April 26 news

FULDA – On April 20, Davis Moore of Worthington correctly spelled the word “physician” to win this year’s Southwest Minnesota Spelling Bee. Nearly 50 fifth and sixth grade students participated in the first round of the Southwest Minnesota Spelling Bee that took place last Saturday at Fulda Elementary School. The first round consisted of a written test of 40 words. From that round, the top 13 students advanced into the second round. The second round was an oral round and each student was required to spell the same five words.

Five students were chosen for the final round through the totals scored from their first and second round. A ‘spell-off’ was held to determine their placings. Moore came out on top, and the school with the most collective points was Murray County Central.

WINDOM — Pioneer Public Television will premiere a brand new parks production, “Great Minnesota Parks: Southwest”, featuring Pipestone National Monument, Lake Shetek State Park and Jeffers Petroglyphs. A special preview prior to television broadcast will be presented at the State Theater in Windom at 7:30 p.m., May 7; and at the Pipestone Center for the Performing Arts at 7:30 p.m., May 8. Social hour begins at 6:30 p.m. at both locations with complimentary popcorn and refreshments.

Funding for “Great Minnesota Parks: Southwest” is provided by the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund, and locally in part by the Pipestone Chamber of Commerce, Friends of Lake Shetek State Park and Shalom Hill Farm.

ST. PAUL — The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is seeking volunteers to track the health of their favorite lake or stream through the Citizen Lake Monitoring Program or the Citizen Stream Monitoring Program. Volunteers measure water clarity in their lake or stream weekly throughout the summer months, using simple equipment provided by the MPCA. Water clarity, or transparency, is an important indicator of the health of a lake or stream. The MPCA uses water clarity data to track water quality trends and to make decisions on watershed protection and restoration. For some lakes and streams, data collected by volunteers are the only data available, making this work valuable.

Some volunteers have participated in the MPCA’s water monitoring program for more than 35 years.
To volunteer or learn more about the programs, visit the MPCA’s Volunteer surface water monitoring webpage or call 1-800-657-3864.

SPIRIT LAKE, Iowa - A search warrant executed on a residence in the Center Lake area of Spirit Lake has resulted in the arrests of two people on drug charges. Spirit Lake police say the search was conducted at lot 76 in the Center Lake area Wednesday afternoon.

35-year-old Andrea Highstreet and 39-year-old Brandon Highstreet were each charged with one count of possession of a controlled substance-marijuana; possession of drug paraphernalia; and illegal possession of prescription drugs. Both were booked into the Dickinson county jail. Spirit Lake police were assisted by the Dickinson County Sheriff’s Office.

ST. PAUL - Minnesota is inching closer to 200 flu deaths this season. The state Department of Health says four more influenza-related deaths were confirmed last week. That brings Minnesota's influenza death toll to 194 since the season started in October.

The number of people hospitalized with laboratory-confirmed influenza was down to four last week. Since the start of the season, 3,067 people have been hospitalized, but the weekly rate has sharply dropped off since peaking in January. No nursing homes and only one school reported confirmed outbreaks of the flu last week.

LITTLE FALLS - A grand jury in Morrison County returned a first-degree murder indictment against the Little Falls-area man who shot two intruders in his home last Thanksgiving. Jurors heard two days of testimony before agreeing that Byron Smith should stand trial on two charges of premeditated murder.

His lawyer says Smith acted in self-defense when he fatally shot 18-year-old Haile Kifer and her 17-year-old cousin, Nick Brady. The case has sparked debate about where the legal limits are when it comes to a homeowner’s use of lethal force to defend his or her property.

Authorities maintain Smith, whose home had been burglarized repeatedly, wounded each of the teenagers and then taunted them before delivering additional fatal shots at close range. Smith had an audio tape rolling during the encounter.

Until Thursday’s indictment, Smith was charged with second-degree murder. He would face mandatory life in prison without parole if he’s convicted of the first-degree charges. His next court appearance is set for July 1.

ST. PAUL — Minnesota senators joined the House on Thursday night in voting to eliminate a law requiring students to pass a test before graduating high school.

The Democratic-Farmer-Labor education bill, spending nearly $15.7 billion in the next two years, passed 35-28 after Republicans refused to vote for 10 minutes when Senate President Sandra Pappas, DFL-St. Paul, did not call on two GOP members seeking to speak. Most Republicans eventually put up their “no” votes, but some sat in their seats and never voted.

Three Democrats joined Republicans in opposing the measure after a debate lasting more than nine hours.
The bill would eliminate the test high school students now must pass before graduating. Under the bill, students could graduate once they receive the required number of academic credits.

The Senate bill would require schools to work with students to make post-high school plans for college or a career. Students showing enough achievement by 11th grade would take a college entrance exam and be encouraged to attend college. Students deemed not ready for college would receive remedial aid.

ST. PAUL — Minnesota already is on track to establish a new way for its residents to buy health insurance, and now legislators are poised to change how the state takes care of its elderly, disabled and poor.
Senators debated late Thursday their plan to spend $11.2 billion in the next two years for health care, which is second only to public school funding in the $38 billion state budget.

The plan by Sen. Tony Lourey, DFL-Kerrick, builds on the federal Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. State leaders this year established a federally required online health insurance sales program, which in several ways is tied to the Lourey bill.

Lourey said he was disappointed when handed a spending target $150 million less than in the current budget. However, he said, his committee was able to craft a bill that cuts no state-provided health care. The bill would increase rates for nursing homes and other long-term care programs by 2 percent in 2015.

Republicans said Lourey’s does too little to help nursing homes and other long-term care programs.
The long-term care industry says it would be better off with current law, said Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont.

Some of the 115-plus nursing homes in financial crisis could be forced to close, Rosen said. Besides not providing enough money, the bill does not give nursing home administrators flexibility they need to make good decisions, she added.

Rural legislators, including in the House, where a similar bill passed earlier this week, say nursing homes often are the biggest employers in their districts. If they close, communities will be hurt, they say.

Among the biggest changes Lourey’s bill would make is in MinnesotaCare, which provides state-subsidized health insurance to those who otherwise could not afford it. The bill would use federal cash for the program.
Lourey would remove an existing $10,000 MNCare cap on hospital costs and cut premiums in half.

MNCare now gets about half of its funding from Washington, but supporters of the Lourey bill said that under the legislation, up to 85 percent of funding would be federal.

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