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Lawmakers push for special session to address health insurance costs

Plus: anti-abortion advocates sue the U of M; massive Minnesota solar plot begins producing energy; Minneapolis already spending big for Super Bowl security; and more.

Gov. Mark Dayton and Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk

How about a special session just on medical costs? Baird Helgeson of the Strib reports, “Minnesota Senate DFLers on Thursday will ask Gov. Mark Dayton to call a special legislative session to deal with soaring premiums for participants in the state’s health insurance exchange, MNsure. Senate DFLers made the announcement late Wednesday, but did not outline what solutions they hope legislators would pass. Legislative leaders are hoping to make changes to drive down insurance costs before the new higher premiums go into effect in January.”

The Strib editorial board says, “This Editorial Board has previously highlighted the urgency for fixes and has called for a special session to accomplish two goals. One, passing a short-term aid package for these consumers. … And two, launching the process in which stakeholders are rapidly assembled to craft longer-term market stabilization reforms to be passed during the regular session.”

Today in rigging. Says Tim Pugmire for MPR, “While raising concerns about potential voter fraud, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has called on his supporters to monitor polling places on Election Day. In Minnesota, there are strict limitations in place for such activity. State law allows for ‘challengers’ but not ‘poll watchers.’ ‘Minnesota has quite a few guardrails,’ said Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon. Simon, the state’s top election official, said each political party is allowed to send one person to each polling place. He said those people can challenge someone’s eligibility to vote. Also, a challenge can come from an eligible voter from the same precinct as the voter being challenged.”

Jeremy Olson of the Strib writes: “Anti-abortion advocates sued the University of Minnesota on Wednesday, arguing that its medical research using fetal tissue from elective abortions violates state law. The suit contends that the U violated a 30-year-old statute regarding the disposal of fetal remains from abortions. The statute restricts research using the remains to ‘laboratory tests necessary for the health of the woman or her future offspring or for purposes of a criminal investigation or determination of parentage.’”

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More than kinda creepy. The AP says, “Authorities believe human remains found by hunters in northwestern Wisconsin might be those of a man who has been missing for more than 10 years. The Dunn County sheriff’s office says hunters reported the remains Sunday, and investigators believe they belong to Douglas Poach, based on where they were found and what else was at the scene. Poach was last seen Jan. 3, 2006. He was 53 at the time and living in New Haven.”

The War on Coal continues. Says Dan Kraker of MPR, “Minnesota Power announced it will close two small coal-fired generators in northern Minnesota within two years, some of the last in a sequence of shutdowns of several smaller, older and less-efficient coal generators. The Duluth-based utility will close two generators at its Boswell Energy Center in Cohasset, Minn., that together can generate 130 megawatts of electricity. Two larger coal units there that produce nearly 1,000 megawatts will continue to operate.”

Directly related. Elizabeth Dunbar of MPR says, “ … on the rural landscape just north of the Twin Cities, a sea of solar panels now covers an area three times the size of Minneapolis’ Lake Harriet. North Star Solar began producing electricity on Wednesday. When it’s fully online later this year, it will produce enough energy to power more than 20,000 homes. The opening marks a big sign of change in outstate Minnesota.”

Union at MCAD. Peter Cox of MPR says, “The faculty at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design has voted to unionize. Two separate bargaining units approved joining the Service Employees International Union Local 284. Part-time faculty voted 43 to 20 to join. Full-time faculty voted in favor of unionizing 16 to 13. The National Labor Relations Board counted the ballots Wednesday afternoon.”

Another great day for Wells Fargo. The AP says, “California’s attorney general is leading a criminal investigation into the sales practices scandal that has rocked San Francisco-based Wells Fargo bank. A search warrant released Wednesday by the state Department of Justice shows that agents sought evidence related to allegations that bank employees created up to 2 million bank and credit card accounts without customers’ approval in order to meet sales goals.”

A precedent has been set for trees falling on citizens. Mara H. Gottfried of the PiPress says, “Delmer Fladwood never saw the 800-pound log careening toward him in St. Paul almost four years ago. The last things he remembers before it hit him on a winter afternoon in 2013 was leaving work, going to a neighborhood bar on West Seventh Street and stepping outside. People had gathered to watch a St. Paul forestry crew cut down a massive tree across the street. Workers had removed the tree’s upper limbs and put them in the street to create a ‘crash pad’ for the tree’s main trunk. But when the tree toppled onto the logs, at least two of them flew across the street, striking Fladwood, then 65, in the legs, according to a lawsuit he filed against the city of St. Paul.”

I’m certain the NFL will reimburse us for all cost related to the big game. Says Randy Furst of the Strib, “Sixteen months before a Super Bowl lands in Minneapolis in 2018, the city already has allocated hundreds of thousands of dollars for security, and millions more could be spent on public safety for one of the world’s most high-profile events. … When a city signs on to host the Super Bowl, it agrees to a stipulation from the National Football League that security for both the game and pregame venues will be provided by the local community ‘at no cost to the NFL.’” Oh, well never mind then. Can we get you a beverage? Valet your car?