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State Senate prez can’t hold legislative job and be lieutenant governor, according to AG opinion

Plus: Where does the Ramsey County Sheriff live? Unemployment hits lowest rate since 2000; fire deaths in Minnesota increased 30 percent in 2017; and more.

State Senate President Michelle Fischbach
Senate Media Services

MPR’s Brian Bakst writes: “There’s a good legal case that Republican state Senate President Michelle Fischbach can’t hold her legislative job and be Minnesota’s new lieutenant governor, according to an advisory opinion made public Thursday by DFL Attorney General Lori Swanson’s office. … The analysis has no binding authority. It was done upon request of DFL Gov. Mark Dayton, whose intention to appoint Lt. Gov. Tina Smith to the U.S. Senate will trigger a succession that could throw the state Senate into a temporary tie. Smith will have to resign upon taking her oath in Washington on Jan. 3, if not before. Republicans and Democrats have competing views of whether Fischbach, R-Paynesville, could remain in the Senate ….”

This has something of a 7th-grade-lunchroom feel to it …. The Pioneer Press Mara H. Gottfried writes: “Vadnais Heights’ mayor has told the Ramsey County Board that documents show Ramsey County Sheriff Jack Serier was not living in the county at the time he was appointed, which is a requirement of state law. On Wednesday, [current Vadnais Heights mayor and former Ramsey County Sheriff] Bob Fletcher provided county commissioners with a letter from Matt Bostrom — whom Serier succeeded as sheriff — that was dated Jan. 13. In the letter, Bostrom informed his homeowner’s association that his St. Paul home was vacant. Serier, who was appointed as sheriff on Jan. 10, previously lived in Stillwater and rented Bostrom’s home before purchasing it in August. … Serier told the Pioneer Press on Wednesday morning, before Fletcher emailed the county board with the Bostrom documents, that he started moving things into the residence in the Payne-Phalen neighborhood in November and that it was December when he moved in.”

Get it in writing. Brooks Johnson for the Duluth News Tribune says, “Federal tax reform benefits big corporations. Allete, the parent company of Minnesota Power, is among Duluth’s biggest corporations. So will those tax reform benefits be passed on to Minnesota Power customers? It looks like it. ‘The new lower tax rate will be built into our rates, and the savings will be passed through to our customers based on methodology determined by the (Minnesota Public Utilities Commission)’, Minnesota Power spokeswoman Amy Rutledge wrote in an email Wednesday.” 

Speaking of what to do with your tax windfall, Jay Boller at City Pages says: “Your kingdom awaits, my liege. … provided you’re in the market for a partially completed castle in rural Minnesota. Such a property exists in Dennison, located about an hour south of the Twin Cities, and it’s going for $400,000. Potential rulers of the 6.2-acre lot should be handy, considering only part of the blueprint has been realized. Once completed, the medieval-style home will boast three bedrooms, three bathrooms, and two fireplaces. It can’t be that hard to dig a moat, if that’s your thing.”

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Jobs: KMSP-TV says, “Minnesota’s overall unemployment rate fell to 3.1 percent in November — the lowest it’s been since 2000. The U.S. unemployment rate was reported to be 4.1 percent in November. The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) released the new numbers on Thursday. ‘The overall number of unemployed Minnesotans fell below 100,000 last month for the first time since March 2001,’ DEED Commissioner Shawntera Hardy said. ‘While the state lost jobs in November, Minnesotans are continuing to find work in an improving economy.’”

New state health chief outlines priorities. Says Chris Serres of the Strib, “Just days after taking the helm as Minnesota’s acting health commissioner, Dan Pollock is pledging to make deep reforms to the state’s troubled system for handling allegations of abuse and neglect in senior care facilities. In an interview Thursday, Pollock said efforts to protect seniors — by accelerating investigations of abuse and reducing the huge backlog of uninvestigated complaints — will be his ‘first, second and third priority’ in his new role as state health chief.”

57! The Forum News Service says, “Fire deaths have increased 30 percent in Minnesota so far this year to 56, and officials are worried about the historically dangerous holiday season. Last year at this time, there were 42 fire deaths. In 2015, there were 57 deaths, the highest number since 2002 when there were 64. The state’s all-time low figure was 35 in 2009 and the highest was 134 in 1976. The three leading causes of residential fires in Minnesota are all holiday staples: cooking, heating and open flames, although the leading cause of fatal fires in Minnesota is careless smoking.” 

A sentencing in the Slender Man case. At ABC News Kelly Robinson and Emily Whipp report, “A judge has sentenced one of the two Wisconsin teenagers accused of stabbing their friend in the woods to please the online fictional character Slender Man. Anissa Weier, 16, will now spend 25 years under a mental health institution’s supervision, with credit for her 1,301 days already spent in incarceration. More than two years and six months of her sentence will be spent in a mental hospital before she can petition the court for release every six months. If released, Weier will remain under institutional supervision until year 2039 and will be 37 years old.

Speaking of cases. At MPR, Bob Collins writes, “According to the American Civil Liberties Union in Minnesota, Rice County is charging a 14-year-old girl — named only as “Jane Doe” — with a felony for sending an explicit photo of herself via Snapchat to a boy she liked. The boy, apparently, showed it and distributed it to his friends, according to a statement one classmate gave to Faribault police. They’ve been charged under the state’s child pornography law, and so has the girl, a move which the ACLU calls an ‘absurd interpretation of Minnesota’s child pornography statute.’” It would seem that way on the face of it, wouldn’t it?