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MNsure law hides costs till October

Highway volunteers save state $6 million; bar shooting details; Jones’ ATF grilling; “ball hound” visiting Target Field; another Stillwater bomb scare; field-trip teacher allegedly drunk; and more.

There’s a law keeping the cost of MNsure under wraps until October. Says Catharine Richert at MPR: “Several other states, including California and Oregon, have already revealed the premium rates health insurers want to charge for plans to be sold on the exchanges in those states. … In Minnesota, carriers have already filed their rate proposals with regulators, but state law requires keeping them confidential until October. Despite that, there are important potential customers of MNsure who are eager to find out how much coverage might cost them.”

So taxpayers are doing what their taxes used to pay others to do? The AP says: “Minnesota transportation officials say volunteers pick up an estimated 26,000 tons of trash along state highways each year. The Department of Transportation figures the volunteers save the state an estimated $6 million annually. The Adopt a Highway program is currently staffed with more than 49,000 volunteers who clean up litter from 11,000 miles of Minnesota highways. Adopt a Highway program administrator Ernest Lloyd says that because of the volunteers, state road crews can spend more time on highway improvement and safety projects.”

Killed … for stopping a game of pool. Mara Gottfried’s PiPress story says: “Yia Her told police he’d paid $20 to rent a pool table at Malina’s for two hours. His wife’s brother, Cheng Vang, of Minneapolis, was playing pool with him at the bar earlier. After the owner wouldn’t give him his $20 back, Yia Her said he called Cheng Vang and left the bar. He told his brother-in-law to bring a gun. He said he hadn’t seen Cheng Vang with a gun in the past, but assumed he’d have one. ‘Her was very angry and his plan was to use Vang’s gun to scare the owner into giving him his $20 back,’ the complaint said. Cheng Vang came back to the bar about five minutes after Yia Her called him. Yia Her said he didn’t know whether his brother-in-law had a gun when he returned. Yia Her kicked and pounded on the door until he and Cheng Vang were let back in.”

From the Senate hearings on B. Todd Jones’ nomination to lead the ATF … Alicia Caldwell of the AP reports: “Jones was just the second ATF nominee to face congressional questioning since the Senate was given authority to approve the agency’s chief in 2006. The powerful gun lobby has worked aggressively and successfully behind the scenes since then to convince lawmakers to not even give a previous nominee a hearing. The NRA has not publicly endorsed or opposed Jones’ nomination. … Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat who is leading the hearing, said the unwillingness of the Senate to approve a permanent director doesn’t make any sense. ‘I think that’s wrong. Something is wrong when the Senate fails to confirm the head of an agency for seven years,’ Klobuchar said.”

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Speaking of lapses … Elizabeth Baier of MPR says: “Red Wing will soon have a new leader, months after the city’s mayor resigned because of his ties to the frac sand industry. Six names will be on today’s ballot … Former Mayor Dennis Egan stepped down in February amid controversy after he became executive director of the Minnesota Industrial Sand Council. At the time, Egan said his new job as a lobbyist was not a conflict of interest, but several members of the Red Wing City Council objected before he resigned from the position. Red Wing is one of a number of Minnesota communities where frac sand mining has become a contentious issue.”

And I’ve caught a grand total of oneBob Sansevere of the PiPress writes: “Zack Hample plans to show up Tuesday at Target Field to do what he has been doing at many major league ballparks: Catch and fetch foul balls, home run balls and balls tossed into the stands. Hample claims he has snagged more than 6,700 major league baseballs. He is in the midst of a tour of baseball’s 30 major league parks, and his latest stop will be Target Field for the Twins-Philadelphia game. His journey this season has a payoff. For every stadium Hample lands a game-used ball, a sunflower seed company will donate $500 to the Pitch In For Baseball organization that collects and distributes new and gently used youth baseball and softball equipment worldwide. Through June 6, he was 20-for-20 collecting baseballs at ballparks this season, raising $10,000 for Pitch In For Baseball.”

Another round of bomb scares in Stillwater. Mary Divine of the PiPress says: “Oak Park Heights police closed a portion of eastbound Minnesota 36 early Tuesday after authorities were called to a shopping area to investigate several suspicious packages that were wrapped in foil and beeping. Police found three devices about 4:45 a.m. under bushes near the sign for Kohl’s, TJ Maxx and Michael’s at the corner of 60th Street and Krueger Lane. Another device was found about 100 feet east of the sign, near the Ruby Tuesday’s restaurant. The devices — about 6 inches long and 2 inches wide — appear to be some sort of Motorola retail security mechanism, said Police Chief Brian DeRosier. Each had a coded cable sticking out of one end, he said.”

The Glean“Uh, teacher, you’re supposed to roll the ball toward the pins …”  Dannika Lewis of Wisconsin’s Channel 3000 reports: “A Janesville school teacher was drunk while supervising students on a field trip Thursday, according to a report from the Janesville Police Department. The report states the teacher, Maria Caya, 50, was taken to Mercy Hospital by her husband after vomiting and passing out on a field trip to a bowling alley. … The police report states Caya had a blood-alcohol level of 0.27 percent at noon on Thursday. She admitted to hospital staff she was drinking at 6 a.m. before supervising on the field trip.” Not exactly a breakfast of champions.

I’m guessing the national Democrats haven’t been beating down her door. From Monday, Mark Sommerhauser of the St. Cloud Times reports: “A Circle Pines woman and lead-abatement activist has become the first DFLer to announce a run for the congressional seat now held by Rep. Michele Bachmann. Judy Adams said Monday she will seek the DFL endorsement in Minnesota’s 6th Congressional District. Adams, who calls herself ‘the lead-prevention lady,’ hasn’t run for or held elected office. She says she works as a painter and lead remodeler and has used her expertise on those issues to lobby Minnesota legislators to improve state lead laws. Now Adams says she’d like to advance that cause, as well as the cause of small businesses, as a member of Congress. Adams says she doesn’t believe the DFL is conservative enough on many issues, but she isn’t interested in running as a Republican.”