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$9.50 minimum-wage bill has momentum

Property taxes explained; judge’s oath questioned; new air service for St. Cloud; committee backs tighter amendment rules; Robert Walker case heads to jury; and more.

The minimum wage bill is moving quickly. Rachel Stassen-Berger of the Strib reports: “DFL legislators on Monday night neared a breakthrough in a yearlong deadlock on raising Minnesota’s minimum wage from one of the nation’s lowest to one of its highest. If they can work through some unresolved details, the state’s minimum wage would leap from $6.15 an hour to $9.50 an hour.”

The AP’s Brian Bakst attempts to bring light to the argument over property taxes.
Q: How do the 2014 property tax levies set by cities, counties, townships, school districts and other taxing authorities compare to 2013?
A: Local governments assess the bulk of property taxes in Minnesota. They’re due to collect more than $8.6 billion this year. That’s up about $125 million from last year.
Q: Does that mean promises of property tax help were broken?
A: Lawmakers also put lots of new money into property tax refund and credit programs that, overall, cancel out the increase. Projections show $133 million in such awards, which are based on income and vary in size. People have until August to apply for the refunds, so it’s still too early to say if things will be better or worse in the final analysis.”

Obviously someone determined to exploit every possibility … Brandon Stahl of the Strib writes: “Frustrated with his divorce case, John Myser turned the tables on his judge, who now faces a review by the Minnesota Supreme Court over whether she took the required oath of office. Scott County District Judge Caroline Lennon said through a court official that she did. Myser believes he has proof that she didn’t, and took his evidence to the attorney general, the governor, the Legislature, the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court, which accepted the case even though lower courts have already ruled in Lennon’s favor.”

Says Curt Brown in the Strib: “St. Cloud has pledged $1 million in revenue guarantees, convincing SkyWest Airlines there will be enough fliers to bring daily out-of-state flights for the first time to an airport that sat dormant for three years. SkyWest will start its St. Cloud service May 6 with two daily flights to Chicago.”

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But those two amendments were so productive … for Democrats. The Forum News Service story says: “A Minnesota Senate committee Monday approved two similar bills to make it more difficult to send proposed constitutional amendments to the public. Current law requires a simple majority of legislators to approve a proposed amendment. The committee approved requiring 60 percent of each the House and Senate to approve, which then would hand the decision to voters on election day.”

Moose talk from MPR with the DNR’s Michelle Carstensen: “It’s certainly a possibility that we may look at this question and study this problem and really not come up with an answer that we can do anything about. An example would be: What if we really believe the driver is climate change? And that these longer winters, better parasite survival, poorer body condition in the moose, is really the underlying driver? What can we do with wildlife managers to combat that? And the answer is probably going to be, Not very much.”

And this from MPR’s weather guy, Paul Huttner: “I can’t make any concrete predictions about Spring 2014 in the Upper Midwest, but I do seem some potential emerging trends.

  • Abundant snow cover now across Minnesota should temper any sharp temperature rises.

  • Gradual northward trend in jet stream the next one, two weeks should offer gradual warming trend.

  • Gradual snow melt could keep temperatures much closer to average than the past two springs in Minnesota.

  • Gradual snow melt could help ease flood potential, but that could change on a moment’s notice with a rapid warm up and/or severe spring rainstorm.”

The Robert Walker fraud case is going to the jury. John Welbes’ PiPress story says: “The federal case against Walker is headed for the jury now, after a trial that pushed into its eighth week Monday. Walker, 71, best known as the founder of Select Comfort, is on trial for defrauding 1,800 Bixby [Energy Systems] investors out of $57 million. … ‘It was always somebody else’s fault,’ [Asst. US attorney Benjamin] Langner said. He recalled that Walker blamed the governor of Inner Mongolia in China for meddling with the delivery of a Bixby coal conversion machine, and delaying its operation there.”

Thanks to tipster Rob for this one, via the Daily Kos, The Mn Progressive Project and “The Grace Kelly”: “Minnesota is the most livable state during climate change. Now of course, all of this depends on what you value. Here are my criteria:
1) Food — The ability to grow food is important. While Minnesota will be impacted by storms, hail, drought and higher temperatures, it starts with so much more growing capacity that I think Minnesota will always be able to feed its own state. Food is so important that I gave it double weight in the ranking.
2) Water — Having enough water is essential for drinking, growing food and business. Minnesota is ranked 38th among the states. If Minnesota is careful with its water, it should have enough.” She also gives high value to the way our winters keep the riff-raff out.