A big change is on the way for those Minnesotans who still receive paper checks for their Social Security benefits. Senior Advocate Maribeth Farringer says as of March 1st, all federal payments will be made electronically. Those who still receive paper checks, says Farringer, have several options for setting up their electronic payments. In Minnesota, more than 47,000 people still receive their monthly Social Security and SSI payments via a paper check.
Several bonding bills were heard in committee last week. Representative Andrew Falk of rural Murdock says bonding bills are typically non-controversial but the conversations this year have become partisan. Unfortunately, Falk says, that means Minnesotans who need infrastructure updates have to wait while legislators sort through their differences. There are several bonding projects proposed, including improvements to roads, health care access, and railroads.
School officials in Hancock continue to work out the details of a 2013 expansion and remodeling project. Superintendent Jerry Martinson says they will be opening construction bids today (Monday). The school board will be awarding the contract sometime in March. Martinson says they will break ground as soon as possible, with remodeling on existing classrooms to start when classes let out for the summer.
Elbow Lake Senator Torrey Westrom and Representative Jay McNamar were on a meet-and-greet tour Friday, making stops around District 12. McNamar, a Democrat, says partisan politics haven't affected communication between he and Westrom, a Republican. The two have sponsored four paired bills, McNamar in the House and Westrom in the Senate.
The Stevens County Museum held its annual meeting yesterday (Sunday) with the program open to the general public. The feature artist was Sharon Marquardt, one of the four artists whose work is currently on display as part of the "From Sheep to Shawl" exhibit. The exhibit will be taken down on Thursday.
Friday wrapped up National FFA Week and local chapters celebrated by hosting games for their fellow students. FFA students at the Morris Area Schools mixed lessons about agriculture with community games and volunteer service. Students also hosted an appreciation dinner for teachers with other student organizations.
The Minnesota State Patrol and Canby Police Department were called to a rollover Friday night on Highway 75 in Yellow Medicine County. 57 year old John Pennell of Big Stone City, South Dakota, suffered minor injuries. He was traveling north on Highway 75 when the back end of his 2004 Ford F350 broke loose. He ended up in the ditch and rolled.
The Meeker County Sheriff’s Office was called to a pullet barn fire yesterday (Sunday) at the rural Grove City residence of Mark Wingdinger. It was determined that the fire was in the walls of the 500 x 70 building. The fire departments were able to contain the fire to a small portion of the building. Wingdinger told the fire department he had received a temperature alarm at the building. When he arrived at the building he noticed the metal sheeting on the wall close to a propane heater was turning black and he could also smell smoke. He then called 911. The Grove City Fire Department determined that the fire started because the propane heater was faulty. The fire caused cosmetic damage to the building. The monetary value of the damage is unknown at this time. The building contained 140,000 baby chicks, all of them survived the fire. The Litchfield Fire Department assisted the Grove City Fire Department with a tanker and manpower.
31 year old Paul Fenske of rural Silver Lake was killed Saturday night when he lost control of the snowmobile he was operating and slid into the side of a train. The snowmobile was caught on the train and dragged down the tracks. Fenske was pulled under the train and pronounced dead at the scene. According to the Meeker County Sheriff’s Office, the train crew was unaware of the collision since it happened several cars back from the locomotives, and continued on its way. The train was later stopped. A second snowmobiler, an acquaintance of Fenske, witnessed the crash, but was not involved in the accident itself and was not injured. The crash, which happened in Dassel, is under investigation by the sheriff’s office and Burlington Northern/Santa Fe Railroad.
Representative Andrew Falk of rural Murdock says progress is being made at the Capitol, there was a commitment to work together and get things done, and nothing demonstrates this better than the passage of the Federal Tax Conformity. He says they passed that fill on a 109-19 vote and the governor signed it into law last week. The goal of the bill is to ensure that deductions allowable at the federal level are also allowable at the state level. Falk says this will help about 250,000 Minnesotans line up the filing of their federal and state taxes.
State Senator Bill Ingebrigtsen says the governor’s budget shows $3.6 billion in new taxes, including a $2.1 billion tax increase through an expansion of sales tax on new goods and services like clothing, auto repair, haircuts and digital downloads. He says the DFL Senators voted to support this multi-billion dollar tax bill by moving it forward, but all the Republicans voted against the bill and the increased taxes it would bring on all Minnesotans. Ingebrigtsen says concerns continue about the impact of new sales taxes on Minnesota retailers and families, and there are growing concerns about new ‘business to business’ sales taxes in the governor’s plan.
The Select Committee on Living Wage Jobs held a State Capitol meeting on Friday. The committee heard presentations on workforce and employment trends in Minnesota and the impact of research and development investments on economic growth according to Committee Chair Representative Ryan Winkler. He said as they move forward they have to figure out how to both train workers for the jobs that are out there more-so then just train workers with more education without regard to what the jobs are. He said they have to figure out how to align our state’s education with the jobs of the future rather than just send people out there to get more college education.