The PiPress says between 2001 and 2005, 188,700 fewer Minnesotans had private-sector jobs offering health insurance, according to the U. Ten percent of the state is uninsured, a higher percentage than I’ve seen bandied about. Also, private-sector premiums rose 29 percent as incomes stagnated. Overall, 6 percent fewer Minnesotans had private-sector insurance and 4 percent fewer employers offered it. By the way, UnitedHealth CEO Stephen Hemsley took home $5 million in pay last year, down from $7.1 million.
In a well-timed column, the Strib’s Neal St. Anthony notes that the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and Minnesota Business Partnership back Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s plan to divert half the state’s Health Care Access Trust Fund surplus to budget balancing. Business lobbyists say using the entire surplus to expand access isn’t sustainable and the private sector can do a better job. See above. Pawlenty references a 7 percent uninsured figure the U study says is 10 percent. Someone reconcile!
The state Senate passed its version of the teen-driving bill and it’s tougher: All drivers under 18 can’t drive from midnight to 5 a.m., the Strib’s Mike Kaszuba reports. The article doesn’t say so, but the House bill only limits newly licensed teens for six months. Therefore, the Senate’s action would affect a lot more 17-year-olds, who also couldn’t ferry more than one non-relative passenger. Pawlenty favors some restrictions.
More driving: The Senate bill also mandates that the MnDOT commissioner or deputy be a professional engineer. That’s a reaction to the 35W bridge-collapse era, when Lt. Gov. Carol Molnau and p.r. guy Bob McFarlin headed the department. Would the guv veto the bill over that finger-poking provision? Story doesn’t say, but MnDOT doesn’t like another provision, which says design-build contracts can’t go to a company bidding 120 percent above the low bid. That’s another lingering 35W controversy.
Even more driving: The PiPress’s Bill Salisbury says the bill also lets cops stop motorists just for not wearing seat belts — a controversial touch the House has blocked four times since 1999.
The two U profs accused of double-dipping in Georgia asked to defer administrative responsibilities and pay for two months, the Strib’s Jeff Shelman reports. The U is still isn’t taking a stand, saying the pause came at the profs’ request and will give them time to clear up their problems. The couple loses about five grand in admin salary but during the same period will make $78,100 in base salary.
The PiPress has a mind-expanding story about Woodbury “supercops” who can fight crime, fires and heart attacks. Bob Shaw explains the cross-training saves lives and dollars. Ten of the 63 police officers have firefighter training, earning $1.25 more an hour. They swap squad cars for SUVs carrying firefighting gear and don’t have to wait for ambulances to take action. It reduces the need for more firefighters, who mostly serve as parameds these days. Wonder what the firefighters think?
Mpls.St.Paul’s Brian Lambert takes on KSTP’s serial-killer campaign on the Chris Jenkins murder. With no new evidence brought forth by two ex-NYC detectives, Lambert writes, “It plays more like a ghost story than an ‘investigation.’ ” Devastatingly, he quotes KSTP reporter Kristi Piehl saying, “It’s not my job to say if they are right.” Responds Lambert, “I thought that was where investigative reporting begins … wanting to know what in the hell is true?”
More Jenkins: The victim’s dad tells the Minnesota Daily that investigators are holding back evidence. Why would they do something like that? “They showed just enough to get the [authorities’] interest in collaboration.” It’s not working, fellas.
The state House mandated that school districts teach “age-appropriate” sex-ed lessons on abstinence, contraception and sexually transmitted diseases in grades 7-12, MPR’s Tim Pugmire reports. AP says districts must adopt the sex-ed curriculum no later than the 2011-12 school year. Republicans say this makes sex-ed a core course, like that’s a bad thing. The bill passed 85-45, not a veto-proof majority, and the guv says local educators should decide.
Serial naming-rights pusher T. Denny Sanford is at it again, the PiPress’s Doug Belden reports. The donor who wanted to put his name on the U’s football stadium will get his name in St. Paul Central’s basketball gym – a first for the district. Some worry it will set a precedent, especially if corporate donors want the same branding. Cub has its logo on Stillwater High’s hardwood.
The Strib’s Dan Browning reports on a couple of local sex traffickers who got their sentences cut for rat-finking on higher-ups. (The web headline cuts to the chase and calls them “pimps.”) The men recruited women to Las Vegas to work as prostitutes; one was 15. One man got two years and the other got 16 months for nailing a higher-up who got nine years. Both must register as sex offenders.
It’s no surprise after reading that story, but a Minnesota foundation reports on the tough lives of Minnesota girls, especially minorities. The PiPress’s Dennis Lien notes that girls study longer but get lower ACT college-readiness scores; they attempt suicide more often than boys, are more likely to be physically and sexually assaulted and have lower self-esteem at all grade levels.
More on the rough life of girls: the 19-year-old baby sitter who punished a 5-year-old girl by putting her on a Minneapolis roof. The woman also allegedly dangled her 1-year-old son out the window, the Strib’s Abby Simons reports.
Following a reported stranger rape over the weekend, the U will close all but two Pioneer Hall entrances and staff the remaining ones “24/7,” WCCO’s Esme Murphy reports. Murphy and crew effortlessly get into the hall, and there’s compelling video of Pioneer students telling the reporter to get the heck out. The station replays a 2003 investigation showing how easy it is to get in.
St. Paul police busted a St. Thomas-area party and wrote 76 tags for underage drinking, the Strib reports. The noteworthy part: “Saturday’s crackdown was not a spontaneous event, but a result of advance tips and planning.” Now the St. Paul cops have a SOT team?
Meanwhile, on the adult drinking beat, the state House voted 98-32 to approve a 4 a.m. bar time for five days around the GOP convention. Cities within the seven-county metro area get to make the call. Also, Pawlenty signed the “Hannah Montana” bill outlawing ticket-buying software.
KARE reports on a mistaken meth lab bust in Brooklyn Park. A CenterPoint Energy technician who smelled something funny tipped off authorities. Turns out the smell was “vinegar, maybe picking lime, which were clearly marked in a bathroom [used] to mix chemicals for [a] salt water fish tank.” The homeowners were handcuffed; authorities say it was an honest mistake; the judge who issued the warrant won’t talk. (Hat tip to MnSpeak.)
The suddenly interesting world of grain prices: Snow has kept corn from being planted, so corn futures have shot up, the Strib’s Matt McKinney reports. Only 10 percent of the crop is in the ground, compared with a 35-percent average. Prices already reflect reduced corn planting expected this year.
Nort spews: No Twins game, thankfully, so the Strib’s Pat Reusse has time to rip the Gopher basketball program for taking a kid who was kicked out of DeLaSalle. Noting the unspecified “academic mistake” that got Royce White expelled, Reusse harkens back to the last great Gopher classroom scandal and asks, “What in the name of Jan Gangelhoff could that mean?”