This Hour: Latest Minnesota news, sports, business and entertainment - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

This Hour: Latest Minnesota news, sports, business and entertainment

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HOMEOWNER-FATAL SHOOTINGS

Agent testifies he searched home where teens shot

LITTLE FALLS, Minn. (AP) - Authorities who searched the home of a central Minnesota man who shot and killed two teens testified they found an audio recorder that was on, an operating surveillance system, and a device that blocked cellphone calls.

Sixty-five-year-old Byron Smith is on trial for first-degree premeditated murder in the deaths of 18-year-old Haile Kifer and 17-year-old Nick Brady. He claims he feared for his life and shot them in self-defense when they came into his house on Thanksgiving Day 2012.

But prosecutors say he planned the killings.

Bureau of Criminal Apprehension Special Agent William Bennett testified Wednesday that he searched the house and found an audio recorder on a bookshelf. He says the recorder was turned on.

Prosecutors have played a recording that captured the moments of the killings.

MINN ST-MANKATO-FIRED COACH

Audit of Coach Hoffner firing sought

MANKATO, Minn. (AP) - Top officials at Minnesota State, Mankato are asking state auditors to review the dismissal of head football coach Todd Hoffner.

The coach has returned to the university after he was reinstated by an arbitrator who said he was improperly fired.

Hoffner was dismissed by the school in 2013, several months after he was arrested on a child pornography charge that was later dropped. Hoffner returned to his old job, even though he had taken a similar position at Minot State.

In a letter, MnSCU (MINN'-skew) Chancellor Steven Rosenstone and Minnesota State President Richard Davenport said an independent review is warranted given the concerns raised about the process. The university was criticized for how it handled Hoffner's case. The coach's supporters said the school overreacted in the wake of the sex abuse scandal at Penn State.

CELLPHONE TRACKING

Minn. Senate backs new cellphone tracking rules

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - New restrictions on police use of cell phone tracking technology have won backing from the Minnesota Senate.

Senators voted Tuesday to require a special tracking warrant when a device is used to find a person's location by their cellphone or other electronic devices.

Minnesota Public Radio News reports that the lone vote against the bill came from Republican Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, a retired sheriff from Alexandria. He says it sends the wrong message about police techniques and suggests they are merely stockpiling data.

The bill says law enforcement must show probable cause of a crime. People being tracked must eventually be notified that their information was collected.

Republican Sen. Branden Peterson of Andover says the bill responds to rapidly advancing technology.

PRIVACY-DATA BREACHES

Minn. lawmakers wrestle with privacy protection

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Minnesota lawmakers are wrestling with ways to prevent public employees from abusing access to citizen data.

Final negotiations over a bill cracking down on data snoopers began Wednesday. Lawmakers say they have a delicate task.

Democratic Rep. Debra Hilstrom of Brooklyn Center cautioned against releasing the names of all government employees who access personal data as part of their jobs. She says it could lead to retaliation.

The bill's current language requires identifying government employees who access private data, even when it's for a legitimate purpose.

The legislation was spurred in part by a Department of Natural Resources disclosure that one of its workers looked up driver-license data 19,000 times without authorization. The employee was fired and he pleaded guilty to criminal charges in the case.

WOMEN-ECONOMIC SECURITY

Senate approves added job protections for women

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Minnesota senators have passed a wide-ranging package of workplace protections for women aimed at leveling pay, accommodating pregnancies and fostering entrepreneurial opportunities.

The bill passed 51-14 on Wednesday and sets up a likely negotiation with the House, which passed legislation that goes even further. All Senate Democrats voted for the bill, which they framed as overdue steps to give women more employment security.

The Republicans who opposed the measure say it involves too much government interference.

The act would require many companies with government contracts to certify they pay men and women similarly. It would prevent companies from barring employees from openly discussing their wages. And it provides longer leave time for new mothers and addresses their need for nursing space.

Gov. Mark Dayton supports the thrust of the bills.

DEFAMATION LAWSUIT-FRANSON

State lawmaker sued for defamation by ex-boyfriend

ALEXANDRIA, Minn. (AP) - A state lawmaker from Alexandria is being sued for defamation by an ex-boyfriend whom she has accused of threatening and stalking her.

The lawsuit by McLeod County Republican Party chairman Eric Harpel claims his reputation was ruined by statements Rep. Mary Franson of Alexandria made in a court petition seeking a restraining order.

Harpel says Franson falsely accused him of stalking and threatening her and sending her lewd emails, text messages, photos and videos. The lawsuit also claims Franson illegally accessed and deleted Harpel's emails. KFGO radio reports Harpel is seeking more than $50,000 in damages.

Franson told KFGO in an email that she's optimistic that Harpel's complaint will be dismissed.

UMD-MINING PROGRAM

UMD plans center to train new generation of miners

DULUTH, Minn. (AP) - The University of Minnesota-Duluth is creating a new program to turn out more graduates who can work in the mining field.

UMD geology professor Jim Miller says the goal of the Mineral Resources Center is to graduate people with a full understanding of the mining cycle, even if they specialize in certain areas. Students will be trained in exploration, processing, reclamation and other core mining disciplines.

Miller says UMD has been planning the new center for five years and will open it in the next year or two. One challenge has been a shortage of trained faculty in mining disciplines, 70 percent of whom are expected to retire nationwide by 2020.

Proposed taconite and copper-nickel mines in northern Minnesota could create hundreds, perhaps thousands of new jobs in coming years.

CHS SAFETY VIOLATIONS

Feds seek $211K in fines from Minn. company

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) - Federal safety regulators are proposing $211,000 in fines for a Minnesota agriculture company that authorities say repeatedly failed to make sure workers weren't exposed grain dust hazards in Montana.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration on Wednesday cited CHS Inc. for 19 violations following inspections at grain-handling facilities in Cut Bank, Glendive, Denton and Valier.

Three were repeat violations, including failing to test the air quality in work spaces for potentially explosive grain dust, hazardous gases or lack of oxygen.

Fourteen were classified as serious, meaning there was a substantial probability of a worker death or injury.

The company has the option to contest the fines.

A CHS worker was killed in Kansas in 2010 when he fell into what regulators said was an inadequately protected grain bin.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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