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Walz administration seeking new powers to regulate child care assistance program

Plus: House votes to kill ‘severe or pervasive’ standard for sexual harassment cases in Minnesota; judge blocks laws limiting Wisconsin governor’s powers; Gopher men win first-round game in NCAA basketball tournament; and more.

Gov. Tim Walz
Gov. Tim Walz
MinnPost photo by Peter Callaghan

The Star Tribune’s Chris Serres writes: “Facing a wave of criticism because the state failed to detect millions of dollars in fraud, the administration of Gov. Tim Walz is seeking new powers to crack down on overbilling, kickbacks and other illegal activity within the state-subsidized child care assistance program.”

The AP and MPR’s Dan Kraker say, “People living around the Great Lakes can expect to see more harmful algae blooms, warmer water temperatures and declining ice cover, more huge rainstorms flushing runoff from farm fields and parking lots, and more coastal erosion and beach closures. That’s the assessment of a new study commissioned by an environmental advocacy group analyzing the impacts of climate change on the world’s largest supply of fresh water. … The Great Lakes region is warming faster than the rest of the continental United States.”

The Star Tribune’s Evan Ramstead reports, “Cold weather and heavy snow pushed more than 6,000 Minnesota construction workers off the job in February and lifted the state’s unemployment rate for the second month in a row. … It’s the latest evidence that the state’s workforce of nearly 3 million people may be at a peak in the current economic cycle, which has been moving upward for nearly a decade.”

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Says Briana Bierschbach for MPR, “The Minnesota House passed a bill by a 113-to-10 vote Thursday to eliminate a legal standard that blocks many sexual harassment cases from making it to court. The standard comes out of 1986 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that said workplace behavior had to be so ‘severe or pervasive’ that it changed the conditions of the victim’s employment and created a hostile working environment. … The proposal would add a single line to the Minnesota Human Rights Act to eliminate the standard.”

In the Pioneer Press, Bob Shaw writes, “Advocates for high-speed rail to Chicago are now adopting a less ambitious goal. They now want to establish a second train daily between St. Paul and Chicago — traveling at roughly the same speed as the existing Empire Builder train. ‘We are doing the realistic thing,’ said Mark Vaughan, chairman of the Great River Rail Commission and a Hastings City Council member.”

In City Pages, Hannah Jones writes, “In 2017, 26-year-old [Alec] Smith, a Minneapolis man with diabetes, was forced off his mother’s health insurance shortly after his birthday. He died less than a month later. Without insurance, his insulin had an out-of-pocket cost of $1,300, more than most people his age can afford to spend on rent, let alone medicine. The goal of his namesake bill is to set up an emergency fund for diabetes patients, managed by the Minnesota Department of Human Services and funded by fees on insulin manufacturers. Once a year, patients could tap into the fund if they need help paying for life-saving medicine.”

From the Forum News Service: “A two-vehicle head-on crash killed a 70-year-old Crosby woman Wednesday, March 20, just north of Deerwood. The Minnesota State Patrol identified the woman as Barbara Jo Blood. Blood’s death comes less than a week after her husband, John A. Blood, 73, of Crosby, died in Zimmerman, according to his obituary. John Blood’s funeral service was scheduled for Saturday, but it was postponed because of Barbara’s death.”

In the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Molly Beck and Patrick Marley report, “A Dane County judge on Thursday blocked a series of laws that limited the powers of Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul. Within hours, Evers and Kaul used the decision to try to get Wisconsin out of a multistate lawsuit challenging the Affordable Care Act that their Republican predecessors joined. Until the judge’s ruling, Republican lawmakers were able to prevent them from doing that. The laws were introduced by GOP lawmakers and signed by Gov. Scott Walker after Evers and Kaul won their elections but before they took office.”

The Star Tribune’s Marcus Fuller writes: “Gabe Kalscheur threw up his arms and held three fingers high. … Kalscheur’s five long-range connections and 24 points helped the Gophers dismantle Louisville 86-76 in Thursday’s NCAA tournament first-round game. Tenth-seeded Minnesota’s upset of the seventh-seeded Cardinals was the program’s first NCAA tournament victory since 2013.”