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Minnesota Senate layoffs expected in January

Plus: former U.S. Bank stadium security company investigated for overbilling; Ramsey County public defenders face heavy workloads; municipal liquor stores see higher revenues but falling profits; and more.

Minnesota State Capitol
MinnPost photo by Corey Anderson

Senate shutdown. MPR’s Tim Pugmire reports: “With a months-long budget dispute still unresolved, the Minnesota Senate is preparing to lay off its staff and shut down operations on Jan. 12, 2018. … Senate Republicans have said their reserve funds will run out Dec. 1, as the result of Gov. Mark Dayton’s line-item veto last spring of operational money for the House and Senate. The matter remains tied up in the courts. … Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, said Wednesday that a transfer of money from a separate legislative branch account would keep them in business until mid-January. Gazelka said the proposed transfer of just over $3 million needs approval from the Legislative Coordinating Commission.”

That seems … bad. The Pioneer Press’ Dave Orrick reports: “Investigators are looking into whether the ousted security firm that worked U.S. Bank Stadium for its first year in operation overbilled for hours that were never worked, by security workers who were never there. … Monterrey Security, a Chicago-based firm, handled security for the first 14 months of the new Vikings stadium — more than 600 events and round-the-clock building security — until it was fired in September after two investigations found a host of alleged problems. Among them: improperly training staff; not subjecting staff to state-mandated criminal background checks; and employing workers — including a convicted extortionist — with criminal pasts that bar them from working security in Minnesota.”

A problem that no one seems able, or willing, to solve. The Pioneer Press’ Sarah Horner writes: “Frustrations among public defenders with growing caseloads and what they say is problematic scheduling in the Ramsey County District Court system came to a head this week when a judge held two attorneys in contempt of court — including Ramsey County’s chief public defender. … The rare reprimand prompted a swarm of public defenders, law clerks and others to pack Ramsey County District Judge Thomas Gilligan Jr.’s courtroom Tuesday to show support for their colleagues and advocate for changes they say would help them serve their clients and deal with heavy workloads, several said.”

Booze puzzle. The Star Tribune’s Paul Walsh reports: “Municipally operated liquor stores in Minnesota saw record sales in 2016 but also a retreat in profits, according to an annual analysis released Tuesday. … Sales last year among the 228 municipally operated stores totaled $344.4 million, a 2.1 percent increase over 2015, the report by the State Auditor’s Office revealed. Leading the way among all ‘munis,’ as they are called, was Lakeville’s stores with $14.1 million in sales across the city last year. … While the money is coming in like never before, the combined net profit across the state shrank from 2015 to 2016 by 8.4 percent to $22.8 million. Metrowide, 10 cities saw shrinking profits from 2015 to 2016.”

In other news …

Local label makes it big: “Compass Records Group Acquires Red House Records” [Billboard]

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FYI: “Best Buy launches hundreds of Black Friday deals early” [Star Tribune]

That’s a lot of deer: “DNR release: Hunters register more than 70,000 deer opening weekend” [Echo Press]

Sports news: “Vikings to place Sam Bradford on IR to make room for Bridgewater, report says” [Pioneer Press]