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Medtronic, St. Jude likely to win tax fight

Plus: license plate readers likely to get more scrutiny; Minnesota experiencing worst flu outbreak in four years; tickets for new Vikings stadium going fast; and more.

Medtronic HQ
Wikimedia Commons/Bobak Ha'Eri

The job creators will get their break, most likely. MPR’s Brett Neely says, “Minnesota’s medical device makers are well-positioned to score a big win next month if lawmakers follow through on a promise to repeal a tax on their industry. The tax, which is estimated to raise about $3 billion annually, is part of the Affordable Care Act and helps fund the expansion of health insurance to the previously uninsured. The health insurance and pharmaceutical industries also pay special levies as part of the health care law on the theory that those industries stand to gain the most from millions of new customers. Minnesota companies such as Medtronic and St. Jude Medical stand to keep millions of dollars more of their profits if the tax is repealed.” If it is repealed? The entire congressional delegation is on their Christmas card list.

Also on the hit list: those license plate readers. The AP story says, “State lawmakers and data privacy advocates are gearing up to crack down on how police use license plate readers. The tiny cameras are usually mounted on squad cars, sucking up when and where a car was last spotted and checking it against a database of wanted vehicles. But regulations have eluded legislators for two years due to a disagreement with law enforcement about how long they should be able to keep records.”

Worst in four years, they say. At WCCO-TV Kate Raddatz reports, “Minnesota is experiencing the worst flu outbreak in four years. Hundreds of schools across the state have been affected and now doctors and nurses are getting sick, too. Hospitals have admitted more than 300 Minnesotans with the flu this season. Sixty of the cases happened just in the last week. There were 22 cases in the same week in 2013.” I’ve been talking through the mail slot for a week.

Atheists are down with Christmas. In the PiPress, Bob Shaw writes, “In the trenches of the War on Christmas, the troops are ready for their assault. Their weapons are green beans, apple pies and frozen turkeys. ‘People have to do God’s work, because there is no God to do God’s work,’ said Eric Jayne, president of the Minnesota Atheists, as his crew of nonbelievers packaged food in a food-shelf supply warehouse earlier this month. The group calls its charitable activities the ‘War on Christmas.’ It advocates taking the religious aspects out of the holiday, making Christmas a cultural — not spiritual — event. ‘Christians do not own Christmas,’ said Jayne, who lives in Apple Valley.” Unless they get it for 60 percent off at Target.

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And only what? 500 days to kick-off? The AP reports, “The Minnesota Vikings say ticket sales for the new stadium are moving at a brisk pace. The Vikings announced Monday that they have sold 30,000 season tickets in the nine months since they went on sale for the new stadium, which is currently under construction. The sales have already brought in more than $80 million in seat license fees, far ahead of the internal goal of $37 million for 2014. The Vikings have also sold 75 of the 131 suites that will be available in the stadium.”

At MPR, Tim Nelson adds, “Three quarters of the 65,400 seats will require the licenses, which went on sale nine months ago. They range in price from $500 to $9,500 a seat. ‘We’d originally budgeted to do just around $35 million for the year, so to be at this level so early in the game just speaks volumes for how dedicated the fan base is here, and people really stepped up,’ said Jason Gonella, a vice president of Van Wagner Sports, the marketing firm the Vikings hired to sell the so called ‘stadium builder licenses.’ When the team initially rolled out the plan, the fees sparked outrage by some fans and a rebuke from Gov. Mark Dayton. They said the team was double dipping by relying on taxpayer subsidies and steep fees for fans. Many fans said they were giving up their long-held season tickets for the team. In response, Vikings officials said their license program followed NFL protocol. They also said their market research said fans would buy them.” I mean, come on! We’re talking the NFL. It’s more popular than Christmas.

Farewell, Anna. Maya Rao of the Strib says, “Anna Stoehr, Minnesota’s oldest resident, died over the weekend. She was 114. Born in 1900 near Manning, Iowa, Stoehr lived on her own in a farmhouse in Potsdam before moving last year into Green Prairie Place, a senior living community in Plainview.”

Rep. John Kline hardly needs Bill Maher when he’s got City Pages’ Cory Zurowski. Demonstrating far more indignation than the mainstream press would ever dare, Zurowski writes, “Congressman John Kline, hired handmaiden of the for-profit college industry, is stepping up on behalf of his deep-pocketed handlers again. This time he’s rising up against the Obama administration’s latest attempt to protect students from predatory schools. Calling it a ‘fool’s errand,’ the Minnesota Republican took aim last week at the Department of Education’s just-released framework for a college ratings system based on access, affordability, and graduation rates. … he’s been the biggest obstacle to meaningful reform. He’s also been the active champion of some of the country’s worst-performing institutions, most notably for-profit schools like the University of Phoenix, which has fattened his campaign coffers by almost $1 million in recent years.”