Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.
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Editor's note: This is one of several stories about what is called a rural Minnesota health care crisis. BIGFORK, Minn. — Small-town hospitals and clinics may not have all the bells and whistles of their big-city counterparts, but they offer something patients often cannot find in the cities: quarterbacks. "You have a quarterback here," said Dr. Heidi Korstad, sitting in the cafeteria of Bigfork Valley, a sprawling medical complex of hospital, clinic, nursing home and other facilities in a town that falls short of 500 population.
BRAINERD, Minn. — Howard Cronquist baled hay the other day, and also fit in some time to work on one of his farm buildings. That may not be big news for many farmers, but it is for him. Fifteen months ago, the rural Brainerd man suffered what was described as a major stroke. He and his wife, Sharon, credit his recovery to a combination of his hometown hospital and a Twin Cities neurologist stroke expert being in the emergency room via video to help local health care professionals.
ST. PAUL—Taxpayers will give 24,000 fellow Minnesota residents $8 million for working in Wisconsin. A new law provides Minnesotans tax credits beginning because income taxes they owe to Wisconsin for working there are higher than if they worked in their home state. On agreement between the states, known as tax reciprocity, used to do the same, with Wisconsin footing the bill. The tax credit "will help these workers keep more of their hard-earned money," Sen. Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, said.
ST. PAUL — Minnesota's minimum wage workers will receive a 15-cent-per-hour bump on Jan. 1. The state Department of Labor and Industry decided that is the size of the state's first automatic minimum wage increase. That will bring the current $9.50 hourly wage to $9.65 for more than 250,000 workers.
Ann Daley needs to know the "full skinny" about what is happening in her community. So she turns to her local newspaper for everything from city council decisions to where there is a taco feed. "It is local events that I like to know about," the 86-year-old woman said about what she has found in the Bemidji Pioneer since she and her husband moved the community in 1976.
ST. PAUL — Vegetables are rotting in California because farmers cannot find enough workers to harvest them. "I need more Mexicans like you," a Kansas wheat farmer told an undocumented immigrant. It is easy to find stories about the need for farm country workers in media nationwide. At the recent Farmfest event in southwestern Minnesota, American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall said immigration and lack of farm workers is the No. 1 issue in rural America.
ST. PAUL—The governor called for making the Minnesota River "fishable and swimmable" within 10 years. That was then-Minnesota Gov. Arne Carlson 25 years ago. The river is in the southern half of Minnesota where scientists still say much of the water should not be used for fishing or recreation. While the southwest faces the most water quality problems and the northeast the least, experts say no part of the state is free from such issues.
ST. PAUL—Minnesota and four other states reached a $500,000 settlement with a company they say was "making abusive and harassing phone calls to increase student loan payments." Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman announced Friday, Aug. 11, that iQor Holdings agreed to the settlement.
ROSEVILLE, Minn. — Minnesota students appear to be maintaining mostly steady standardized scores on reading, math and science, but whites continue to dramatically outscore minority students. Test scores are not rising much, state Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius said Monday, Aug. 7, in releasing the annual Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment test results. "It's frustrating to see test scores slowly increasing over time, but there's more to providing a student with a well-rounded education than can be seen in a test," Cassellius said.
REDWOOD FALLS, Minn.—They do not often bring in television lights for a Farmfest forum. But that is not the only unusual thing about a forum on the last day of the southwest Minnesota agriculture event: Eleven U.S. representatives featured at the forum gave brief opening remarks and then shut up (well, except for some chatting among themselves). Some testifiers appeared surprised that the congressmen actually were listening to them. To add to the unusual atmosphere, it was 61 degrees, unheard-of cold for Farmfest.