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Gay marriage looking ever more likely

 MnDOT to distribute collapsed-bridge mementos; traffic-stop settlement; School Trust Land furor; “terror plot” update; smoke-free U campus; and more.

Same-sex marriage is close to a glide path. Baird Helgeson of the Strib says: “A proposal to legalize same-sex marriage breezed through a final House committee Monday night, setting the stage for a possible final floor vote later this week. … The Senate is weighing a similar measure, which DFL Gov. Mark Dayton said he will sign. … Some Republicans sound increasingly resigned to the notion that they don’t have the political muscle to block same-sex marriage from becoming law in Minnesota.”

Victims and others are going to get pieces of the collapsed I-35 bridge. For the AP, Brian Bakst says: “The Minnesota Department of Transportation had to store the bridge’s steel beams and plates until all the legal claims could be resolved, spokesman Kevin Gutknecht said. The final lawsuit was settled last November. ‘There are some folks who were directly involved with the collapse who are interested in having a piece as a memento,’ Gutknecht said. The Minnesota House on Monday unanimously passed a bill to give MnDOT six months to parcel out free pieces to victims’ families, collapse survivors, the Minnesota Historical Society and certain other people or institutions with a connection to the bridge or transportation safety. The bill still awaits Senate action.”

That was one expensive traffic stop … Mara Gottfried of the PiPress says: “A deaf man who claimed St. Paul police officers beat him because he requested an officer communicate with him in writing is scheduled to settle a federal lawsuit with the city for $93,450. … Police pulled over Doug Bahl, who is now 62, in 2006 for not stopping at a red light. Bahl said in the lawsuit that he informed the officer he was deaf and wanted to communicate in writing, but the officer sprayed him with a chemical irritant, struck him and pulled him from the car. He and other officers then beat and kicked him, the lawsuit said. A jury convicted Bahl in 2007 of misdemeanor obstructing legal process, but acquitted him of a more serious charge. Bahl was said to have assaulted an officer, though Bahl’s attorney argued he acted in self-defense when the officer got rough with him.”

Well, the idea was to extract more money from School Trust Lands … Paul Levy of the Strib says: “From their yard in East Bethel, Frank and Mary Hull listen to loons and watch eagles, osprey, otters, swans and deer. Red-shouldered hawks, a rare species closely monitored by the state, also visit frequently. ‘This is why we love living here,’ Mary Hull said. ‘The value of the woodlands next to our property is clear.’ Soon, it may be clear-cut. Of the 2.5 million acres in Minnesota known as School Trust Lands, few are as controversial as 60 acres of the Sandhill Crane Natural Area in northeast Anoka County. The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has proposed clear-cutting at least 40 acres of oak trees that the agency says have oak wilt, an infectious and fatal disease. But outraged opponents say the DNR is acting to uphold an outdated statute that says the land must generate revenue for schools. In this case, the payoff could be as little as $20,000.” Up north, they call that “casino money.”

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The GleanMore from the AP on the “terror plot” in Montevideo … ““We had information which indicated that Mr. Rogers was involved in a plot to conduct terror activities in and around the Montevideo area,’ [FBI spokesman Kyle Loven] said. He declined to say whether [Buford] Rogers was believed to be acting alone or as part of a group, or if other arrests were expected. Montevideo Police Chief Adam Christopher said a homemade sign in front of the mobile home that bore the letters ‘BSM’ refers to a local anti-government militia group called the Black Snake Militia, which the Rogers family started. ‘That is not a large scale, nationwide group, as far as I know,’ Christopher said. ‘I think it’s kind of them, and their family, and a few of their friends.’ Mark Pitcavage, who researches militias for the Anti-Defamation League, said the Black Snake Militia is a movement that has slowly grown from about 50 active groups around the U.S. a few years ago to more than 260 small groups today.”

At KMSP-TV, Tom Lyden, Rob Olson and Mike Durkin report: “Jeff Rogers told FOX 9 News his son doesn’t own any guns, and that the guns found during Friday’s search are registered to him. He believes someone complained to the police that they had guns and explosives in the home, leading to Friday’s search. ‘So what? I had guns. That’s my given right to have my guns,’ Rogers said. Rogers said his son is not a terrorist and said he doesn’t know why the FBI stated that a terror plot was thwarted and lives were saved. ‘Bucky is not a terrorist’, Rogers said. ‘He was not out to bomb nobody and I have no clue where the hell that came from’. … Another sign on the property says ‘No more I.F.R.D. We are not slaves’ — a misarranged reference to false Internet rumors the Affordable Care Act would require radio frequency identification (RFID) chips in U.S. citizens.” I think we’re talking about some seriously low-information voters here.

It was a big night for Charlie Gainey … The AP says: “Things only got better for the western Wisconsin teen with Down syndrome who escorted Miss Minnesota USA to his junior prom. Besides his dream date with Danielle Hooper Saturday, Menomonie High School junior Charlie Gainey was elected prom king. Charlie’s date with Hooper was arranged by a mutual friend who has a child that swims with Charlie on a Special Olympics team.”

Snuff yer butts, if yer on the U of M campus … Jenna Ross of the Strib says: “After years of debate, the U’s Twin Cities campus is poised to ban smoking — inside and out. It’s a bold move for a huge campus. But the university is clearly behind the trend. In 2006, about 30 colleges and universities boasted smoke-free campuses. Now, more than 1,100 do, including dozens in Minnesota and three of the U’s other campuses. ‘A tobacco-free campus has become an expectation … rather than an innovation,’ U President Eric Kaler said Thursday, after the University Senate, made up of faculty, students and staff, voted in favor of a smoking ban. ‘It’s about time for us.’ ”

“The Man in Black” has copped to 31 bank robberies. Mary Lynn Smith of the Strib writes: “A Minneapolis man dubbed the ‘Man in Black’ bank robber pleaded guilty Monday in federal court in St. Paul to five bank heists and admitted robbing 25 others. Under the plea agreement, prosecutors will seek a 14-year prison sentence for Mark Edward Wetsch, 49. In each case, he admitted to wearing a black mask and brandishing a firearm that was believed to be real. He also admitted robbing 25 other banks. Wetsch said he took more than $110,000 in the 31 robberies.”