MINNESOTA TAX BILL
Senate leader: Tax-cut deadline 'difficult' to hit
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton's goal of enacting a bill cutting and repealing taxes by next Friday appears unlikely to be met.
Assistant Majority Leader Katie Sieben says it will be "difficult" for that chamber to pass a plan by then. The House voted 126-2 on Thursday for $500 million in tax reductions on businesses and for state income tax filers.
Dayton's administration wants approval of the changes soon so people won't have to file for extensions or submit amended returns to claim tax relief.
Sieben says fellow Senate Democrats want to fully air the tax proposals and proceed cautiously with dispersal of the $1.2 billion state surplus. She says extra time doesn't necessarily signal a deeper disagreement with Dayton and the House, which is also run by Democrats.
House education panel OKs licensing measure
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - A House education committee has approved a bill granting current or former military members and spouses temporary licenses in a variety of fields. The licenses are for professions such as teaching, social work or architecture.
The bill endorsed Friday is one of a few under consideration because of the many professions the push encompasses. The panel moved it to another committee for further review. The licenses would apply for a limited time and those people would have to meet regular requirements for a permanent license.
Teacher licensing and evaluation issues are getting lots of attention this session.
The education committee also discussed bills dealing the state's merit pay program for teachers, known as Q-Comp, and a state-mandated teaching evaluation program that begins next fall. Votes weren't taken on those measures.
Fewer Minnesotans 'underwater' on mortgages
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - The number of Minnesota home owners who owe more on their mortgages than their house is worth has declined.
The research firm CoreLogic says about 10 percent of mortgaged properties in Minnesota are "underwater," compared to about 16 percent a year earlier. Nationally, the share of homeowners with a mortgage in negative equity was about 13 percent at the end of 2013, down from about 22 percent a year earlier.
The director of real estate programs at the University of St. Thomas, Herb Tousley, tells Minnesota Public Radio News that the improving home equity picture could prompt more Minnesotans to list their homes for sale.
The inventory of homes for sale in the Twin Cities is at 10-year low.
AIR POLLUTION ALERT
MPCA expands air pollution alert in eastern Minn.
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has expanded its air pollution advisory and has now put the eastern two-thirds of the state under an air pollution health alert.
Air quality is considered unhealthy in that area for sensitive groups, including the elderly, children, people with cardiovascular or respiratory disease, and people engaged in strenuous activity.
Strong temperature inversions, snow melt, and fog are trapping fine particle pollution near the surface across much of the state Friday. But air quality conditions are expected to improve by Friday evening as a slow-moving frontal system passes over Minnesota.
The MPCA has already canceled an air pollution health alert it issued Thursday for western Minnesota.
Fire out at manufacturer in Crow Wing County
CROSSLAKE, Minn. (AP) - Dozens of firefighters from six agencies battled a blaze at a manufacturer in Crow Wing County.
Fire officials say an early concern about the fire at Cross-Tech Manufacturing were propane tanks and other chemicals used in production of hydraulic rotary brush cutters. Firefighters from Crosslake, Fifty Lakes, Mission, Ideal and Pequot Lakes fought the fire, which began about 9 p.m. Thursday. An estimated 40 to 50 firefighters worked the fire before it was extinguished. No one was hurt.
The plant covers about 27,000 square feet. Brainerd Dispatch says the cause is under investigation.
Funeral Monday for Marine killed in Afghanistan
WASECA, Minn. (AP) - Funeral services have been scheduled for the young Marine from Waseca killed while serving in Afghanistan.
Visitation for 20-year-old Lance Cpl. Caleb Erickson at Grace Lutheran Church in Waseca is Sunday. KSTP-TV says the funeral is Monday at 10:30 a.m.
Erickson's family says he was seated in the gunner's turret on the last truck in a convoy when it was attacked by a suicide bomber Feb. 28.
Erickson was a 2012 graduate of Waseca High School. His unit was based at Camp Lejeune, N.C.
Dummy grenade forces elementary school evacuation
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - A St. Paul elementary school was evacuated after a student brought a dummy grenade to school.
A police bomb squad responded to a report of a grenade at The Heights Community School on St. Paul's East Side Friday morning.
A spokeswoman for St. Paul Public Schools tells the Star Tribune the school was evacuated around 11 a.m., soon after the emergency call.
A student had shown a grenade to a teacher and other students. The spokeswoman says the student did not have any bad intent.
Police says the grenade had been hollowed out and wasn't a threat.
The school of about 550 students followed safety procedures. Students sat in warm buses until they were allowed back within 30 minutes of evacuation.
Teen crisis line is victim of cyberattack
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - A crisis center in Minneapolis was forced to shut down its teen crisis hotline earlier this week after it received hundreds of computer-generated calls in a cyberattack.
Bridge for Youth switched to another number Tuesday when the calls flooded the hotline. It's the first known cyberattack in Minnesota, but part of a growing number of similar attacks aimed at extorting money from agencies that rely heavily on their phone lines.
The organization's emergency services manager, Joan Countryman, says some of the calls were dead air and others were made by a man who asked for credit card numbers and money transfers with a deadline of one to five minutes. The Star Tribune says the agency was able to return to its regular number Wednesday.
Fond du Lac Band to spear walleyes in NE Minn.
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - The Fond du Lac Band of Chippewa says it plans to exercise its treaty rights for the first time to spear walleyes on northeastern Minnesota lakes this spring.
Secretary-Treasurer Ferdinand Martineau Jr. says the tribe is working with the state to determine which lakes and set harvest quotas. He says they'll be smaller lakes in the 1854 treaty area, which covers most of northeastern Minnesota.
Martineau says 70 to 80 of his members have expressed interest in spearing walleyes this spring. He says one reason is the sharply lower quota on Lake Mille Lacs, where Fond du Lac members have fished in past years under an 1837 treaty. He says another reason is the 1854 treaty area is closer to home for the tribe, which is based in Cloquet (kloh-KAY').
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