- Associated Press - Sunday, March 2, 2014
Minn. gay rights groups turn attention to bullying

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Long before gay rights activists in Minnesota launched a successful campaign to legalize same-sex marriage, they were aiming for another high-profile goal: a state law protecting children from school bullies.

Backers of a bill dubbed the “Safe and Supportive Schools Act” think 2014 is finally their year.

OutFront Minnesota, one of the main political forces behind last year’s gay marriage bill, will rally supporters Monday at the Capitol as it aims to push the bill through the state Senate after years of setbacks, including a 2009 veto by former Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty. Supporters see a window of opportunity, with full Democratic control at the Capitol guaranteed only through the end of this year.

“I don’t think we’re going to see one” Republican vote in the Senate, said Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, lead Senate sponsor of the gay marriage bill and the bullying bill. The House passed the bill last May on a straight party-line vote.

The bill, which would require all Minnesota school districts to develop and enforce a plan to reduce bullying, exposes some of the same cultural divides as the gay marriage debate. Social conservatives worry some students could get labeled bullies for expressing religious views. But the legislation is also facing from interest groups representing school superintendents, school board members and rural school districts, who see the state delving deep into school policies.

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Marine from Waseca killed in Afghanistan

WASECA, Minn. (AP) - A Marine from the southern Minnesota city of Waseca was killed in Afghanistan when a suicide bomber attacked his convoy, relatives said.

Lance Cpl. Caleb Erickson, 20, was the gunner in the last truck of the convoy when it was attacked Friday, his father and sister said Saturday. He was airlifted to a medical facility, where he was pronounced dead. No one else in the convoy suffered life-threatening injuries, they said.

Erickson was a 2012 graduate of Waseca High School, where he was a starter on the football team. He was also a wrestler. He joined the Marines immediately after high school. His father, Barry Erickson was informed of his son’s death by three Marines who came to his home.

“He had a mindset to be a Marine since he was age 16,” his father told the Star Tribune of Minneapolis. “He liked the opportunity and the physical challenge. . He loved the idea of serving. My dad served in World War II.”

Caleb Erickson spoke with his father telephone a week ago.

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Meeting to cover Mille Lacs walleye management

ST. CLOUD, Minn. (AP) - Stakeholders will meet with fishery managers Thursday to discuss how to regulate hook-and-line sport fishing for walleyes on Mille Lacs Lake, where officials have slashed the quota to the lowest level ever.

The Department of Natural Resources announced in January that the big lake’s safe walleye harvest level will be 60,000 pounds for 2014, compared with 250,000 pounds last year. Sport anglers will be allowed 42,900 pounds while eight Chippewa bands with treaty rights will get 17,100 pounds.

In a letter to Mille Lacs Fishery Input Group members, the DNR’s Aitkin-area fisheries supervisor, Rick Bruesewitz, said it’s a challenging time for one of Minnesota’s most popular fishing destinations, the St. Cloud Times reported Sunday (https://on.sctimes.com/1hDfl1Vhttps://on.sctimes.com/1hDfl1V ).

Mille Lacs hasn’t produced a strong year class of walleye since 2008, and the DNR has brought in outside experts to help get a better understanding of why. The DNR has said a key problem is that while reproduction is good, the vast majority of the lake’s walleyes don’t survive to their second autumn.

“We want to improve walleye fishing as quickly as possible without unwanted negative consequences, and we believe outside expertise will help us do that,” Bruesewitz said in the letter. “Mille Lacs is a complex system under change and we will need to work together as we weather the current storm and plan for the future.”

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Minneapolis teachers reach contract agreement

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - The Minneapolis school district and its teachers’ union have reached a tentative contract agreement.

The district and the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers say they reached the deal Saturday after what they said were “three consecutive days of productive talks.” Negotiations had begun last June.

The union and district say details won’t be released until they’re shared with rank-and-file teachers and the school board. A contract vote is expected in mid-April. The pact will cover the current and the 2015-15 school years.

Minneapolis is the third-largest school district in Minnesota.

St. Paul teachers reached a tentative agreement last month, but not before scheduling a strike vote. Teachers in the state’s largest district, Anoka-Hennepin, are also negotiating a contract. Last week their union backed off a threat to hold a strike vote.

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