Another winter storm, different ideas on taxes, and flu vaccine questionsby Phil Picardi, Minnesota Public Radio,
Hart Van Denburg, Minnesota Public Radio
Today on the MPR News Update: Snow sends us into the weekend, there's more bad news from the St. Paul police crime lab, lawmakers consider alternates to the governor's budget proposal, other states are also fixing their budgets, and the flu vaccine isn't working that well for older folks.
SNOW: We've been live-blogging the winter since early this morning and we'll keep it going into the afternoon. Keep checking back for updates, photos, data and more.
MANAGEABLE FLOODING: The National Weather Service says there's an increased risk of spring flooding in Fargo-Moorhead, but the outlook is not raising major concerns. Recent heavy snowfalls in the southern Red River Valley mean there's more moisture to flow into rivers during the spring melt.
CRIME LAB: Prosecutors in Ramsey and Dakota counties now say they will reconsider some of the thousands of drug cases that went through the St. Paul police crime lab, which was shut down after concerns over how evidence was processed.
PLAN C: Since unveiling his $38 billion two-year budget plan a month ago, Gov. Mark Dayton has encouraged legislators to come up with a better alternative. Now they're starting to do just that, looking into options on both the tax and the revenue side of the state's balance sheet.
OTHER STATES' TAXES: In Minnesota, Gov. Mark Dayton has proposed to expand the sales tax, and lower the corporate tax rate while eliminating loopholes and raising tax rates on the wealthiest individuals in the state. But other states are taking different approaches.
SOUTHWEST LIGHT RAIL: We could get more details soon on what the Twin Cities' next light rail line will look like. The approximate path of the Southwest LRT, which will run 15 miles between downtown Minneapolis and Eden Prairie through Minnetonka, Hopkins and St. Louis Park, has been known for some time. Now, engineers are beginning to work on the specifics.
FLU VACCINE QUESTIONS: We just learned that the flu has killed another 12 people this winter. Now we're also finding out that this season's flu shot has been only 9 percent effective in protecting senior citizens against the most common and dangerous flu bug. The CDC says that for all age groups, the vaccine's effectiveness is 56 percent.
WOLF HUNT: A group of state senators has introduced a bill calling for a five year moratorium on wolf hunting in Minnesota. Some 400 wolves were killed in the recently completed wolf hunt. DFL State Sen. Chris Eaton, of Brooklyn Park, is chief sponsor of the bill. She says it would allow a hunt after five years only if there was a need to control the wolf population.
ISLE ROYALE: Scientists on Isle Royale reported last year that only nine wolves remained on the Lake Superior island chain -- the lowest total in more than 50 years. They said just one was known to be a female. But Superintendent Phyllis Green says it now appears that four or five of the animals are females, which bodes well for the possibility of procreation.
MEDICAID GRANT: The federal government has awarded Minnesota $45 million to serve as a model testing site to lower taxpayer costs and improve the quality of care for Medicaid patients. State Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson said the funding will help health care providers around the state better coordinate care for patients through health information technology.
FRAC SAND IMPACT: A company proposing two silica sand mines in Winona County says it will voluntarily conduct environmental reviews. The decision by Minnesota Sands comes two weeks after two state agencies called for assessments of possible health and environmental risks. State officials are concerned about potential impacts from silica dust and mining pollutants seeping into groundwater.
BANK OUTLOOK: Minnesota's community banks enjoyed some financial gains in 2012, according to a report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. But it was not a banner year, according to Ron Feldman, senior vice president of supervision, regulation, and credit at the Minneapolis Fed. He does not expect 2013 to outperform 2012.
UNDEFEATED? The defending national champion University of Minnesota Women's hockey team goes for its 41st straight win tonight on the road against St. Cloud State. Morning Edition host Cathy Wurzer spoke with head coach Brad Frost about his record-setting team.
Phil Picardi is a newscaster for MPR News, and occasionally fills in as Morning Edition host when Cathy Wurzer is away.