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GOP plans to fire amendment barrage at health exchange bill

An Itasca County sheriff’s deputy charged with attempting to videotape a teenage girl in a bathroom;  snow cover holds 4 inches of water across much of Minnesota; Afton Alps is getting an upgrade; and more.

Look at it this way: They’re doing the only thing they can. Elizabeth Stawicki of MPR reports: “Republicans say they will offer about 100 amendments to an insurance exchange bill when the Minnesota Senate debates it Thursday. The state needs legislation in place by the end of this month. Republicans have complained the DFL-controlled Legislature is moving too fast on the health plan marketplace. But the GOP blocked exchange legislation when Republicans controlled the Legislature over the past two years. ‘We didn’t think that government control of health care was a good idea and we hoped there would be another path out,’ said Assistant Minority Leader Sen. Michelle Benson, R-Ham Lake.” That must be why they pushed voter ID and the anti-gay marriage bills.

Yeah, it might be time to take a look. Doug Belden of the PiPress says: “Lawmakers have begun hearing proposals to shore up the state’s groundwater, a fundamental resource that advocates say has been too-long ignored and risks serious depletion statewide. Roughly 75 percent of the state’s drinking water comes from groundwater, and the rest from surface sources such as rivers. Growth has fueled increasing reliance on groundwater, and dramatic drops in the level of White Bear Lake, reports of wells running dry and other signs indicate parts of the state are facing serious groundwater shortages.”

Here’s a guy who apparently hasn’t heard of the internet. The Duluth News Tribune reports: “A 17-year Itasca County sheriff’s deputy was charged Wednesday — a day after he resigned — with a felony for allegedly attempting to videotape a teenage girl in a bathroom. Aaron Edward Apitz, 45, Deer River, is charged with felony interference with privacy against a minor. The incident reportedly happened at Apitz’s residence. The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension reported that its investigation found that on Feb. 25, Apitz used a cellular telephone issued to him by Itasca County to attempt to videotape a 17-year-old female as she entered and exited a shower. The telephone was discovered in the bathroom by the victim, who reported to investigators that it was recording when she found it, and that the video showed Apitz positioning the telephone to capture the video.”

So how much effort will go into finding a way around this one? Frederick Melo of the PiPress reports: “The St. Paul City Council will ask state lawmakers to ‘ban the box’ statewide. Several House and Senate bills seek to limit the degree to which private employers can use criminal histories — indicated by checking a box on job applications — to do their initial screenings for job seekers in Minnesota. In a resolution adopted by the council on Wednesday, March 6, city officials noted that an estimated 1 million state residents — one in four — has some form of criminal history, and barring them from employment could hurt efforts at rehabilitation.” That expired-tabs rap still haunts me.

It’ll have to be a real slow melt to capture all the water we need. Bill McAuliffe of the Strib writes: “Because winter snows arrived late across much of Minnesota, drought-dry soils got so cold first that they may freeze the first meltwater that penetrates them, preventing the rest from soaking in. Across southern Minnesota, soils are capped by an even more water-resistant layer of ice that formed when December rains froze. The current snow cover holds 4 inches of water across much of Minnesota, atop soils that are as dry as they’ve ever been at depths where plants will need moisture, said state climatologist Greg Spoden.”

Homelessness is still increasing in Minnesota. MinnPost’s Cynthia Boyd and AP have the numbers.  The AP story says: “A new study by Wilder Research finds homelessness continues to rise in Minnesota but not as dramatically as during the economic crash. The study, conducted every three years, finds homelessness in Minnesota up about 6 percent since 2009. The one-day study counted more than 10,000 homeless adults, young people and children on Oct. 25, 2012. More than 3,500 of the homeless were children with their parents. Nearly half of the homeless were age 21 and younger.”

Afton Alps will get an upgrade. The Strib’s Jennifer Bjorhus says: “Vail Resorts Inc. said Wednesday that it plans to invest nearly $10 million in Afton Alps, the Twin Cities ski area it bought in December. It’s the first time the Colorado skiing giant has put a dollar figure on the upgrades it mentioned when news of the sale went public. The company said it intends to significantly improve snowmaking so the resort can open earlier and stay open later in the season, as well as to create a better snow surface. It also plans to create state-of-the-art terrain parks with new features and rope tows and to modernize the base area facilities.”

How  long has it been since the Strib editorial board’s last blast at Gov. Mark Dayton’s business tax plan? I’m thinking 20 minutes. Today they are saying: “Who pays what share of taxes? For 25 years, Minnesotans have been better able to answer that question than the residents of any other state, thanks to a biennial Revenue Department report known as the Tax Incidence Study. … While the study did not specifically analyze Dayton’s proposal to extend the sales tax to business services, it notes that according to economic theory, additional business taxes are likely to fall less on owners, both in and out of state, and more on consumers and employees in Minnesota than existing business taxes do. That’s another key reason for Dayton, who says he does not want to add to middle-class tax burdens, to back away from his unpopular business sales tax notion.” Presumably, the Strib feels its interests in this matter are fully transparent?

Wal-Mart is going big into Mankato. John Ewoldt of the Strib says: “In Wal-Mart’s latest encroachment on Target territory, the retailer announced Tuesday that it will build a perishable-foods distribution center in Mankato to open in 2015. The 420,000-square-foot building will employ 300 people, with the majority of the jobs being full time. … Wal-Mart also has a distribution center for perishable merchandise in Tomah, Wis., and general-merchandise centers in Menomonie and Beaver Dam, Wis. Wages for employees at the new center will range from $9 to $10.99 per hour … .” And then check out that company health plan.