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Reward offered, minivan sought in Officer Decker killing

Dave Unze of the St Cloud Times says: “Investigators are looking for a black minivan that was seen leaving Winner’s Sports Bar & Grill around the time that Cold Spring-Richmond police officer Tom Decker was shot in the bar parking lot. The van had a loud exhaust and was seen heading west through the parking lot around the time Decker was killed. It could be tied to the Decker killing, investigators announced today at a press conference in St. Paul. … One member of the media asked whether [Decker’s partner, Greg] Reiter was a suspect in Decker’s death. Evans told reporters that investigators aren’t ruling anyone out as a potential suspect. But he said that Reiter, who is on administrative leave, has been cooperative with investigators.”

No kidding … The headline on the Strib story by Heron Marquez says: “Parents jittery as Minnesota kids head back to school.” The story notes: “Teachers and parents across the country were wrestling with how best to quell children's fears about returning to school for the first time since the killings at the Newtown, Conn., elementary school. Dennis Carlson, superintendent of Anoka-Hennepin School District in Minnesota, said a mental health consultant would meet with school officials Monday, and there will be three associates — one to work with the elementary, middle and high schools, respectively. As the day goes on, officials will be on the lookout for any issues that arise, and extra help will go where needed. … In an effort to ensure their students' safety and calm parents' nerves, school districts across the United States have asked police departments to increase patrols and have sent messages to parents outlining safety plans that they assured them are regularly reviewed and rehearsed.”

In the Duluth News Tribune, John Myers reports: “The Minnesota Court of Appeals has affirmed a lower-court ruling that upholds the state’s limit on sulfate in wild rice waters. In a 14-page decision released today, the appellate court said it lacked jurisdiction in the case but that it still affirmed a state district court decision in May to dismiss the case. The original lawsuit was filed by the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce in 2010 asking the court to throw out the state’s 1973 sulfate rule, claiming it was unfounded, based on poor science and overly restrictive, especially for the state’s mining industry. But in May a district court judge disagreed and threw the case out, saying the state sulfate limit of 10 parts per million was sound.”

Just when we were getting used to Ohio controlling presidential electionsBill Salisbury of the PiPress writes: “As presidential electors prepared to cast ballots across the nation today, a bipartisan group of Minnesota state legislators announced they will introduce a bill next month calling for a national popular vote for president. The measure would award Minnesota's 10 electoral votes to the presidential candidate who wins the most popular votes in all 50 states. ‘It would guarantee that the candidate who gets the most votes wins, and... it would guarantee that every vote is of equal value in our process,’ Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, said at a Capitol news conference Monday, Dec. 17. The effort is part of a national campaign. The agreement would take effect when states with 270 or more electoral votes — the majority needed to elect a president under the current system — pass legislation committing their votes to the winner of the national popular vote.”

When in doubt, add a new vendor … Steve Karnowski at the AP writes: “Minnesota gambling regulators have approved a new vendor for the electronic gambling games that are being counted on to help pay the state's share of a new Vikings stadium. The Gambling Control Board on Monday, Dec. 17, made e-tab Manufacturing LLC of St. Paul the second vendor approved to offer electronic pulltab games in Minnesota. Operating officer Jim Welbourne said his company hopes to place 6,000 machines in 600 locations such as bars within a year. He says the company also hopes the board next month approves its application to run linked bingo games that can pay high jackpots. Revenue from electronic games is below expectations so far.” But what if Minnesotans are losing their enthusiasm for these brain-twisting games of skill?

The GleanThe State Court of Appeals has your back if you’re taking care of Aunt Millie. In the PiPress, Christopher Snowbeck writes: “An amendment to state law that would have reduced the pay of personal care assistants who are related to their clients violates the Minnesota Constitution, the state court of appeals ruled Monday, Dec. 17. The ruling reverses a lower court's finding that the state Department of Human Services could pay relative caregivers just 80 percent of what non-relatives receive. The Legislature passed an amendment to state law in 2011 to impose the pay cut, but the court of appeals ruled Monday that the legislation was based on an arbitrary distinction between relative and nonrelative care assistants. ‘We agree with appellants that the rationale for the distinction advanced by (the state) is based purely on assumptions rather than facts, including the apparently unchallenged assumption that a moral obligation to provide care for a relative necessarily equates to a moral obligation to personally provide such care at a lower rate of pay’, the court ruled.”

A shootout at Kowalski's. Mara Gottfried of the PiPress reports: “A man who police say robbed a grocery store on St. Paul's Grand Avenue at gunpoint Monday morning, Dec. 17, has died after police shot him. He was taken to Regions Hospital, where he died late in the morning, according to police. Police were called to Kowalski's Markets, 1261 Grand Ave., just after 8:30 a.m. The suspect brandished a handgun, got money and ran, said Sgt. Paul Paulos, police spokesman. … At least one officer fired and hit the suspect, police said. Police are not saying whether the suspect fired shots, calling it part of the investigation.”

Own any Caribou stock? The 30 percent premium will be nice. Paul Walsh and Mike Hughlett of the Strib say: “Twin Cities-based Caribou Coffee, the nation's No. 2 coffeehouse chain, is being bought for $340 million, the company and its German buyer announced Monday. Specifically, the deal has Caribou of Brooklyn Center being purchased for $16 a share, representing a premium of about 30 percent over the closing stock price on Friday. The transaction is valued at $340 million and has been unanimously approved by Caribou's independent directors. Caribou's stock shot up to $16.04 in morning trading, up $3.72. As of Sept. 30, Caribou has 610 coffeehouses in Minnesota and 21 other states, the District of Columbia and 10 international markets. Only Starbucks is larger in the United States.” Next: “Premium Level Macchiatos — $6.”

Walsh also reports:The Minneapolis Fire Department is poised to start adding new firefighters to its ranks for the first time in several years. The department said it is ready for thousands to seek jobs when it takes firefighter applications next month for the first time since 2006. That year, the city received about 1,800 applications from prospective firefighters. Fire officials said they are accepting applications at this time in anticipation of retirements among many longtime firefighters in the coming years. In particular, the department added, one of its goals is to create a diverse pool of possible new hires.”

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