- Associated Press - Friday, March 13, 2015
Task force wants more child abuse reports investigated

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - More reports of child maltreatment would automatically prompt an investigation under a plan adopted Friday by the governor’s task force studying Minnesota’s child protection system.

Those are among the second set of changes likely to be recommended by Gov. Mark Dayton’s Task Force on the Protection of Children. The group also endorsed boosting social service workers’ screening process for determining whether some lower-risk reports should be investigated and is also considering whether Minnesota should create a statewide child abuse and neglect reporting system.

Lawmakers headed into this year’s legislative session ready to overhaul the state’s child protection system after a Star Tribune story last year detailing the death of a repeatedly abused 4-year-old boy. Eric Dean was killed by his stepmother in 2013 after numerous complaints lodged with county social services failed to prompt action.

The House and Senate already unanimously passed bills at the task force’s urging that would repeal a law preventing social workers from considering past reports of child abuse when deciding whether to investigate new ones. It also clarifies that child safety - and not keeping a family intact - is paramount.

Reports of abandonment, medical neglect and others would be automatically investigated under the task force’s recommendations adopted Friday. But for now, its plans call to keep in place the so-called family assessment route, a voluntary process with no law enforcement power that has been used more frequently by county social services over the last decade.


Gov. Dayton to railroads: Pony up for safety upgrades

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Gov. Mark Dayton gave railroad companies and Republicans a public tongue-lashing Friday for their resistance to his tax plan to fund safety improvements across Minnesota’s railroad network.

Seven trains haul North Dakota crude across Minnesota daily - an influx that has contributed to backlogs of agricultural shipments and raised safety concerns after a string of recent explosive derailments.

With a throng of officials from towns dealing with the headaches of heavier train traffic behind him, Dayton called it “totally unacceptable” that railroads would oppose contributing more money to the state’s safety efforts. The governor and other fellow Democratic lawmakers have proposed a series of tax increases and annual fees on railroads to upgrade railroad crossings and ease congestion across Minnesota.

“That is the responsibility of the railroad,” Rep. Paul Marquart, DFL-Dilworth, said of improvements.

By taxing train cars and levying an annual fee on Minnesota’ four major freight railroads, the state would net $330 million over the next decade, mostly for improvements at railroad crossings. Dayton’s plan would also fund increased training for first responders, including a new statewide training facility.


Pawlenty appraises 2016 GOP contest as between Bush, Walker

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - One-time presidential hopeful and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty sees the contest for the GOP’s nomination coming down to Jeb Bush and Scott Walker.

Pawlenty appraised the field Friday at a University of Minnesota forum, where he looked back on his own fateful run and declared himself “politically retired.”

He says Bush, the former Florida governor from a presidential family, is a fundraising force locking down plenty of support from key factions of the party. But Pawlenty says Walker has a national following and fundraising network from his effort to repel at Wisconsin governor recall campaign. He adds that Walker has appeal within segments of the party that have mistrust of Bush.

Pawlenty is staying on the sidelines. He’s currently in charge of a financial-industry trade group in Washington.


Lake Crystal woman run over by her own vehicle

MANKATO, Minn. (AP) - A Lake Crystal woman is recovering after being run over by her own vehicle.

KTOE-AM reports that 64-year old Diane Sandstrom was backing out of her driveway Friday morning when she realized she forgot something inside the house. She told authorities that as she got out of her minivan, it was still in gear and rolled backward. It knocked her down and rolled over her chest. She was able to make it back into her house to call for help.

The van continued backing up in a circular direction, eventually hitting the garage.

Lake Crystal Fire Chief Jeff Becker says Sandstrom was taken to a Mankato hospital where she was in stable condition.


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