May 20 news

WORTHINGTON — Nobles County Parks Director Jerry Braun said campgrounds at Fury’s Island and Maka Oicu opened Sunday, just in time for the Memorial Day weekend. Tree debris had littered the park following the April ice storm, creating a delay in the parks’ opening.

JACKSON - Flooding rains, large hail and even reports of tornados kept people in some parts of the region on the run late Friday afternoon and evening. Two tornado touchdowns were reported in Jackson County: one near Wilder and another about three miles north of Lakefield. There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage.

The storms also dropped large hail, especially near Windom and Lakefield. Two-inch diameter hail was reported about five miles northeast of Lakefield. Hail the size of quarters pummeled the Emmetsburg area. Doppler radar estimated up to five inches of rain had fallen in that area, where flash flooding was being reported.

SPIRIT LAKE, Iowa - A city park in Spirit Lake is the recipient of a donation from Alliant Energy for renovations. The Alliant Energy Foundation has awarded $2,500 to provide amenities in Memorial Park including bike racks, benches, picnic tables, grills and an informational kiosk.

The grant was made through the Alliant Energy Foundation's Community Grants Program, which has awarded more than $400,000 in grants to organizations in its service area during its first-of-three grant cycles in 2013.

SHELDON, Iowa – The cause of a fire at Budd-Z’s Sports Bar and Grill Tuesday appears to be electrical in nature, according to Sheldon Fire Chief Jerry Meyer, but a state investigator declared the cause as undetermined.

The fire happened at 6:45 p.m. Tuesday evening. Sheldon Fire immediately called for mutual aid from the Boyden and Sanborn Fire Departments to help fight the blaze. The fire was put out in about 40 minutes but not before the structure and its contents suffered major damage. Fire crews were on scene for about three and a half hours.

ST. PAUL - They worked all weekend long with only a few breaks, and Minnesota lawmakers are poised for one final day of debate and decision-making. Over the weekend, the House and Senate approved several conference committee reports - among them, the Omnibus Taxes bill. The measure passed with bipartisan opposition, on a vote of 69-65 early Monday morning. All 61 Republicans and 4 Democrats voted No.

State Representative Joe Schomacker opposed the bill; he says the legislation will raise taxes on all Minnesotans, and it will hit farmers especially hard, with a business-to-business sales tax that will cover farm machinery repairs. In addition, the bill would tax farmers for storing items like fertilizer and other ag-related items.

The Tax Bill also raises the tax on cigarettes by $1.60 per pack, and makes Minnesota the 4th highest taxed state by creating a fourth tier of incomes tax.

The bill raises more than $2 billion in taxes; another $300 to $500 million will come in through increased fees, included in some of the other budget bills. Democrats needed to raise taxes because they have proposed billions of dollars in new spending.

The legislature must adjourn the session by midnight tonight (Monday); a handful of bills remain unreconciled, including the Bonding Bill, the Legacy Bill, and the measure to require a unionization vote among daycare providers. Both the House and Senate are gaveling to order at 11 a.m. for a sprint to the mandatory adjournment deadline.

ST. PAUL - Minnesota voters will decide in 2016 if the constitution should be changed to let an independent board set the pay of legislators.

The state Senate voted 43-23 early Monday to put the proposed amendment on the statewide ballot. It follows a tighter House vote on the identical measure. Governors don't have input on constitutional amendments. If adopted by voters, it would create a special council to determine lawmaker pay. Sponsors say it removes an inherent conflict of interest and takes a politically charged matter out of the Capitol.

Legislators haven't seen a pay raise since 1999, and some worry that the $31,000 salary is become a barrier for some prospective candidates given the time demands of the office. The pay council would set new salary rates once every two years.

IOWA - As motorists take to the roads this Memorial Day holiday, Iowa law enforcement officials are urging everyone to buckle up. Law enforcement officers will be out in full force as part of the 2013 National “Click It or Ticket” seat belt enforcement mobilization cracking down on motorists who are not belted as well as other traffic violators. While this Click It or Ticket enforcement mobilization runs from May 20 through June 2, officers are enforcing seat belt laws year-round.

According to the U.S. DOT’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 52 percent of the 21,253 passenger vehicle occupants killed in 2011 weren’t wearing seat belts at the time of the crash. Deaths involving seat belt non-use are more prevalent at night. According to NHTSA, 62 percent of the 10,135 passenger vehicle occupants killed in 2011 during the hours of 6 p.m. to 5:59 a.m. weren’t wearing seat belts. In 2011, seat belts saved an estimated 11,949 lives nationwide according to NHTSA.

In 2012, Iowa had 364 fatalities and according to Iowa DOT data, 167 of those victims or 45.88% were unbuckled. For those killed in crashes at night, the percent unbuckled grew another 15.5%.

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