Same-sex marriage, frac sand regulations, and Ellison confronts Hannity
ST. PAUL, Minn. — Today on the MPR News Update: detailed stories about a possible frac sand mining moratorium, the overpumping of Minnesota waters, why Minnesota schools don't want the state to pay them back - just yet, Best Buy lays off 400 workers and Keith Ellison ventures into the ion's den.. But first, same-sex marriage:
SAME-SEX MARRIAGE BILL: Legislation to legalize same-sex marriage in Minnesota is being announced this morning during a state Capitol news conference. Formal introductions of the bill in the House and Senate will come a day later. An advisory from the group Minnesotans United said the bipartisan legislation will be co-authored by Sen. Branden Peterson, R-Andover. The chief authors are Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, and Rep. Karen Clark, DFL-Minneapolis. We'll have more coverage of these developments later today on the website.
VIDEO: ELLISON VS HANNITY: Keith Ellison, one of the most liberal Democrats in the U.S. House, went into the lion's den on Tuesday night, appearing on conservative commentator Sean Hannity's television show on Fox News. The pair were supposed to discuss the coming automatic, across-the-board budget cuts that begin March 1. Ellison fired the shot first, calling Hannity, "the worst excuse for a journalist I've ever seen." Hannity called Ellison, "a total waste of time." Watch the video by clicking here.
ILLEGAL PUMPING: Despite the drought, over the last six years, hundreds of individuals, businesses and even state government agencies have pumped more water out of the ground than their permit allows, according to state Department of Natural Resources records. The violations come from nearly every category of water user: cities, crop irrigators, power companies, private businesses, golf courses, schools, government agencies, even a church. All have a state permit. But violators face few consequences for these misdemeanor violations. DNR officials admit they don't spend much time enforcing permit limits.
FRAC SAND MORATORIUM: A state Senate committee on Tuesday approved a statewide moratorium on new frac sand mining, despite warnings from industry officials that the legislation would stifle job growth and put Minnesota at a competitive disadvantage with its neighbor, Wisconsin. The measure also includes a production tax to pay for things like damaged roads, requires the state to prepare a generic Environmental Impact Statement and creates a board in southeastern Minnesota that would address concerns about silica sand mining.
SCHOOL REPAY: To make up for budget shortfalls, Minnesota lawmakers delayed $1.1 billion in payments to schools in recent years. Some lawmakers are calling for the state to deliver the payments in full this year. But school administrators they'd rather receive an increase in funding from the state this year, and have their IOU paid back over the next several years.
BEST BUY: Best Buy is eliminating 400 jobs, most in Minnesota, and the struggling consumer electronics retailer says there'll be further cost-cutting. The announcement comes just two days before founder Richard Schulze faces another deadline for making a bid for the company.
OBESITY MYTHS: A recent study published by the New England Journal of Medicine lists seven myths about obesity. All Things Considered's regular medical analyst Dr. Jon Hallberg said the article has stirred up controversy online, as many of the authors have disclosed conflicts of interest.
STRIKE: Private security officers in the Twin Cities have launched a strike against a half dozen companies that offer services to some of the state's most prominent companies. It's the latest in a string of labor-related issue in the metro.
BEATING INDIANA: Trevor Mbakwe had 21 points and 12 rebounds to help Minnesota take down No. 1 Indiana 77-73 on Tuesday night, the seventh time the top-ranked team in The Associated Press' poll has lost a game this season.
ENCOURAGED SUICIDE RULING: Prosecutors say a former Minnesota nurse convicted of going online and encouraging two people to kill themselves was not exercising his right to free speech. Fifty-year-old William Melchert-Dinkel was convicted in 2011 of two counts of aiding suicide.
WOUNDED KNEE: American Indian activists took over the tiny village of Wounded Knee on South Dakota's sprawling Pine Ridge Indian Reservation on Feb. 27, 1973, in what would become a 71-day, fatal standoff with FBI agents that attracted national attention to the impoverished reservation and the plight of local tribes. On Wednesday, the occupation's 40th anniversary, some of the protest's central figures -- most notably the American Indian Movement's charismatic leader, the late Russell Means -- will be noticeably absent from a commemoration at the reservation. But organizers hope the events remind people of the struggles that led to the standoff and problems still reverberating throughout Indian Country, as well as changes the protest helped spark.
FAMILY REUNIFICATION: Lawmakers are considering a bill that would give some parents who lost custody of their children years ago a chance to reunify with them. Advocates say only a small number of teens living in foster care could be affected by the Family Reunification Act, but that it could make a great difference for those motivated parents who have dealt with their problems and whose children want to go home again.
CLIMATE SCIENCE: Bill McKibben, environmental journalist and founder of 350.org and J. Drake Hamilton of Fresh Energy, spoke Feb. 20, 2013 at the University of St. Thomas on "Celebrating and Preserving Winter: Responding to Climate Change in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Listen here to what they had to say.