Mitchell Returns to Senate; United Way Announces Axe Award; Plane Crash Near Clearbrook; Minimum Wage Proposed At Nursing Homes

>>Sen. Mitchell Returns To Senate Floor

(St. Paul, MN)    Embattled DFL state Senator Nicole Mitchell returns to the Senate Floor for the first time since her arrest on burglary charges.  She was taken into custody last week at her stepmother’s home after allegedly breaking in and trying to take her father’s ashes, charges Mitchell denies.  Mitchell has been suspended from all committee assignments, but efforts to bar her from voting failed, so the DFL maintains a 34-33 majority.

>>Pilot Injured In Clearbrook Plane Crash

(Clearbrook, MN)    A pilot is recovering after a small plane crash in Clearwater County..  Investigators say the single-engine plane crashed early yesterday in Clearbrook. The pilot reportedly experienced mechanical failure before the crash.  Weather conditions may have also been a factor in the crash.  The pilot was airlifted to Sanford Medical Center in Fargo for treatment.  The FAA has been contacted and will investigate the crash.

(Bemidji)The United Way of Bemidi Area has announced the 2023 Axe Award winner tis Beltrami Electric.

According to a release, As a longstanding Pacesetter Business of the United Way, Beltrami Electric has consistently demonstrated a deep commitment to making a positive impact. The United Way cites the many creative projects and fundraisers initiated by Beltrami Electric, as well as their generosity in supporting local organizations  According to the Bemidji Area United Way, Beltrami Electric’s generosity, creativity, and passion for community service embody the essence of the Axe Award.

>>Proposed Minimum Wage For Nursing Home Workers Advances A Step

(St. Paul)  Thousands of nursing home workers would get raises under a multimillion dollar proposal to shore up staffing in Minnesota’s elder-care facilities and maintain their quality of care.

The Star Tribune reports the state’s Nursing Home Workforce Standards Board voted Monday to set minimum wages for nursing home workers at $22 per hour by 2026, on average, and $23.49 by 2027. The Nursing home workers have demanded better pay so they can afford to stay in their jobs and continue to care for residents.

Nursing home owners oppose the minimum wages unless they are offset by increases in state tax dollars. The board’s plan requires legislative approval to increase payment rates from the state’s Medical Assistance program for nursing home care — at a cost to Minnesota of $2.2 million in 2028 and $6.9 million in 2029. Minnesota law requires rate equalization for nursing homes, meaning that the increased rates would apply to private payers as well.The state proposal comes as nursing homes also face new federal staffing requirements, including the presence of higher-cost registered nurses. (Star Tribune)

>>MnDOT Says Twin Ports Interchange Project To Take A Year Longer

(Duluth, MN)    State transportation officials say a key project in Duluth will be delayed for an extra year.  MnDOT officials announced yesterday that the completion date for the Twin Ports Interchange Project has now been pushed back to 2025.  The agency announced in October that “findings of historical significance” had been discovered, forcing a delay in construction.  MnDOT did not give any update about those findings yesterday, saying only that they hope to have four lanes open on I-535 by the end of this year.

>>Emerald Ash Borer Found In Rock County For First Time

(St. Paul, MN)    An invasive insect has been found in a southwest Minnesota county for the first time.  The Minnesota Department of Agriculture announced yesterday that the emerald ash borer has been discovered in Rock County.  The invasive insect kills trees by boring into the trunk and feeding on nutrients needed for survival.  The insect has also been found in 50 other Minnesota counties.  The agency wants to start a county-wide quarantine to deal with the infestation in June.

>Firefighter Achieves Remarkable Feat: Poses In Front Of Every Fire Department In The State

(Undated) — Firefighter Hubie Widmer accomplished an extraordinary goal he set a decade ago: posing for a photo in front of every fire department in the state. With the support of his wife Denice, Hubie visited all 775 fire stations across Minnesota, documenting his journey with photos that now fill fourteen albums. From the bustling city stations to the remote outposts, Hubie completed his mission just months before he retired from the Watertown Fire Department. Hubie’s dedication and perseverance highlight the close-knit bond among firefighters across Minnesota, with his journey serving as a testament to the commitment and camaraderie within the firefighting community. After 43 years of service, his accomplishment is a symbol of the pride and honor firefighters carry in protecting their communities.

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