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Walz to announce next phase of vaccine rollout

Plus: Legislature looking for ways to help businesses deal with tax fallout from PPP loans; officials say plans for 2021 Minnesota State Fair are moving forward; South Dakota AG faces calls to leave office after video raises more questions about fatal crash; and more.

A hospital employee receiving a dose of the Moderna coronavirus disease vaccine at Rady Children's Hospital in San Diego, California.
A hospital employee receiving a dose of the Moderna coronavirus disease vaccine at Rady Children's Hospital in San Diego, California.

In the Pioneer Press, Christopher Magan writes: “It may be late March before any new groups become eligible for coronavirus vaccine under plans Minnesota officials are expected to announce Thursday. Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz plans to detail the state’s next steps for vaccinating residents against COVID-19 at 12:15 p.m. news conference Thursday. A spokesman for the governor said new details will be provided about who will be eligible to be vaccinated once the state inoculates 70 percent of seniors. Health officials hope to reach that benchmark by the end of March.”

At MPR, Brian Bakst says, “Barring legislative intervention, tens of thousands of Minnesota businesses that received federal loans to retain employees during the pandemic will face a new financial predicament when they file their state taxes. Those whose Payroll Protection Program loans were forgiven face higher state tax bills because the law treats the written-off debt as income. The Legislature is weighing potential fixes, but could be hamstrung by the state’s own budget problems and a $440 million price tag if every loan gets a pass.”

Dana Ferguson writes for the Forum News Service: “Joined by pharmacy leaders, a pair of Minnesota lawmakers on Wednesday kicked off a bid to drive down the sticker price of certain expensive, name-brand medications by expanding access to generic versions. If approved, Minnesota would be the first in the country to implement such a law and the legislators carrying the bill said they expected a strong push from pharmaceutical companies to prevent its passage through the Capitol. But the bill has a strong benefit in surviving the divided Legislator: a bipartisan set of authors.”

Faiza Mahamud writes in the Star Tribune: “After getting an earful from impassioned supporters and opponents of rent control Wednesday, the Minneapolis City Council gave preliminary approval to two rent control initiatives. A proposed charter amendment that would allow the city to impose a rent control ordinance or put a question on a future ballot got unanimous approval from the council, with two members absent. A separate charter amendment that would allow Minneapolis residents to put a rent control question on the ballot by petition passed by an 8-3 margin.”

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Also in the Star Tribune, this from Tim Harlow, “Nothing is certain yet, but it’s looking more promising that the Minnesota State Fair will be back in 2021 after taking a one-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Plans for ‘The Great Minnesota Get-Together’ are moving forward, said fair general manager Jerry Hammer. But exactly what this year’s rendition will look like, should it go on, hinges on how many Minnesotans get vaccinated and the state of the virus and rules governing crowd sizes that are in effect when summer rolls around.”

Also from MPR, Tim Pugmire says: “A bill that would require school districts and charter schools to provide a comprehensive sexual health education program in elementary and secondary grades beginning in the fall of 2023 won approval in a Minnesotan House committee Wednesday — without the support of Republicans. The legislation sponsored by Rep. Sydney Jordan, DFL-Minneapolis, would require the Minnesota Department of Education to develop a model program, including written materials, curriculum resources and instructional training.”

NPR’s Rachel Treisman writes: “South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg is facing calls to leave office after newly released video evidence raised questions about his conduct in the car crash that killed a pedestrian last year. It’s the latest fallout over the Sept. 12 incident in which Ravnsborg, while driving home from an evening GOP fundraiser, fatally struck 55-year-old Joe Boever along the side of Highway 14 near Highmore, S.D. In his initial 911 call as well as a subsequent two-page public statement, Ravnsborg said he believed his car had hit a deer or some other large animal, and did not know he had killed a man until he returned to the accident scene the following day and discovered Boever’s body.”

In the Star Tribune, Chris Riemenschneider writes, “Who could’ve guessed that the last big rock show we’d see in over a year would be one that felt like a leftover from 40 years earlier? Wednesday marks the one-year anniversary of Minnesota’s final arena concert before the COVID-19 lockdown: Kiss and David Lee Roth at Xcel Energy Center on Feb. 24, 2020. What a goofy one to end on.”