What's killing the loons? Do lawmakers need a raise? And, what's the problem with Turbo Tax?by Matt Sepic, Minnesota Public Radio,
Hart Van Denburg, Minnesota Public Radio
Today on the MPR News Update: Scientists a worried that invasive species may be behind the deaths of hundreds of migrating loons. There's word that the governor and legislators may be in for a pay raise. The state is putting the brakes on Turbo Tax filers, and more.
DEADLY MIX: Spring is in the air, with daylight savings taking effect on Sunday, and loons will begin their migration back to the north woods in less than a month. The birds are a cultural and natural icon, not only in Minnesota but across the Great Lakes states. But last fall, nearly 900 of the birds died while migrating south across Lake Michigan. Scientists are not sure what killed the loons, but they suspect that invasive species may be to blame.
BEARGREASE: What do a former runway model, a young man with cerebral palsy and a musher from Tennesse have in common? They're all part of the field this year competing in the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon. The 373-mile marathon race runs from Duluth up the North Shore to the Gunflint Trail near the Canadian border and back. Check out this photo gallery from the starting line.
HE'S DONE: SPEAKING OF MARATHONS, Daniel Alvarez has successfully paddled his kayak from Minnesota's Northwest Angle, the northernmost point of the lower 48 states, all the way to Key West, the southernmost point. It took him about nine months.
WORTHY OF A RAISE? A state council is recommending the governor and state lawmakers get a pay increase. The governor's current $120,303 salary would increase by 3 percent in 2015 and again in 2016. Legislator pay would be set at one-third of what the governor makes. That would take their $31,140-a-year salaries to $40,890 in 2015. Today's Question: Should the governor and state lawmakers get a raise?
ACCENT SIGNAGE SURGES AHEAD: Reuven Rahamim built Minneapolis-based Accent Signage Systems off his patented Raster method for installing Braille onto signs. But in mid-2012, he had a new technology to sell: a proprietary design for incorporating energy efficient light-emitting diode (LED) arrays in sign fixtures. Sales were up, and Accent was hiring. But success turned into tragedy. On Sept. 27, 2012, a fired worker went on a rampage, fatally shooting Reuven Rahamim and five others at the business before killing himself. Rahamim and some of the longest-serving workers in the company were gone. What did not die that day, however, was the business.
U OF M EFFICIENTY REPORT: A report released Friday shows the University of Minnesota is fairly efficient in how it staffs its management. The report offers an initial look at administrative staffing in four key departments -- human resources, budget and finance, information technology and purchasing services -- and was prepared by outside consultants paid by the university. Legislators had asked for the report after a Wall Street Journal article in December painted the picture of a system with too many well-paid administrators. State officials who have seen the analysis say they are pleased.
SEX OFFENDER PROGRAM REFORM: The head of a task force to recommend changes to the Minnesota Sex Offender Program says if the Legislature doesn't reform the program soon, a federal judge may force the state to act. In response to a class action lawsuit, a federal judge ordered the Minnesota Department of Human Services to create the task force, chaired by former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Eric Magnuson. The judge wants the state to bring the Minnesota Sex Offender Program in compliance with the Constitution, Magnuson said.
"RANDON KILL, FAKE PLATES": A Minnesota man accused of killing a 9-year-old boy by standing in the street and firing indiscriminately at passing cars told investigators he did it because people had been waking him up by revving their engines in front of his home, according to a search warrant affidavit. When police arrested 34-year-old Nhan Lap Tran after the February rampage, they found a note in his bedroom that read, "Random Kill, Fake Plates."
BRAKES ON TURBO TAX: Minnesota taxpayers are advised not to file using Turbo Tax or other products made by Intuit until the company fixes a number of problems, said the state Department of Revenue on Friday. With taxes due in just over a month, Assistant Commissioner Terri Steenblock said the state issued a strong warning saying "If Intuit fails to fix the problems, the department will stop processing returns filed using Intuit."
ECONOMIC CLOUDS PART: Reports released this week show an improving economy in Minnesota and the nation. The federal government says employers added more than 230,000 jobs in the last quarter. Earlier in the week, the state said we've recovered 90-percent of the jobs lost during the Great Recession. And, the Dow Jones Industrial Average hit an all-time high. What does it all mean for our economy? For some answers, All Things Considered spoke with Art Rolnick, senior fellow at the University of Minnesota's Humphrey School of Public Affairs.
Matt Sepic is a newscaster and general assignment reporter for MPR News.