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Minnesota lawmakers introduce legislation to protect student privacy

Plus: Nicollet Mall construction bid over budget; lawmakers expected to allow daily fantasy sports websites; high air pollution expected Thursday; and more.

MinnPost photo by Briana Bierschbach

Who knew privacy could bridge the culture wars? At WCCO-TV Pat Kessler reports, “Minnesota lawmakers announced Wednesday far-reaching efforts to stop what they say is the virtually unrestricted snooping into personal data. It’s part of a 17-state effort to introduce privacy bills across the nation. In Minnesota, an unusual coalition of lawmakers is behind the privacy push. As it stands, there are few laws stopping businesses, governments or even schools from snooping.” I really hope this isn’t news to anyone.

At the AP Kyle Potter adds, “With more laptops, tablets and cellphones in classrooms and college campuses, Minnesota lawmakers unveiled a set of bills Wednesday meant to ensure students’ private information stays that way. Joined by data privacy advocates, a trio of lawmakers vowed to introduce legislation this year to protect personal information on school-issued iPads and laptops, block third-party vendors from accessing school district troves and ensure students’ personal cellphones and social media accounts aren’t inappropriately searched.”

At MPR, Tim Pugmire says, “ACLU-MN Executive Director Chuck Samuelson said privacy is a fundamental right that needs ongoing protection. ‘These bills will finally bring our laws up to date with current technology,’ Samuelson said. ACLU-MN sued the Minnewaska school district in 2012 for demanding a student’s Facebook password. The district changed its policy as part of the settlement. Rep. John Lesch, DFL-St. Paul, said the proposed legislation will empower people throughout the country to take control of their personal privacy and to push back against excessive incursions.” Like from Amazon and Google and VISA, you mean?

In a tough spot: Jon Collins of MPR is saying, “The faculty union at Inver Hills Community College has scheduled a no-confidence vote on the school’s president over disputes of what they see as inappropriate spending and cuts to student services. Union members will hold the no-confidence vote on President Tim Wynes’ administration Monday. Wynes has served as president of the school since 2010 and has led Dakota County Technical College since 2013 as first interim and then permanent president. David Riggs, president of the Inver Hills State College Faculty Association, said faculty and student morale at the college has declined dramatically during Wynes’ tenure.

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Juuuuust a little over-budget. Eric Roper and Kristen Leigh Painter of the Strib say, “Minneapolis officials are scrambling to reconfigure a planned overhaul of Nicollet Mall, the state’s signature pedestrian thoroughfare, after a lone construction bid for the project came in $24 million higher than expected.  … The city’s public works director said the project will stay within its $50 million budget, but meeting that figure may require changing the pavement design and soliciting more specific bids in March.” Can’t we sell some naming rights here?

The bad news for DraftKings and other daily fantasy sports sites probably won’t get a lot worse here in Minnesota. says Stribber Jason Gonzalez. “The Legislature is expected to take up the growing conundrum surrounding daily fantasy sports when Minnesota lawmakers convene for the year March 8. But other state officials have neither the plans nor the jurisdiction to make splashier moves banning daily fantasy sports, as three high-profile states have done in recent months. On Tuesday, Texas became the third heavily populated state to constitute DFS as illegal gambling when state attorney general Ken Paxton wrote that websites DraftKings and FanDuel, two major players in the billion-dollar daily fantasy industry, were taking illegal bets under state law.”

Al Gore’s outrageous liberal hoax rolls on. Says Mary Lynn Smith in the Strib, “Global warming and El Niño combined to make last year the seventh-warmest in 121 years, University of Minnesota Extension climatologist Mark Seeley said Wednesday. … Then came autumn, the state’s second-warmest dating back to 1895. October and November were both warmer than usual, and September and December were the warmest in state history for each of those months, Seeley said. September’s average statewide temperature hit 63.8 degrees, breaking the previous record of 63 in 1931 and 1897, he said. December’s average statewide temperature was 24.8, up from the more typical temperature average of 12.9.”

Interested in a hot hoverboard? How about 1600 of them? Fargo’s ValleyNewsLive says, “U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers working at the International Falls, Minnesota Port of Entry recently seized a shipment of counterfeit hoverboards worth about $645,000. The officers found 1,650 Smart Balance Hoverboard scooters and 90 motherboards with counterfeit trademark violations in a rail container. Customs officials say stopping the importation of counterfeit merchandise is a priority trade issue because it can damage the U.S. economy … .”

LA without the warmth. Says Jamie DeLage at the PiPress, “Low clouds and light winds are expected to allow air pollution to approach unhealthy levels Thursday in central and southern Minnesota, including the Twin Cities. As a result, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has issued an air pollution health advisory for Thursday morning through Thursday evening. Levels of fine-particle pollution will peak during the morning rush hour and remain elevated until northwest winds pick up in the evening and disperse the pollutants, according to the MPCA.”

About that “run them over” thing … sorry. Riham Feshir at MPR says, “A St. Paul police sergeant apologized Wednesday for a social media post that urged drivers to run over protesters during a Martin Luther King Jr. Day march. … In his apology, Rothecker, who was put on leave, confirmed he was behind the post written by ‘JM Roth.’ He acknowledged it was insensitive and wrong. ‘My poor choice of words conveyed a message I did not intend and am not proud of. Shortly after submitting the post, I re-read it and deleted it,’ he wrote. ‘As a law enforcement officer, I would never intentionally encourage someone to commit a crime. I very much regret my actions.’” Yeah, a “poor choice of words.”

Another good catch by Sally Jo Sorensen, this one on how exactly we get $86 million in broadband money from the feds. On her Bluestem Prairie blog she writes, “Beneath the fairly accurate headline in the Duluth News Tribune, ‘DFL, GOP agree on goals for rural Minnesota, but not the means,’ Forum Communications political reporter Don Davis reports one contrast that caught our eye: ‘Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton and House Democrats want the state to pay $100 million to expand broadband; House Republicans passed $10 million last year, which [Assistant Majority Leader Ron] Kresha said attracted $86 million of federal funds.’ Kresha’s attempt to position the $10 million in state broadband funding for rural Minnesota as a magnet for the ‘Connect America Fund’ grants to Minnesota made us pause. … Kresha implies that the federal funding is somehow a Republican program that the DFLers are just now joining ‘us’ on. As the post below illustrates, the $86 million in no way depends on Republican control of the Minnesota House of Representatives.”