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A new health maintenance organization has been authorized to operate in Minnesota for the first time in 14 years. Gundersen Lutheran Health Plan of Onalaska plans to operate in four southeastern Minnesota counties Fillmore, Houston, Olmsted and Winona. Gundersen will be the ninth HMO operating in Minnesota, which only allows nonprofit or governmental HMOs. Gundersen's HMO started in 1995 as a way for the company to finance its employees' health care. It was expanded to provide benefit plans for other area businesses and now has more than 90,000 members. It also does business in Wisconsin and Iowa.
Up to three quarters of the new Share the Road with Bicycle signs could be taken down from a couple of streets in La Crosse. City traffic engineer Matt Gallagher blames a lack of communication on the apparent extreme level of signage along Main street and 16th street in the city. Several days ago, big safety yellow signs were installed on both side of those streets, one per block. The signs show the silhouette of a bicycle and the words, "Share the Road." Some of the signs will be left in place and others are set to be added to La Crosse, seventh, Pine and Badger streets. Others will be placed up Bliss road to the top of Grandad Bluff.
(AP) An Iowa Senate panel approved a measure raising Iowa's minimum wage to $10 an hour, but supporters acknowledge the proposal has no chance of becoming law. Burlington Democrat Tom Courtney pushed for the increase from the current $7.25, noting that at $10 an hour someone still would earn only about $20,000 annually.
Ottumwa Republican Mark Chelgren says the move would dry up jobs for young people. Although the subcommittee of the Senate Labor Committee approved the measure Thursday, House Speaker Kraig Paulsen told reporters he wouldn't allow debate on the proposal in the House, where Republicans hold a majority. Paulsen says the measure would hurt employers, and he wants to help them create jobs. San Francisco has the nation's top minimum wage of $10.24 an hour.
(AP) Northwestern Minnesota's White Earth Tribe wants to open a Twin Cities-area casino that its chairwoman says would help a poverty-stricken tribe and be a source of state money for a new Minnesota Vikings stadium. White Earth Chairwoman Erma Vizenor said Thursday that the 20,000-member tribe has desperate needs in health care, education and housing that could be addressed if lawmakers let them open a casino in the much more populated Twin Cities area. Vizenor proposes the tribe and the state split an estimated profit of at least $300 million a year. She says that lets state lawmakers avoid any new stadium taxes. Recent stadium negotiations have focused on downtown Minneapolis land next to the Metrodome. Numerous proposals for expanded gambling have been offered as potential state funding sources.
(AP) Assembly Democrats are proposing a series of reforms that would make the state Legislature subject to the open meetings law and force members of the Supreme Court to step down from cases involving law firms they've received donations from. The proposals are unlikely to get any traction since Republicans control the Assembly. But Democrats said at a Thursday news conference they felt compelled to introduce them in the face of news that most Republican lawmakers had signed a confidentiality agreement not to talk about GOP redistricting plans. Democrats also cited Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman's decision to hear cases involving a law firm he received unpaid legal services from. Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca says the state's reputation for open government is in tatters.