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News Briefs: Dayton switches on health plans

Editor's note: The following is a collection of news briefs from Forum Communication Company newspapers in Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin.


Dayton switches on health plans

ST. PAUL -- Gov. Mark Dayton changed his mind Monday about whether Minnesotans should be able to keep their existing health insurance plans.

Last week, Dayton praised fellow Democratic President Barack Obama for his effort to allow Americans to keep their current policies, something the president promised while lobbying for health reform legislation.

On Monday, however, Dayton said that 140,000 Minnesotans whose policies were set to change will have to deal with that change because there is not time before Jan. 1 to rewrite the policies and the state to approve them.

Dayton wrote a letter to Executive Director Julie Brunner of the Minnesota Council of Health Plans, who earlier had told the governor, saying that it was too late to change course.

“While I support the president's intent and applaud him for creating this option, I also respect that your members' ability to implement these changes would be crucial to their success,” Dayton wrote. “Your letter raises serious concerns that these changes would create confusion in the marketplace, while leaving Minnesotans with fewer affordable health care options.”

The governor said he ordered Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman to continue as planned before Obama’s comments.

In many states, insurance companies planned to cancel existing plans as new laws begin. Minnesota insurers are not allowed to outright cancel plans, but 140,000 Minnesotans received notices that their policies would change next year because of the federal laws.

Obama left it up to states to decide whether to allow existing policies continue even if they violated the letter of the law.

Dayton said the MNsure, Minnesota’s online insurance marketplace, offers options to existing health plans.

Food stamp help reduced

ST. PAUL -- Minnesotans who receive food stamps will receive less education than in the past because of federal budget cuts.

The University of Minnesota Extension announced Monday that it must reduce the number of staff members in the food stamp education program due to a 28 percent federal funding reduction. Forty jobs will be lost statewide.

There was no immediate information about how many Minnesotans may lose their education opportunities.

The program is known as SNAP-Ed, for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program-Education. SNAP is the new term for food stamps.

The education program teaches low-income foods stamp recipients how to best use their federal aid to buy healthy food.

A restructured SNAP-Ed will provide regional programs that cover several counties.

New regional educators will begin early next year.

Seifert set to announce

Former state Rep. Marty Seifert of Marshall will announce Thursday that he is running for the Republican governor nomination next year.

Seifert plans campaign events in Marshall, St. Paul and Mankato.

He will join several other Republicans looking to unseat Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton.

Ice still too thin

Department of Natural Resources officials want Minnesotans to understand that it still is too early to walk on the ice.

“The bottom line is it's crucial that people do not let their guard down,” the DNR’s Kara Owens said, “because ice is never 100 percent safe. A few days of cold temperatures don’t create ice strong enough to hold a person.”

The reminder came Monday, three days after a DNR conservation officer helped rescue a man who was fishing and fell through the ice on Little Rock Lake in Benton County.

Six people died last winter after falling through ice.

The DNR’s recommendations for ice thickness are:

-- 4 inches for walking.

-- 5 inches for a snowmobile or ATV.

-- 8-12 inches for a car.

-- 12-15 inches for a medium-sized truck.


Woman gets jail time for stealing from developmentally disabled girl

FARGO – A Gardner woman was sentenced to 28 days in jail Monday after pleading guilty to accusations she stole money from her son’s developmentally disabled girlfriend.

who court records say has the intellectual capacity of a third-grader and who was living in Porter’s home at the time of the crime.

Tamera Annette Porter, 42, was sentenced to 28 days in jail and four years supervised probation after pleading guilty to two counts of exploitation of a vulnerable adult, a Class C felony.

Court documents say family of the 18-year-old girlfriend – who has the intellectual capacity of a 3rd grader, according to court records – called police to report suspicious activity in her bank account in March.

Investigators say Porter made ATM withdrawals of $500 or more from the victim’s account and cashed out repeated Target gift card purchases in amounts from $180 to $295.

Porter told police her son’s girlfriend “just volunteers” to give her money.

Upon release, Porter is ordered to have no contact with the victim as part of the terms of her probation.

Heitkamp nominates 3 to military academies

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., has nominated three North Dakota students for admission to the nation’s military service academies.

The students nominated include:

Jessica Bushaw, Bismarck, a senior at Bismarck High School, U.S. Air Force Academy; Austin Meyer, Grand Forks, a recent graduate of Ramstein High School at Ramstein Air Force Base, Germany, U.S. Air Force Academy; and Joseph Rensvold, Minot, a senior at Minot High School, U.S. Naval Academy.

McEvers named to state Supreme Court

FARGO – Cass County District Court Judge Lisa Fair McEvers was appointed Monday to the North Dakota Supreme Court by Gov. Jack Dalrymple.

McEvers, 51, will replace Justice Mary Muehlen Maring, who is retiring next month after 17 years on the bench.

McEvers said she is honored to be chosen out of 12 candidates vetted for the bench.

“The courts and the court system have been an interest and a fascination of mine for a long, long time,” she said. “Opportunities to serve on the Supreme Court come up very rarely. There aren’t a lot of chances to be considered.”

McEvers became a district court judge in September 2010 after serving as North Dakota labor commissioner since 2005.

McEvers worked in a private law firm and was an assistant Cass County state’s attorney from 2001 to 2005, prosecuting criminal, juvenile and drug court cases.

The Minto native earned a law degree with distinction from the University of North Dakota School of Law in 1997.

Mall searching for water main break

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- Crews were searching Monday for a water main break that forced several stores at Columbia Mall to close during the weekend.

Several stores were closed Saturday after being flooded by a water main that broke Friday evening somewhere between J.C. Penney and Sears in the mall’s northeast quadrant. One store, Foot Locker, remained closed Monday, said Bill Reid, the mall’s general manager.

Reid said said electric and other utility lines were marked over the weekend before the contractor began searching for the break, but had not found it by Monday afternoon.

Governor to form advisory panel on pipeline safety

BISMARCK – Gov. Jack Dalrymple announced Monday he is forming an advisory panel to research the latest technologies available to enhance pipeline safety in North Dakota, saying a 20,600-barrel oil spill discovered near Tioga on Sept. 29 has changed attitudes about pipeline safety in the state.

Dalrymple said the group will include independent engineers, members of the pipeline industry and state officials who will research technological solutions and recommend ways to improve the pipeline monitoring and control.

That will include looking at whether the state should adopt its own “plus oversight” oil pipeline regulatory system on top of the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s rules and requirements, he said.

“But I think it would be premature to say we need that because we need to know more about what’s out there and what the differences are between their requirements and what we might be interested in doing,” he said.

Terrorizing charges filed against Cobb, Dutton

CARSON, N.D. -- White supremacists Craig Cobb and Kynan Dutton are being held without bond after prosecutors charged them Monday with felony terrorizing for approaching residents of Leith with loaded firearms.

Cobb, 62, and Dutton, 29, each face seven counts of terrorizing, a Class C felony, including five counts that carry minimum mandatory sentences of two years in prison because they involve firearms.

Grant County Assistant State’s Attorney Todd Schwarz said he requested the men be held in jail without bond because they pose a flight risk and their behaviors demonstrate a threat to the community.

“The people of the community are rightfully very afraid of these two men. For God’s sakes, they came to their homes with loaded firearms,” Schwarz said. “I don’t know what prompted their action, but it’s not going to be tolerated.”

Cobb bought up property in Leith, home to about 20 people, in hopes of attracting more white supremacists there and taking over the town’s government. Dutton is among the first to join Cobb in Leith, about 75 miles southwest of Bismarck.

Court documents filed in South Central District Court say the Grant County Sheriff’s Office responded to two 911 calls on Saturday related to Cobb and Dutton approaching people while carrying long-barreled weapons.

Cobb and Dutton are accused of terrorizing five people with loaded firearms, four on Saturday and one on Friday.

Man stabbed to death; three arrested

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- A 33-year-old man was found dead early Sunday and three men are in custody in connection with a related burglary, said Grand Forks County Sheriff Bob Rost this morning.

The victim was identified by his brother as Ruben Cisneros Jr.

The burglary and stabbing happened at large rural home west of Grand Forks,” about 1 a.m. Sunday.

Deputies responded to a call and found a man dead from an apparent stabbing.

Three males later were arrested in connection with a reported burglary at the same residence, Rost said.

Rost referred all questions Monday to the Grand Forks County State’s Attorney’s office. Carmell Mattison, the prosecutor said to be preparing possible charges in the case, did not return requests for information Monday.

The men reportedly taken into custody did not appear in court Monday in Grand Forks, according to court officials.


Man killed when car hits ATV on Highway 2

MASON, Wis. -- An Iron River man was killed Saturday in Bayfield County near Mason when his ATV was struck by an automobile on U.S. Highway 2.

According to a news release issued by the Wisconsin State Patrol, Kenneth Fiebrink, 44, was southbound from an ATV trail and was crossing Highway 2 when his ATV was struck by a 2009 Honda Accord driven by Timothy Dean, 64, of Gogebic, Mich.

Fiebrink died from his injuries at the scene.

Dean and a passenger, Linda Dean, 56 were taken by ambulance to Memorial Medical Center in Ashland with non-life-threatening injuries.