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DFL legislators agree on higher minimum wage, automatic pay increases

DFLers reverse pro-environment decision; groundwater drain; local stocks fall; heroin deaths up; and more.

MinnPost file photo by James Nord

Give me the building, and workers get helped. Minimum wage workers — in fact, anyone making up to $9.50 —will get a raise and “indexed” pay hikes under a legislative deal reported late Sunday by the Star Tribune’s Rachel E. Stassen-Berger. Though RSB’s non-named sources don’t say what the indexing basis will be (apparently one detail saved for today’s newswer), the story implies holdout Senate DFLers tumbled after House DFLers approved a new Senate office building Friday.

How the game is played … . Josephine Marcotty of the Strib reports: “Gov. Mark Dayton and top state pollution officials abruptly reversed a decision to publicly affirm a long-standing and highly contentious water-quality rule designed to protect wild rice after Iron Range legislators intervened in late February, according to internal records and e-mails. The sudden scramble, which left observers puzzled at the time, provides an unusual close-up look at the intense political, economic and environmental stakes in the three-year fight over protecting Minnesota’s most beloved plant from pollutants generated by mining and other industries.”

If you’re one who thinks water will be the oil of the 21st century … . Kristi Marohn of the St. Cloud Times says: “The Bonanza Valley — in parts of Stearns, Kandiyohi and Pope counties — is one of three groundwater management areas the DNR has established in the state … . The DNR has the authority to issue permits to large water users, those who pump more than 10,000 gallons a day or 1 million gallons a year. Those can include farmers, municipal water supplies, power utilities, food processing plants and golf courses. Overall, the state has seen a 35 percent increase in groundwater use by large water users in the past 25 years. But in the Bonanza Valley, it’s spiked by 175 percent during the same period.”

(Still) speaking of water … . Nick Woltman of the PiPress says: “The same ‘sky blue waters’ that were used to brew Hamm’s beer for more than 100 years now provide a home for thousands of tilapia and sustenance for racks of leafy green vegetables. Urban Organics, an aquaponics farm, operates in the six-story stockhouse building of the former Hamm’s Brewery complex in east St. Paul.”

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Rough quarter for some of the big kids … . Neal St. Anthony and Patrick Kennedy of the Strib say: “Some of the state’s best-known companies saw their stocks decline, including a rare drop (of 3.9 percent) for Ameriprise Financial. It has returned 42.9 percent annually to shareholders over the past five years, including dividends.  Large retailers also lost value. Best Buy was down 33.3 percent, and Target dropped 3.6 percent in value in the first quarter.”

Smacked down … . Amy Forliti of the AP writes: “Authorities say heroin is cheap in Minnesota, easy to get and among the purest in the country. … There have been 290 heroin-related deaths in Minnesota from 1999 through 2013 [with] a big jump in 2011, when there were 50 deaths, compared with just 15 the year before. Another big jump came in 2013, when 98 heroin-related deaths were reported statewide … . Meanwhile, the number of people entering heroin treatment programs has increased tenfold over the last 20 years.”

Again … ? Anthony Lonetree of the Strib reports on a guy who should be taking good advice. “Timberwolves forward Dante Cunningham, charged last Friday with felony domestic assault, was arrested again by Medina police Sunday — this time on a possible terroristic threats charge. He was being held without bail at the Hennepin County jail.” The Timberwolves said in a statement: ‘The situation with Dante Cunningham is very fluid and we continue to monitor all available information. We reiterate that the Minnesota Timberwolves do not condone the behavior described in the accusations.”

Veteran GOP activist Annette Meeks is opposed to … a tax. In a Strib commentary she says: “In 2008, the Minnesota Legislature increased gasoline taxes by 8.5 cents per gallon. … Amazingly, just a few short years later, transportation advocates are once again at the Capitol seeking a whopping $700 million in new taxes. While their arguments remain much the same, this year they seek to hide the gas tax in the form of a 5 percent tax on gasoline at the wholesale level — a hidden tax of nearly 15 cents per gallon, assuming a gas price of $3 a gallon.”

Sally Jo Sorensen has her bead on GOP Rep. Marion O’Neill. Says Ms. Sorensen: “After months of objecting to government regulation, Minnesota state representative Marion O’Neill (R-Buffalo) has finally found one she loves. Although she voted against HF92, the minimum wage bill, in the House Committee on Labor, Workplace and Regulated Industries and in on the House floor, she’s suddenly enamored of doubling unpaid parental leave to 12 weeks.” She then moves to a recent Doug Grow column here at MinnPost and the suspicion that O’Neill is playing a silly political game.

Next time in Canal Park … . Candace Renalls of the Duluth News Tribune says, “The historic Endion Station in Canal Park will see new life starting this summer … . The Endion Station Public House will be a fast-casual restaurant offering craft beer on tap, sit-down eating, take out and grab-and-go options for picnics. Embracing the 115-year-old building’s beginnings as a small train depot, the establishment will sport a fun, railroad theme.  A deck outside will provide outdoor seating. … the latest venture for entrepreneurs Rod Raymond and Tim Nelson, who also own Fitger’s Brewhouse, Tycoons Alehouse & Eatery, Redstar Lounge and Burrito Union in Duluth.” They might get 10 days use out of that deck.