Minnesota House backs $500M tax-cut bill
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - The Minnesota House has given overwhelming approval to a $500 million package of tax cuts and repeals.
Thursday's 126-2 vote comes just more than a week into the legislative session. The bill heads to the Senate, where leaders haven't publicly embraced the plan.
Governor Mark Dayton and many in the Legislature are racing to undo some business sales taxes adopted last year, including one on warehousing services due to kick in April 1.
The bill also aligns Minnesota's tax code more closely with the federal one, making some exemptions and deductions available to state filers. Some of those breaks would be effective for people filing tax returns now.
Democrats said the state's improved budget allowed for tax relief. Republicans said the package should have been bigger.
NRC issues report cards on Minn., Wis. nuke plants
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has issued its annual report cards on the nation's 100 commercial nuclear power plants, and it found room for improvement at two reactors in Minnesota and one in Wisconsin.
Xcel Energy's Prairie Island Unit 2 on the Mississippi River near Red Wing in Minnesota was assessed as needing to resolve one or more items of "low safety significance." The NRC says will give the reactor additional inspections and attention to follow up on corrective actions there.
The NRC says Xcel's Monticello nuclear plant on the Mississippi in central Minnesota and the NextEra Energy Resources Point Beach plant on Lake Michigan near Manitowoc, Wisconsin were rated one category lower with a "degraded level of performance." They'll get more inspections, senior management attention and other oversight.
Wisconsin governor touts Enbridge expansion plans
SUPERIOR, Wis. (AP) - Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is touting plans by Enbridge Incorporated to increase its crude oil pipeline capacity.
Walker toured Enbridge's facilities in Superior, Wisconsin for the first time Thursday. He says he's impressed by safety precautions at the Superior facilities, where Enbridge can store nearly 14 million barrels of oil in 64 tanks.
Calgary, Alberta-based Enbridge is planning to build or expand three crude oil pipelines from North Dakota and Canada to Superior. WDIO-TV reports Walker called the planned expansion a "tremendous opportunity."
Walker says the pipeline projects are "the right fit" and would help provide for energy independence in North America.
Environmentalists are fighting Enbridge's plans, saying they will contribute to climate change by carrying more of Alberta's tar sands oil to U.S. refineries.
STOLEN SCHOOL BUS
St. Paul boy pleads guilty to stealing school bus
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - A 14-year-old St. Paul boy has pleaded guilty to stealing an idling school bus and crashing it at a gas station.
The St. Paul Pioneer Press reports the boy pleaded guilty Thursday in juvenile court to motor vehicle theft and criminal damage to property.
The Ramsey County Attorney's Office says the boy agreed to pay restitution.
The driver had left the empty bus running February 10th while she stopped at a St. Paul gas station for coffee. Police say the boy jumped aboard and took the bus on a two-mile ride before crashing it at another gas station in Roseville.
The boy told police he decided the bus was abandoned and needed to be returned.
No one was hurt, but the bus and the gas station pumps were damaged.
Plane returns to Ga. after landing gear problem
ATLANTA (AP) - Delta Air Lines officials say a plane headed to Minneapolis returned to Atlanta because its landing gear was stuck in the downward position.
Delta spokesman Morgan Durrant says the airline expected to transfer 159 passengers a different aircraft for a second departure from Atlanta on Thursday evening.
Durrant says the plane in question was a Boeing MD90 and the aircraft landed safely before passengers prepared for their second departure.
Details on what may have caused the landing gear problem weren't immediately available.
Minnesota bear researcher defends methods
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Minnesota bear researcher Lynn Rogers is defending his methods as he tries to win back his research permit.
Rogers testified Thursday at an administrative hearing. The St. Paul Pioneer Press reports Rogers says while the bears he studies may be habituated to people from feeding, the animals aren't more dangerous.
For years, Rogers has defended his methods, which include hand-feeding black bears.
The Department of Natural Resources has accused Rogers of creating a public safety risk. The agency says bears in Rogers' study area have come to see people as a food source, and that's made them more dangerous.
Last year, the DNR refused to renew Roger's research permit. Rogers challenged that decision, which led to the hearing.
An administrative law judge likely will issue her recommendation by May.
STATE OF UNIVERSITY-KALER
Kaler's speech touts diversity, safety efforts
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler says the university will redouble efforts to recruit students of color and ensure student safety.
Kaler delivered his annual State of the University address Thursday, his third since taking on the top job.
In the address, Kaler touted accomplishments from the past year, from breaking ground on a new health care clinic to piloting three-year degrees at the College of Design.
The St. Paul Pioneer Press reports Kaler also spoke about challenges facing the university - a "poor" record on enrolling diverse students, an uptick in robberies targeting Twin Cities students and a looming wave of faculty retirements.
The university has an annual budget of more than $3 billion and has about 63,000 students across its campuses.
St. Paul reaches settlement in fatal landslide
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - The city of St. Paul has agreed to pay $1 million to the families of two children who were killed and one who was injured in a landslide during a school field trip last May.
The City Council is scheduled to approve the settlement on Wednesday.
The families of the children who died - 9-year-old Haysem Sani and 10-year-old Mohamed Fofana - would each get $400,000, while $200,000 would go to the family of 10-year-old Devin Meldahl, who suffered skull, leg and rib fractures.
The children were part of a group from Peter Hobart Elementary School in St. Louis Park that went fossil-hunting at Lilydale Regional Park.
Two city-funded investigations last year found that city employees knew of past landslides in the park but could not have predicted the tragedy.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.