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Dayton’s universal preschool and transportation plans hit stiff resistance in Legislature

Plus: more on the case of two missing Lakeville teenagers; Vikings fans are bad at grammar; House passes Republican tax plan; and more.

Gov. Mark Dayton
MinnPost photo by Briana Bierschbach

Tough day for the Governor. Stribbers Ricardo Lopez and Patrick Coolican report, “Gov. Mark Dayton on Wednesday saw two of his key initiatives take a thumping in the Legislature, by both parties. The DFL-led Senate, in approving its education budget bill, moved no closer to Dayton’s goal of universal preschool. The House, meanwhile, sent a symbolic message on Dayton’s wholesale gas tax plan to fix the state’s roads and bridges, rejecting the proposal in a rare unanimous vote. With less than three weeks left until the Legislature is expected to pass a two-year budget, wide gulfs in competing proposals from the two legislative bodies and Dayton are expected to make for difficult end-of-session negotiations.”

This is a very odd case. Brandon Stahl of the Strib reports, “Lakeville police are intensifying their efforts to find two missing teenage sisters, threatening to prosecute anyone found harboring them and calling the lack of cooperation ‘inhumane.’ Samantha and Gianna Rucki ran away from their Lakeville home in April 2013 amid their parents’ bitter divorce and have been missing ever since. Lakeville Police Detective Jim Dronen said there are at least four persons of interest in the case, including the girls’ mother, Sandra Grazzini-Rucki, and her attorney, Michelle MacDonald. ‘These are people that know what’s going on who haven’t told us what they know,’ Dronen said Wednesday.” Yes, that Michelle MacDonald.

Strib blogger Michael Brodkorb also continues to follow the story. “Michael Rhedin, who is connected to a person of interest in the disappearance of two missing sisters from Lakeville, pleaded guilty in 2014 to bringing a firearm into an elementary school in Lakeville. Rhedin was at the school to serve a subpoena in a divorce case between Sandra Grazzini-Rucki and her ex-husband David Rucki. Rhedin is described as Grazzini-Rucki’s ‘boyfriend’ in court documents. He entered the school to serve a subpoena issued by Grazzini-Rucki’s attorney, Michelle MacDonald, for school records. … Rhedin is currently employed as a corrections officer at the Hennepin County Adult Corrections Facility in Plymouth.”

This is just brutal. Ben Johnson at City Pages writes, “Big surprise here: Vikings fans are awful at using correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation, even when compared to the illiterate mouthbreathers populating other NFL fan bases. The Wall Street Journal used an automated proofreading service to check for writing errors in a sample of 150 comments that were at least 50 words long on stories posted in the news section of each NFL team’s website. Commenters on averaged 11.4 mistakes per 100 words, good for seventh-worst out of 32 teams. … The Detroit Lions have the NFL’s most grammatically sound comment section by a pretty wide margin, with only 4.2 mistakes per 100 words, followed by the Green Bay Packers at 5.1.”

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Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, Mike Hughlett of the Strib reports, “The bird flu has surfaced at 11 more Minnesota turkey farms, bringing to 67 the number of state poultry flocks afflicted by the virus, state regulators said Wednesday. The H5N2 bird flu was confirmed at eight turkey farms in the state by the United States Department of Agriculture. The Minnesota Department of Animal Health reported ‘presumptive’ flu findings in three more turkey flocks. Of the 11 new cases, six are in Kandiyohi County, bringing the total number there to 25, the most of any county. Kandiyohi is the state’s largest turkey producing county, and Minnesota is the nation’s largest turkey state, churning out about 46 million birds a year.” I’m thinking maybe tofu and kale for Thanksgiving this year.

Our, uh, elaborate infrastructure for medical marijuana is pretty much up and ready for business. The Forum News Service story says, “The Minnesota Department of Health, which says it’s still on track to start its unique smoke-free version of a medical marijuana program this summer, has approved two laboratories to test the composition and purity of cannabis medications produced by Minnesota’s two approved manufacturers. The laboratories are Aspen Research Corporation, Maple Grove, and Legend Technical Services Inc., St. Paul.”

To the surprise of absolutely no one, Andrew Wiggins will be named NBA Rookie of the Year today. Says the AP, “The Minnesota Timberwolves’ forward will be named rookie of the year on Thursday, a person with knowledge of the announcement told The Associated Press on Wednesday night. The person requested anonymity because an official announcement has not been made. Andrew Wiggins, the reported NBA rookie of the year, had the fifth-highest age-19 scoring average in league history, which puts him in the company of today’s best scorers.”

Likewise, everyone saw this coming. Brian Bakst at the AP says, “In a debate that took them from a lake town pie shop to the moon, Minnesota House lawmakers dueled Wednesday over who would gain most from a Republican-written tax plan that aims for more than $2 billion in breaks soon and double that down the road.  The bill, which passed 74-58, contains an array of income tax credits and exemptions. It also would add more protections against the estate tax and gradually draw down a state property tax assessed on businesses. Three big cities — Duluth, Minneapolis and St. Paul — would see their state aid allowances reduced, which lawmakers from those areas called mean-spirited.”

It’s kind of wild and wooly out there. At MPR, Nancy Lebens reports, “Two crashes that killed three people Tuesday left Minnesota at a grim milestone: 100 road deaths already in 2015, a pace faster than last year. … Public safety officials report seven motorcycle fatalities and 10 deaths of pedestrians so far in 2015. At this time last year, 92 people had died on Minnesota roads, including one motorcyclist and one pedestrian.” 

Here’s a different wrinkle in the Catholic sex abuse cases. Dan Gilbert at MPR writes, “The Archdiocese of New Ulm faces a lawsuit over alleged sexual abuse by a nun in the 1960s. It’s the first case involving a nun filed under a Minnesota law temporarily lifting the statute of limitations on child sexual abuse lawsuits. Doug Devorak claims Sister Mary Regina Hebig repeatedly fondled him when he was a fifth grader at St. Michael’s Catholic School in Madison, Minn. Devorak, 57, said he kept it a secret for decades out of respect for his parents.” 

That paltry growth rate for the national economy over the first quarter isn’t registering with Minnesota’s lenders. Matt Sepic, also with MPR, says, “Banks in Minnesota and other states are signaling economic strength ahead, even as the nation’s economy grew at an anemic rate of 0.2 percent in the first three months of the year, far less than economists were expecting. At Minnesota’s community banks, home mortgages, commercial loans and even farm lending grew more than at any time since the end of the Great Recession. This is shaping up to be another really strong year for growth in loans to businesses, said Phil Trier, Twin Cities market president for U.S. Bank in Minneapolis. Trier said medium-sized companies in particular — those with revenue of $20 million to $500 million — are borrowing a lot these days to finance everything from new equipment, acquisitions of other companies and new hiring.”