- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 6, 2015
8 years after fatal crash, Toyota lawsuit heads to trial

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - A Minnesota driver who went to prison for a crash that killed three people grabbed national attention when he was freed amid reports of Toyota Camrys that would mysteriously accelerate. Eight years after that accident, his lawsuit against the Japanese automaker goes to trial Wednesday. Koua Fong Lee and other survivors of the crash are seeking damages from Toyota.

Lee’s Camry rear-ended another family’s Oldsmobile at high speed in 2006. He always insisted the car was at fault, but spent 2½ years in prison before attorneys could use the national surge in reports of sudden acceleration accidents to reopen his case. Toyota insists Lee’s car was not defective and that he caused the crash by hitting the gas instead of the brake.

To keep the focus on the car, the judge is limiting what attorneys can tell the jury about Lee’s criminal conviction and prison ordeal. Jury selection is scheduled for Wednesday, with opening statements expected Thursday. The trial is expected to last through January.



Officials advise no unnecessary travel in parts of Minnesota

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - The Minnesota Department of Transportation says high winds and extreme cold will make travel risky in parts of Minnesota.

Officials are urging no unnecessary travel in south-central and southwestern Minnesota Tuesday night.

Wind gusts are forecast around 30-40 mph after dark. MnDOT says the high winds, combined with recent snow, will cut visibility dramatically.

The National Weather Service has issued a wind chill warning for Minnesota until at least 10 a.m. Wednesday.

But students should not count on Gov. Mark Dayton to rescue them from the cold. The Minnesota Department of Education says it won’t be canceling classes statewide on Wednesday because of the cold.


If 2015 goes well, Minnesota lawmakers may skip 2016 session

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Top Minnesota lawmakers have had early discussions about cramming more work into the next five months so they could skip a 2016 session amid a major Capitol renovation project.

Senate Minority Leader David Hann raised the prospect Tuesday as he reflected on the disruption from construction, and Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk hasn’t ruled it out. Bakk acknowledged having preliminary talks with House Speaker Kurt Daudt about that option, but cautioned it could be difficult to pull off.

Minnesota’s Capitol is undergoing a $270 million makeover that has two-thirds of the building walled off. The Senate would have to meet in a temporary chamber during a 2016 session because its existing wing will get shut down this summer.

The challenge would be to fit next year’s tasks into a 2015 session already brimming with work on a new state budget and a large-scale transportation funding plan. In election-year sessions, lawmakers usually pass a borrowing bill for publicly financed construction projects.

“We would have to assume that in the event of some kind of revenue shortfall, the governor would be willing to call a special session next year and bring us back,” Bakk said.


New GOP lawmakers stress compromise at Legislature

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Lawmakers returned to a changed Capitol on Tuesday, among them 21 new House Republicans who will help determine whether there’s deal-making or gridlock in a legislative session where the GOP has more power after watching Democrats control everything the last two years.

Nineteen newcomers along with two veterans who had a lapse in service make up almost one-third of the new 72-62 Republican majority in the House. Democrats still control the state Senate and governor’s office.

After taking their oaths of office and posing for family photos, many of the new representatives toed a careful line between promises to compromise with Democrats and to stand firm on conservative principles.

“I think a little bit of both,” said Rep. Roz Peterson, a real estate agent who defeated an incumbent Democrat to win her Lakeville-area seat. “When there was no stopgap measure, there were a lot of things passed where people didn’t necessarily feel that they were being well represented. In order to get anything done, you’re going to have to make some deals with the other side.”

Tuesday’s session start was mostly ceremonial. Senate Democrats and House Republicans will introduce their first bills Thursday, reflecting their session priorities.

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