Slow progress leads to talk of special session for lawmakers

MinnPost photo by Briana Bierschbach

On all the huddling and negotiating, Dave Montgomery and Rachel Stassen-Berger of the PiPress report, “Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis and chairman of the Senate’s transportation committee, is optimistic about how fast lawmakers could produce a final transportation bill once a deal is struck. ‘We’d probably need about a day to work through the committee process and give staff time to get everything shipshape,’ Dibble said. The health and human services budget bill, which tends to stretch over hundreds of pages, can take two to three days for the revisor’s office to produce … .”

For the Forum News Service Don Davis and Robb Jeffries say, “What has not been discussed, [Sen. Majority Leader Tom] Bakk said, are two of the hottest topics: whether to add a new gasoline tax, as Democrats propose, and if taxes should be cut $2 billion, as Republicans want. Bakk said he does not favor negotiating those issues until the rest of the budget is decided. If they are to be discussed, he indicated, a special session could be needed.”

Not reassuring. For KARE-TV, Chris Hrapsky says, “The Amtrak crash in Philadelphia brings about an urgent question: Are Minnesota’s railroads safe? According to Northwestern University, these days you are six times more likely to die in a train accident than a plane. Last year, counting freight trains, more than 1,200 trains jumped the tracks in the U.S., roughly 100 times every month. Railroad companies that operate in Minnesota say they are working to implement new train safety technology called ‘positive train control’ or PTC. But according to the Minnesota Department of Transportation, not a single track in the state has this technology up and running.”

Dang! I was feelin’ lucky. But the AP says, “The Minnesota Lottery’s experiment with paperless, instant-play tickets sold over the Internet and other platforms will come to an end because Gov. Mark Dayton decided Thursday against vetoing legislation suspending the games.” So I guess it’s back to e-pulltabs.

Buckle up, stupid. A PiPress story reminds readers, “More than 300 law enforcement agencies will participate in the statewide Click It or Ticket campaign starting Monday, according to a news release. It will run until the end of the month. Thirty people who have died in crashes since the start of the year in Minnesota were not wearing seat belts, the release said. From 2012 to 2014, Minnesota crashes killed 823 people. Only 52 percent were known to be belted, preliminary numbers from DPS show.”

Okay, ignite those fires. The Forum News Service says, “The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources lifted burning restrictions Thursday  in numerous Minnesota counties due to decreased fire danger because of precipitation and green-up. This means burning permits will be available for burning of vegetative materials. Although the state is lifting restrictions, local counties or municipalities may have specific regulations or restrictions that affect burning.”

Both UnitedHealth and Medica will be doing business in Iowa. Tony Leys of the Des Moines Register says, “A Minnesota-based health insurer plans to join two other carriers on Iowa’s version of the Affordable Care Act insurance marketplace. Thursday morning’s announcement from Medica means that moderate-income Iowans who qualify for federal subsidies under Obamacare will have at least three carriers to choose from for 2016. Such subsidies are only available to help pay premiums for policies purchased on the Affordable Care Act marketplace, known as healthcare.gov.”

John Kline Watch. City Pages’ Cory Zurowski writes, “A year ago this week, John Kline, Minnesota’s Most Reprehensible Congressman (TM), hosted a job fair at the Eagan Community Center ‘to assist Minnesotans with an uncertain job market.’ Among the Kline invitees looking to ‘assist’ people trying to better their lot was a disproportionate number of for-profit colleges, including DeVry University, Crown College, and ITT Tech, the Carmel, Indiana-based company whose two executives were indicted on federal fraud charges earlier this week. … ITT Tech has been especially adept at exploiting the federal student loan system for its own financial gain. This has come at the expense of taxpayers, who’ve made the company and its execs rich, and ITT students, many of whom drop out without degrees and leave school saddled by debt. According to Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin’s report on for-profit higher ed, ITT’s revenues more than doubled from $758 million in 2006 to $1.6 billion in 2010.”

The Times has always had a soft spot for the Minnesota Orchestra. Michael Cooper writes of the current swing through Cuba, “The Minnesota Orchestra arrived here in triumph this week as the first major orchestra from the United States to visit Havana since President Obama moved in December to start normalizing relations with Cuba. In doing so they beat some bigger rivals to the punch and took on the role of cultural ambassadors, much as the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Boston Symphony Orchestra did in the 1970s with their performances in a newly open China. The Minnesotans are at the vanguard of what is expected to be a flurry of cultural cross-pollination now that there are signs of a diplomatic thaw.”

In the Strib, Graydon Royce writes, “Students, dressed in uniforms of white shirts over brown slacks and skirts, come from across the country. They were attentive and many held up cellphones to take videos while the orchestra musicians played. The Minnesotans were deeply impressed by the acumen of the youngsters. A cello quartet, for example, possessed not only rich tone but also palpable emotion.”

It’s a pricey project. Says Dave Shaffer for the Strib, “Minnesota Power, a Duluth-based utility serving the Iron Range, cleared a key regulatory hurdle Thursday for a proposed northern Minnesota transmission line whose price tag could be as high as $710 million. The Great Northern Transmission Line would run about 220 miles on a route yet to be chosen from the Canadian border north of Roseau, Minn., to a substation east of Grand Rapids. It is part of Minnesota Power’s plan, known as Energy Forward, to replace a large amount of coal-generated electricity with carbon-free hydropower imported from Canada.”

Comments (7)

  1. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 05/15/2015 - 08:36 am.

    Fun with statistics

    “From 2012 to 2014, Minnesota crashes killed 823 people. Only 52 percent were known to be belted.”

    Or in other words, over half of the people killed in car crashes were wearing seat belts.

    • Submitted by Joe Smithers on 05/15/2015 - 11:28 am.

      belts

      So does that mean I have a 52% chance of being killed when wearing a seatbelt but only a 48% chance if I don’t wear it? Try telling that to the officer.

  2. Submitted by William Stahl on 05/15/2015 - 01:03 pm.

    Seatbelts

    The implications drawn in the above two comments are wrong. About 95% of Minnesota drivers wear seat belts, leaving 5% of drivers who do not, according to a 2013 observational study done by the state. About half of auto fatalities come from people who weren’t wearing seat belts. This means that the probability of being in a fatal accident increases by a factor of about 19 if you are not wearing a seat belt.

  3. Submitted by eileen zimmerman on 05/15/2015 - 01:58 pm.

    other

    “against vetoing legislation suspending the games.” So I guess it’s back to e-pulltabs.

    Is that a triple negative. Probably the most confusing sentence that I’ve ever read

  4. Submitted by Jay Willemssen on 05/15/2015 - 02:49 pm.

    Be careful when comparing “trains” with “planes”

    “According to Northwestern University, these days you are six times more likely to die in a train accident than a plane.”

    This is referring to a study done by Dr. Ian Savage of Northwestern entitled “Comparing the fatality risks in United States transportation across modes and over time”. It was recently highlighted by Wonkblog of the Washington Post in an article entitled “The safest — and deadliest — ways to travel”.

    The six-fold differential between “trains” and “planes” is actually the differential in PASSENGER fatality rates per unit of passenger distance for commuter rail and Amtrak versus COMMERCIAL aviation for the years 2000-2009 in the US. The commercial aviation data importantly excludes acts of suicide, sabotage, and terrorism.

    “Trains” and “planes” are both much broader categories than the ones Dr. Savage is characterizing. For example, passenger deaths on commercial US air carriers – excluding the 265 deaths on September 11, 2001 – make up only 7.5% of all aviation passenger deaths during the 2000-2009 period. The vast majority of “plane” deaths in the US are in “general aviation”, basically private planes.

    As for “trains”, this would obviously include all forms of rail – heavy (subway) rail, light rail, streetcars, commuter rail, long-distance passenger rail (Amtrak), cable cars, inclined plane, automated guideway, monorail, and freight rail. Dr. Savage actually highlights “urban mass transit rail” in his study, indicating it has a fatality rate about 1/2 of that of commuter rail and Amtrak, even including assault and violent acts. Or looking at passenger fatality data from train derailments, the biggest incident by far in recent history (1993) was actually caused by a barge damaging a train bridge – so not actually the fault of the train. Also looking at “train fatalities”, the vast majority of people killed by trains are people who got in the way of a train (eg, trespassers). Thankfully Dr. Savage weeds non-passenger numbers out in his comparison.

    One should also keep in mind is the divisor. Passenger-miles is often criticized as a metric and many prefer using number of trips or other measures of exposure to more accurately compare risks across modes.

    Lastly, broader context is needed. Even under Dr. Savage’s methodology (which excludes the massive number of non-occupants killed by motor vehicles), being in a car, truck, SUV, or van is 17x deadlier than riding commuter rail or Amtrak.

    Sources:
    http://faculty.wcas.northwestern.edu/~ipsavage/436.pdf
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2015/05/14/the-safest-and-deadliest-ways-to-travel/
    http://www.rita.dot.gov/bts/sites/rita.dot.gov.bts/files/publications/national_transportation_statistics/html/table_02_01.html
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1993_Big_Bayou_Canot_train_wreck

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