Rochester wonders whether IBM is walking away; Republicans vow to stall health care overhaul
Today on the MPR News Update: Rochester tries to figure out IBM's intentions, some DFLers aren't happy their colleagues are working with gun-rights groups, the state may need a new approach for funding special education, And, it may cost you a whole lot more if you want to run for mayor of Minneapolis.
STUNNED SILENCE: On Tuesday, IBM officials gathered employees in small groups and told them the company will start assembling servers at a facility in Guadalajara, Mexico, according to one worker who expects to be laid off. The worker did not wish to be identified by Minnesota Public Radio News but said cuts will begin in September and affect both full-time and contract employees. The worker is concerned that he will be cut from the company sooner if he is caught speaking out. The 10-minute meeting was followed by "stunned silence," he said.
FRAC SAND MORATORIUM: A bill calling for a moratorium and a broad environmental review on frac sand mining is advancing in the Minnesota Senate. Republicans on the Senate State and Local Government Committee worried about they called a loss of local control implied in the bill, but a regional approach is needed, said bill author Sen. Matt Schmit of Red Wing, because the effects of the industry cross township and county lines.
MORE GUN FIGHTS: A bipartisan group of lawmakers Wednesday announced a bill that aims to toughen penalties for criminals who carry guns. The rare combination of gun rights groups, public safety officials and Democratic and Republican lawmakers held a news conference to praise a bill they all agree on -- legislation designed to keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn't have them. But the measure, a modest gun control bill that emerged from weeks of behind the scenes negotiations, is being criticized its lack of universal background checks for most gun purchases.
SPECIAL ED COSTS: In a response to the concerns of school officials about spiraling special education costs, Minnesota's Legislative Auditor is recommending more state funding and steps to curb the increasing costs of those programs. The auditor's report, released Wednesday, notes that special education is taking up an increasing part of school district budgets at a time when federal and state funds don't fully cover the $1.6 billion that schools spend on special education. About 112,000 students in Minnesota, or 13 percent of the school population, received special education services during the 2010-2011 school year.
MINIMUM WAGE: Business owners pushing back against a proposed increase in the state's minimum wage aired their concerns yesterday during a Senate committee hearing. There are several proposals raising the minimum wage, including one that would reach more than $10 an hour by 2015. Mike Hickey, of the National Federation of Independent Business, says an increase that big would make it hard for teenagers to find work. The minimum wage in Minnesota has been $6.15 an hour since 2005.
HEALTH EXCHANGES: Republicans say they will offer about 100 amendments to an insurance exchange bill when the Minnesota Senate debates it today. The state needs legislation in place by the end of this month to meet obligations under the federal Affordable Care Act, but Republicans have complained the DFL-controlled Legislature is moving too fast on the exchange, which is a health insurance plan marketplace. The GOP blocked exchange legislation when they controlled the Legislature over the past two years. The state House has already passed the legislation.
'PLEASE ID ME' LOSES: A federal appeals court has upheld the constitutionality of Minnesota's law banning political messages from polling places. Minnesota Majority sued the Secretary of State and Hennepin and Ramsey county election officials after a group of activists in 2010 were asked to remove buttons that said "Please I.D. Me" before voting.
'FRIVOLOUS OR UNDEMOCRATIC? Candidates who want to run for Minneapolis mayor may have to pay a higher fee to enter the race. The city's Charter Commission is proposing a raised filing fee of $250, up from $20. Supporters say the move will weed out "frivolous candidates," but critics call it undemocratic.
HOMELESS COUNT: More than 10,200 homeless adults, youth, and children were counted in October 2012 in Minnesota shelters, transitional housing, at hot meal programs, or on the streets. That's up 6 percent from the last count in 2009. The count was conducted by St. Paul-based Wilder Research, which plans to release detailed data on the background and characteristics of the homeless population in mid-April. Of those homeless people counted, 46 percent were age 21 or younger.
MAJOR DRUG HAUL: A western Minnesota man is facing felony drug charges after authorities say they found 32 pounds of marijuana worth an estimated quarter-million dollars in his home. Moorhead police Lt. Tory Jacobson says a 33-year-old man was arrested in Dilworth Tuesday after officers from several agencies -- including the Department of Homeland Security -- executed a search warrant.