Security guards vote to strike; Minnesota braces for sequestrationby Matt Sepic, Minnesota Public Radio,
Hart Van Denburg, Minnesota Public Radio
Twin Cities office security guards threaten to strike, Minnesota schools could take a hit if federal budget cuts kick in this week, and we take a look at whether the Mayo Clinic can bring in enough cash to finance its planned $6 billion expansion.
SECURITY GUARD STRIKE: Nearly two months after their contract expired, 2,500 security guards in the Twin Cities metro area say they'll hold a one-day strike this week. The guards want more full-time jobs and affordable health care.
MAYO EXPANSION: Mayo Clinic wants to invest billions of dollars of its own money, and have taxpayers pitch in as well, on a project aimed at bolstering the medical center's position as a world destination for health care. But does it have the money needed to pull off its portion of the deal.
MAYO AND VIKINGS: The Mayo Clinic's request for taxpayer help to expand is drawing comparisons to the Vikings' bid for a new football stadium. In dollar terms, they're about in the same league. The Vikings are expected to get a $498 million boost from state and city taxpayers. The Mayo Clinic wants $500 million to bolster its $3.5 billion expansion in Rochester.
SEQUESTER HIT: The White House says Minnesota would lose about $7 million for primary and secondary education, putting about 100 teacher and aide jobs at risk, as part of the budget cuts that could take place if the so-called sequestration process comes to pass this week in Washington.
WHAT WOULD SEQUESTRATION MEAN? The politics of sequestration have been fierce, the finger-pointing incessant. And to no one's surprise, what was designed as a way out of one Washington standoff has produced another one -- and more. Bellowing and blame aside, what really would happen across the country if, as expected, President Barack Obama and congressional lawmakers allow the nation to blow past the deadline? Here's a set of possibilities.
PACKING CAPITOL HEAT: On Friday, gun rights activists again came out in force for the second day of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. Most of them didn't wear their guns openly. But others did. Between Jan. 18 and Feb. 22, 150 people notified the Minnesota Department of Public Safety of their intent to carry their weapons on the state Capitol complex. By contrast, only 56 such notifications were filed in all of 2012.
RED WING MAYOR STEPS DOWN: The mayor of Red Wing is stepping down after being criticized for taking a job with a lobbyist group for the frac sand industry. Mayor Dennis Egan had said his job as executive director of the Minnesota Industrial Sand Council was not a conflict of interest, but several members of the Red Wing City Council objected; Red Wing is one of a number of Minnesota communities where silica sand mining has become a contentious issue.
MINIMUM WAGE: Committees in the Minnesota House and Senate will hold hearings this week on raising the state's minimum wage. A bill in the Senate would raise the minimum wage for large employers from $6.15 an hour to $7.50 an hour. A House bill would increase the minimum wage for large employers to $8.35 an hour this year, $9.45 next year and $10.55 an hour in 2015.
SEX OFFENDERS: Civil liberties advocates and others have long criticized Minnesota for indefinitely holding in secure facilities sex offenders who have served their time in prison, but whom county prosecutors and judges think may commit crimes again. Last year state officials acknowledged the Minnesota Sex Offender Program needs to find a way to release offenders once they have been rehabilitated. They formed a task force that has held hearings to determine how to change the program. But a DHS report to the legislature shows that local officials continue to funnel sex offenders into the program.
HORSE MEAT: Swedish furniture giant Ikea, which operates a store near the Mall of America, was drawn into Europe's widening food labeling scandal Monday as authorities said they had detected horse meat in frozen meatballs labeled as beef and pork and sold in 13 countries across the continent.
CRIME LAB: A judge has granted a defense request to reopen the hearing that exposed shoddy work by the St. Paul police crime lab. The decision by Dakota County Judge Kathryn Messerich adds yet another layer of uncertainty to the pending review of thousands of past drug convictions based on evidence tested at the St. Paul lab.
UNCLE SAM MAY WANT LADIES, TOO: Tennnnnn-hut, ladies! The next time Uncle Sam comes calling, he's probably going to want you, too. The Obama administration's recent decision to lift the ban on women in combat has opened the door for a change in the law that currently compels only men between age 18 and 25 to register for a military draft, according to legal experts and military historians.
HEART HEALTH: Pour on the olive oil, preferably over fish and vegetables: One of the longest and most scientific tests of a Mediterranean diet suggests this style of eating can cut the chance of suffering heart-related problems, especially strokes, in older people at high risk of them.The study lasted five years and involved about 7,500 people in Spain.
BEST BUY: Time is running out for Best Buy founder Richard Schulze to make a bid this month for the struggling retailer. He's been trying for months to line up investors and lenders to help him buy the company and take it private.
ICE INSTRUMENTS: Ice drums. Ice horns. An iceophone. These are just some of the instruments Norwegian musician Terje Isungset will bring to the Cedar Cultural Center stage in Minneapolis, Minn., on February 25, 2103. We have a photo gallery of the ice carver and his assistants preparing for the show.
Matt Sepic is a newscaster and general assignment reporter for MPR News.