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Number of young smokers continues to drop

Plus: state Senate passes tax breaks; the Trashmen are still rocking; Ellison seeks to stop ‘criminal’ corporations from spending money on politics; and more.

REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Pretty soon we’ll be completely vice free. Stribber Jeremy Olson writes, “The first generation of Minnesotans raised in a world of counter-smoking campaigns — a world in which lighting up is compared to a queasy roller coaster you can’t get off — is leading a sharp decline in tobacco use. The share of Minnesotans who smoke dropped from 16.1 percent in 2010 to 14.4 percent in 2014, according to survey results released Thursday, and the number of smokers aged 18 to 24 dropped the fastest, from 21.8 percent to 15.3 percent. The decline meant, for the first time in the 15-year history of the statewide survey, that the youngest adults in Minnesota were no longer the most likely to smoke.”

At long last a … job creation bill. Says Don Davis of the Forum News Service, “[Rep. Ron Kresha]  took members of the House Greater Minnesota Economic and Workforce Development Committee through his 54-page bill that gives businesses tax breaks, cuts the time that the state has to issue environmental permits, examines rules that Kresha said ‘may be overzealous’ and provides a way for communities to build homes to help reduce a housing shortage many greater Minnesota communities experience. It was the first in-depth look at the bill Republicans say will encourage businesses to add jobs.”

Speaking of giveaways, tax breaks are coming. The AP story says, “Days into the income tax filing season, a bill that awards up to $20 million in extra deductions and credits is on the verge of becoming law. The Minnesota Senate voted unanimously Thursday for the measure that previously sailed through the House. Gov. Mark Dayton intends to sign it. The breaks are narrowly tailored and accomplished by aligning Minnesota’s tax code with recent federal changes. Teachers who buy supplies, homeowners paying mortgage insurance and college students with certain tuition costs are among the beneficiaries.”

Shades of the 2011-2012 session? The AP reports, “Abortion opponents both in and outside of the Minnesota Legislature say a Republican majority in the House this year could help them make small steps toward their larger goal of banning taxpayer funding for the practice. … The number of abortions performed in the state peaked at about 19,000 25 years ago and had declined to a little less than 10,000 as of 2013.” 

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So this guy’s thing is ripping off upscale hotels. The whole story is about the guy taking jail time with less probation for his chronic bilking. But you have to love this bit. From Elizabeth Mohr of the PiPress, “Derek Mylan Alldred, 44, was sentenced Thursday in Ramsey County District Court for walking out on a $975 bill at the Saint Paul Hotel and bilking the Grand View Lodge in Nisswa, Minn., out of more than $4,400. … On June 21, Alldred checked into the Saint Paul Hotel under the name Aldrich and told hotel staff he was a doctor and had lost his wallet on the plane. He was there with a woman and her two children. Alldred and his three companions stayed at the hotel for two nights, accruing restaurant, bar and television charges. The hotel held the woman’s car, which had been checked into valet, because the bills weren’t paid. Alldred left her and the kids at the hotel, forcing them to take a cab home, the complaint said.” I get the part about the woman, but two kids?

Speaking of odd cons: Brandt Williams of MPR writes, “The Hennepin County Attorney’s office has charged a Farmington couple in a scheme involving more than $5,300 worth of American Girl dolls. According to the charges, Jennifer and Henry Cho bought discounted American Girl dolls online and then returned them to the store at the Mall of America for a full price refund or store credit. Both are charged with theft by swindle. Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said the charges are particularly alarming because the Chos are both former law enforcement officers.”

Believe it. The Trashmen are still rockin’, or whatever. Says Chris Riemenschneider for the Strib, “Everybody’s heard about ‘Surfin’ Bird.’ An unlikely hit in the wake of JFK’s assassination, the Trashmen’s 1963 goof-off single has been reused by everyone from the Ramones and Stanley Kubrick to Pee-wee Herman and, most recently, Fox TV’s ‘Family Guy.’ However, few of the Minnesota music lovers who will see the Trashmen perform at First Avenue Saturday for 89.3 the Current’s birthday party probably know the story of the pioneering local musicians behind the iconic song.”

This one has had a bullseye on it for a long time. The AP says, “Minnesota lawmakers are restarting a two-year-long push to set rules for how law enforcement agencies use automated license plate readers. … But there are no state rules governing their use because lawmakers haven’t been able to agree how long police can keep data on law-abiding Minnesotans. A Senate panel passed a bill Thursday setting that window at 90 days. A similar bill was recently introduced in the House.”

It’s a quixotic project for Keith Ellison but you have to admire the brashness of it all. At City Pages, Ben Johnson writes, “Last year a federal judge found oil giant BP acted with “profit-driven decisions” that amounted to “gross negligence” resulting in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Currently the corporation is in court arguing over the billions in fines it owes in Clean Water Act violations on top of a $4 billion fine it already paid the federal government stemming from criminal charges. Despite that, BP found a way to come up with nearly $5 million to spend on lobbying and campaign contributions in 2014. In 2013 it spent more than $8 million. Yesterday Rep. Keith Ellison introduced a bill that would bar ‘criminal corporations’ like BP from political spending for six years after being convicted of any felony involving dishonesty, breach of trust, or defrauding the United States government.” Yeah! “Criminal” corporations. The things you can say out loud from a safe district.

96 percent is kind of a lot. Kim McGuire of the Strib says, “Despite the fact Minnesota’s schools are growing increasingly diverse, its teacher workforce is 96 percent white, according to a state report released this week. … The lack of racial diversity among Minnesota’s teachers is one of the report’s more alarming findings. While there has been a slight increase in the number of Hispanic and Asian teachers, the percentage of teachers of color in Minnesota is 3.8 percent. Of the 58,211 public school teachers in the state, about 900 are Asian, 600 are black, 500 are Hispanic and 250 are American Indian, according to 2014 numbers.”

Finally, maybe you are like me, and when you’re confronted/assaulted by the nattering inanity of those gas pump TV feeds, you’re convinced again that we’re doomed as a society. Cory Zurowski at City Pages has felt (our) pain. “GSTV emerged as the industry juggernaut from the business brainchild seeking to capitalize ‘on a moment in time when [consumers] are bored and have nothing to do, and as we like to say, they’re tied with an eight-foot hose to our screens,’ says [GSTV’s vice president of marketing, Violeta Ivezaj].” God forbid they program with something more, uh, informative than a mash-up of Fox & Friends and Perez Hilton.