woven masses of branches that can appear high up in pine trees across northern Minnesota. These "brooms" are actually the genetic source of a lot of the landscape plants and shrubs sold at nurseries. But they're often not easy to retrieve, as we found when we joined the "broom hunters."
BOY SCOUTS: Facing diverse and ceaseless protests, the Boy Scouts of America is signaling its readiness to end the nationwide exclusion of gays as scouts or leaders and give the sponsors of local troops the freedom to decide the matter for themselves.
IMMIGRATION: Side by side, leading Democratic and Republican senators pledged Monday to propel far-reaching immigration legislation through the Senate by summer providing a possible path to citizenship for an estimated 11 million people now in the U.S. illegally.
A TASTE: The Taste of Minnesota festival may return to St. Paul this summer, three years after it was forced into bankruptcy.
ART HERO: Maria Genne, the founder and artistic director of Kairos Dance, used to have a career that focused on dancing with young people. But as she grew older, Genne began looking at how she could create dance in which everyone felt welcome.
Matt Sepic is a newscaster and general assignment reporter for MPR News.