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Legislators want state to pay for vehicle licensing problems

Plus: faculty union sues Minnesota State; toy thieves thwarted when getaway car won’t start; subzero temperatures forecast for Christmas morning; Minnesota’s Community Solar Garden program is booming; and more.

Picking up the tabSays Erin Golden of the Strib, “Five months into the problematic rollout of Minnesota’s new vehicle licensing system, some state lawmakers are calling for a bailout for licensing offices that have faced major financial losses as they’ve tried to keep up with demand for plates, tabs and titles. As legislators heard new testimony about long wait times at licensing offices and monthslong processing delays for car titles, there was renewed focus on the surging expenses for the 174 deputy registrars’ offices run as private businesses or by cities and counties around the state.”

They want their money. In the St. Cloud Times, Stephanie Dickrell reports: “A union that represents faculty members at Minnesota State’s two-year colleges filed a lawsuit on Friday, seeking hundreds of thousands of dollars it says are owed to faculty members, according to a news release. Minnesota State College Faculty union represents more than 3,700 members at 30 colleges throughout Minnesota, including St. Cloud Technical & Community College. … the union is asking a Ramsey County District Court judge to enforce an arbitrator’s ruling from May 16, 2016. The ruling found Minnesota State owed hundreds of thousands of dollars to faculty members. Minnesota State has paid more than $323,000 to 69 instructors following the ruling. But the union claims Minnesota State miscalculated the amount owed.

Merry freezing Christmas. From WCCO-TV: “Minnesotans may wake up Christmas morning to a shock of arctic air and, perhaps, subzero temperatures. Meteorologist Mike Augustyniak says there’s an 80 percent chance that temperatures on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day will be below average. Highs for both days could be in the single digits, with lows dipping below zero.” Upside? You can finally get the car washed.

Next time, steal a running car first. Says Deanna Weniger in the PiPress: “Maplewood Police are looking for three suspects who attempted to steal several carts of toys Saturday night from the Toys R Us store on County Road D. There was just one glitch in their plans: Their getaway car wasn’t ready to go. When the car wouldn’t start, they took off on foot, leaving it and the loot behind in the store’s parking lot. Maplewood police were having fun with the incident on Twitter, posting a picture of the Grinch’s sleigh next to a gas can.”

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Good. Kavita Kumar of the Strib says, “While its stores on the island have been closed, Best Buy has still been paying its employees in Puerto Rico since September when Hurricane Maria caused once-in-a-lifetime damage to the island. … The Richfield-based electronics chain had three stores, a distribution center and 300 employees on the island before the hurricane and worked frantically to contact them after Maria hit in mid-September. … Best Buy spent about $750,000 to charter planes that made seven trips to take employees to the mainland and 14 trips sending much-needed supplies of diapers, water and food in the disaster’s immediate aftermath.”

Speaking of … At RetailDive, Daphne Howland says of Best Buy: “‘New Blue’ already seems to be paying off. In its latest quarter, the company generated growth across almost all categories, and the largest drivers of same-stores sales were appliances, computing and smart home and raised its full-year revenue growth outlook. … Best Buy appears to be succeeding on an emerging channel — voice commerce — through none other than Amazon’s devices. Best Buy’s familiarity with the category may at least partly explain this comfort with the new tech. But it doesn’t explain why the retailer chose to go with Amazon’s Alexa, (in contrast to Walmart, Target and The Home Depot, which allied with Google for their voice-assisted shopping).”

More on the boom in solar gardens. Mike Hughlett of the Strib writes, “Minnesota’s Community Solar Garden program, once mired in delays, has grown sixfold in 2017, adding enough electricity to power about 32,000 homes. The state-mandated solar garden program, which covers Xcel Energy’s Minnesota territory, has 58 projects online, up from about 10 a year ago.”

Live from where? MPR reports: “On Saturday evening, ‘A Prairie Home Companion’ debuted its new name: ‘Live From Here.’ Host Chris Thile announced the name at the Town Hall in New York City seconds after opening the show, which he took over from Garrison Keillor last year. ‘My hope is that this name captures the energy and enthusiasm that is really at the core of this show,’ Thile said in a statement. ‘Live from Here is about people making beautiful things and sharing them with our audience in real time. The fact that the show is live — where anything is possible — is part of what makes it so special.’ Minnesota Public Radio last month severed ties with Keillor and his companies after it received allegations of inappropriate behavior.”

$600k. The AP reports: “North Dakota law enforcement purchased more than $600,000 worth of body armor, tactical equipment and crowd control devices during the height of protests against the Dakota Access oil pipeline, state invoices show. The purchases, tallied by The Associated Press from invoices obtained through a public records request, included pepper spray, flash-bang and smoke grenades, riot helmets, gas masks, night-vision goggles, more than 2,000 rounds of non-lethal ammunition and more. The equipment ultimately made up a small share of the $35 million in policing costs associated with the pipeline, and state officials defend the purchases as reasonable for a protest that attracted thousands of ‘water protectors’ to southern North Dakota who skirmished — sometimes violently — with law enforcement.”