- Associated Press - Monday, April 20, 2015
Senate moves ahead with higher education spending bump

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - The Minnesota Senate has passed its plan for higher education spending.

The $3.1 billion proposal would help fund tuition freezes at both state college systems and offer free community college to qualified high school graduates. But the Senate Democrats’ budget costs about $150 million more than House Republicans say they’re willing to spend.

The bill passed 42-21 Monday, with many Republicans voting against it.

Republicans who control the House didn’t extend the tuition freeze to four-year public universities. They aren’t planning to offer free community college and also plan to curtail a grant program for low- and middle-income students.

Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton’s higher education budget proposal is closer to the Senate’s. All three parties will hash out a final spending plan in the coming weeks.


Minnesota men charged with trying to join Islamic militants

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - When Guled Ali Omar made up his mind to join the Islamic State group, authorities said, he wasn’t easily deterred.

The Minnesota man emptied his bank accounts last May and planned to fly to Syria via San Diego, federal officials say, but his family confronted him and he set his plans aside. In November, officials say, he tried to board a flight in Minneapolis, but was stopped by the FBI.

Even while under investigation, authorities say, Omar and five other men kept trying to make their way to Syria, coming up with a plot to secure false passports.

Omar is among six Minnesota men charged with terrorism-related offenses in a criminal complaint unsealed Monday. They are the latest Westerners accused of traveling or attempting to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State group, which has carried out a host of attacks including beheading Americans.

Authorities described the men as friends in Minnesota’s Somali community who recruited and inspired each other and met secretly to plan their travels. They are charged with conspiracy to provide material support and attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization.


Senate OKs budget bill with money for new office building

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - The Senate has passed a budget bill that funds state government and starts making payments on a new office building for state senators.

Senate lawmakers passed the bill Monday on a 36-27 vote, with all Republicans objecting. It’s the first of many pieces that need to move as the Legislature begins assembling the state’s $40 billion budget.

A vote on funding for public colleges and universities was expected later Monday.

Lawmakers overwhelmingly approved an amendment banning any state funds from being used to build a new Major League Soccer stadium in Minnesota. Republican senators tried and failed to strip out lease payments for a new office building expected to open next year.

Democratic Sen. Richard Cohen says failing to make those payments would damage the state’s credit rating.


Senate: No state money to build new MLS stadium

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Senate lawmakers left no room for debate on Monday: There should be no state money for a new professional soccer stadium.

As the ownership group behind a new Major League Soccer franchise makes rounds at the Legislature, Minnesota’s Senate overwhelmingly voted 61-4 to ban any state funds from being used to build a new Major League Soccer stadium. The ban, added to a budget bill that funds state agencies, also bars the state from taking on any debt to finance a stadium.

It’s unclear whether that ban would nix Minnesota United’s request for a sales tax exemption on construction materials - worth an estimated $3 million - or any deals with county or city officials team owners are lobbying. But it heads off any possibility of a broader subsidy, such as the roughly $500 million public price for the Minnesota Vikings’ new stadium.

Sen. Brandon Petersen, R-Andover, led the charge on the ban. He said too many big-money deals for professional sports teams and other powerful groups have been hammered out behind closed doors.

“We have a bad habit of getting these things done in a terrible manner that isn’t transparent,” he said. “I’m kind of tired of billionaire hucksters walking into the Capitol thinking that they can exploit the public resources for their own benefit.”

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