Word is that the holidays are over, the relatives have gone home and it’s safe to come back out. Maybe.
As the legislative session approaches, Don Davis of the Forum News Service has a story up: “Mark Dayton has emerged from his campaign shell. The 67-year-old governor, preparing to start his final elective term, was at times funny and a couple of times harsh during a recent interview with Forum News Service and St. Paul Pioneer Press reporters. He fulfilled what a Minneapolis editorial writer somewhat jokingly predicted would be ‘Dayton unbound’ (not to be confused with the Dayton Unbound Ministries in Ohio). At his harshest, Dayton attacked former U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman, whose term overlapped with Dayton’s time in the Senate.”
A Tim Pugmire/MPR story says, “A projected $1 billion budget surplus has many state lawmakers looking for ways to return some of that money to taxpayers. There are plenty of competing ideas for tax relief. DFL Gov. Mark Dayton has already made it clear that child care tax credits are on his list. … Before tackling new tax issues, [GOP Rep. Greg] Davids said his panel will act early in the session on language needed to keep state money flowing to Mayo Clinic’s Destination Medical Center in Rochester. Once that’s done, Davids said he’d like to help businesses by phasing out the commercial property tax. He wants to discuss whether placing levy limits on local governments as a condition of state aid would hold down property taxes.”
Today will not be a good news day for our (version of) Scottish royalty. Paul Walsh of the Strib says, “Colin Chisholm, who lived the life of a Lake Minnetonka millionaire with his wife while collecting welfare benefits, leaves jail long enough to hear on Monday that he’ll be moving to his new digs in prison. … According to state guidelines, the presumptive sentence would have been probation and no prison time. But the prosecution argued that the dollar amount of the theft, the length of time over which it occurred and the frequency of the crimes called for an upward departure.”
Also from Walsh, this story of how much wimpier we are here compared to back when I walked five miles to school. Uphill. Both ways. In 50-below weather. “Severe cold throughout the state is having an impact, starting with a Duluth area ski resort closing Sunday because of ‘extremely low temperatures and intense wind chill factors.’ … Spirit Mountain’s operators pointed to ‘guest and employee safety’ for their decision to close the slopes and its Adventure Park on Sunday ‘due to the incoming extremely low temperatures and intense wind chill factors.’ As of 10 a.m. Sunday, the temperature was minus-8, with a wind chill of minus-28, the Weather Service reported.”
A new story — a series, in fact — about sex trafficking amid the Bakken oil field. This one from Ann Dalrymple and Katherine Rymn of the Forum News Service. “Seven men — some enraged, some embarrassed, some ashamed — crowd holding cells in the jail just across the interstate from the Best Western hotel in Dickinson, N.D. Two other guys, the latest would-be ‘johns’ caught in a prostitution sting, sit on a hotel room floor at the Best Western, handcuffed and dazed. Across a parking lot from the hotel, still two more men are detained at the Astoria Hotel. All of the men were arrested after responding to a fake ad offering sex for money. And the messages kept coming. ‘We could’ve got 10 more that night,’ said Rob Fontenot, a North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation agent who led the operation, one of several that authorities have conducted in western North Dakota.”
According to Mara Gottfried at the PiPress, the State Patrol is still looking for the person who hit and killed a woman crawling on I-35. “Emily Boone, 28, entered the freeway near Grand Avenue on foot, according to State Patrol Lt. Tiffani Nielson. She didn’t jump from the overpass, but it’s possible she fell from the retaining wall on the west side of the freeway, Nielson said. The State Patrol doesn’t know whether it was Boone’s intention to jump or if she fell onto the road. Boone was in a crawling position when a vehicle struck her on the left shoulder or left lane of southbound I-35E just south of the Grand Avenue overpass, the State Patrol said. It happened about 9:40 p.m. Friday. Boone, who was from Maple Grove and had been living in St. Paul, died at the scene.”
Just because the calendar has flipped to 2015 doesn’t mean the daily flow of lists has abated. For example, here’s one where we are … wait for it … No. 1! The Strib’s Tim Harlow writes, “Believe it or not, Minnesota has the best drivers in the nation. That came as a big surprise to me, since on a daily basis I see motorists cut off other drivers, tailgate, drift into other traffic lanes, chat or text away on their cellphones, and engage in countless other menacing behaviors that don’t epitomize ‘Minnesota Nice.’ But those were not the criteria that carinsurancecomparison.com looked at when it published its 2014 Worst Drivers by State in mid-December.”
Or, if not No. 1, then … No. 9! Tipster Ray points us to this one. “The Safest States in the Union.” Tom Frolich and Alexander Kent at 24/7 Wall St. say, “Minnesota households had a median income of $60,702 in 2013, more than $8,000 higher than the national benchmark. Additionally, state residents were quite educated, as 33.5 percent of adults aged 25 and older had obtained a bachelor’s degree as of 2013, well above the 29.6 percent of adults nationwide. The strong socioeconomic environment likely contributed to the low violent crime rate of only 223.2 incidents reported per 100,000 residents in 2013. Overall, the state’s violent crime rate fell 3.3 percent despite incidents of murder and non-negligent manslaughter increasing more than 14 percent between 2012 and 2013.” Try remembering that when you’re driven into a guard rail by a texting soccer mom.
On a site called Distractify, Beth Buczynski comes up with a list of “50 Americans Summarize Their Home State In One Perfectly Sarcastic Sentence.” For us? “10,000 Lakes and 10,000,000,000,000 Mosquitoes.” Which is still better than (guess the state): “Way too cold to be sober.”
Speaking of probably not sober: The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel says, “Germantown police are trying to solve a strange mystery after they found a diamond ring placed on a branch of the police department’s Christmas tree. Chief Peter Hoell posted a note on the Germantown Police Department’s Facebook page Saturday, asking if anyone knew where the ring came from. The diamonds are real, he said, and police think someone intentionally placed the ring on the tree that sits in the police department’s lobby.”
Oh, and happy new year.