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Showing posts from June 2012. Show all posts

Governor Dayton announces safety upgrades to Highway 14

Posted on June 28, 2012 at 2:33 PM
Categories: Transportation

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On Tuesday, June 26, Governor Mark Dayton announced plans for a new, three-part safety upgrade to U.S. Highway 14 in south central Minnesota, between North Mankato and Nicollet, MN. The plan includes taking immediate action to improve safety conditions on the road as well as a commitment by the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) to expand the length of highway to four lanes.

The three-part strategy is already underway in its first stage, which involves increased traffic enforcement in an effort to reduce the dangerous driving behavior that has typically occured on the highway. The second phase of the plan calls for the construction of a widened median, which will create a safer buffer between the current two lanes of the highway. Finally, the last phase of the project will be to expand the stretch of Highway 14 from North Mankato to Nicollet into four lanes of traffic. Construction on this final phase is expected to begin in about five years, with a total cost for the three phases of the project being roughly $21.5 – 35 million.

“This segment of Highway 14 has proven to be particularly dangerous, and today’s actions will be important steps to reduce both congestion and accidents,” said Governor Dayton.  “I remain committed to making Highway 14 a four-lane highway ‘from border to border’ (Minnesota’s western border to its eastern border).”


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Minnesota Department of Commerce Leads the Fight against Elder Investment Fraud

Posted on June 27, 2012 at 8:00 AM
Categories: Seniors, Public Safety

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Seniors are the targets of financial fraud every day. To prevent the elderly from falling victim to financial fraud, the Minnesota Department of Commerce has joined in the fight against elder investment fraud through their training program “Preventing Elderly Investment Fraud” on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day that focused on prevention through education.

Many seniors become susceptible to investment fraud and financial exploitation because of age-related factors, illnesses and cognitive impairment.  It is crucial that the elder populations are protected from investment fraud because senior citizens control nearly 70 percent of the nation’s wealth. According to a 2010 Investor Protection Trust (IPT) Elder Fraud Survey, one out of every five citizens over the age of 65 has already been victimized by a financial swindle.  

The Minnesota Department of Commerce recognizes the vulnerability of seniors and through their training program addressed the need to educate health care providers about how to prevent seniors from falling victim to investment fraud.  Health care providers are key in the detection and prevention of elder abuse, therefore providers need instruction on how to spot and report fraud and financial abuse within the elderly and vulnerable adult populations.


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DNR encourages families to say “I Can!” to outdoor recreation

Posted on June 26, 2012 at 8:00 AM
Categories: Environment, Outdoors, Greater Minnesota

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With summer officially underway in Minnesota, the Department of Natural Resources is offering residents a chance to learn the ropes of camping and climbing through their introductory “I Can Camp!” and “I Can Climb!” course offerings at Minnesota State Parks throughout the summer.

The “I Can!” program series is organized by the Parks and Trails division of the DNR as a way to introduce young families to the many opportunities that Minnesota offers for outdoor recreation. Beyond their camping and climbing programs, the “I Can!” series also includes lessons in fishing, paddling, and archery.

While all of these courses will be available at Minnesota state parks throughout the season, those interested in camping and climbing can benefit from combined weekend courses being offered in late June at Blue Mounds and Interstate parks.


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Women's Living Room Discussion on Health Care

Posted on June 25, 2012 at 4:10 PM
Categories: Economy, Reform, Health

On March 23, 2012, Governor Mark Dayton, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Seblius, U.S. Senator Al Franken, and Congresswoman Betty McCollum attended a roundtable discussion with women and mothers to discuss how the health reform law, the Affordable Care Act, has put Americans back in charge of their health since it was signed into law two years ago.


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National Dairy Month

Posted on June 25, 2012 at 1:52 PM
Categories: Agriculture, Health, Economy

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For over 70 years, National Dairy Month has been celebrated in the United States during the month of June to recognize the important role dairy plays in our nation. In the infographic above you can see some of the most important benefits dairy has for Minnesota, or, for more information, visit the website of the Midwest Dairy Association.


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Online tax payments by credit card become cheaper and easier for Minnesotans

Posted on June 25, 2012 at 8:00 AM
Categories: Economy, Reform

Beginning July 1st, Minnesota residents paying their taxes online by either credit or debit card will find the process easier, thanks to a change being implemented by the Minnesota Department of Revenue.

This is thanks to a new vendor—and new website—being used by the department to handle these payments. The new site, www.payMNtax.com, is run through Value Payment Systems, and features a digital time stamp to guarantee accurate records, an email reminder option to schedule future reminders for upcoming tax payments, and, eventually, an automatic scheduling option to ensure that taxpayers never miss their payments.


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Reversed cuts a victory for Minnesota’s disabled

Posted on June 21, 2012 at 8:00 AM
Categories: Health, Reform, Jobs, Human Rights

In a recent editorial for Access Press, a Minnesota disability news outlet, Steve Larson, senior public policy director for The Arc Minnesota commended state leaders for their work to reverse a number of funding cuts to Minnesota Health and Human Services (HHS).

These reversals delayed cuts to the wages of personal care attendants and disability service providers until the next legislative session and reduced the cut to community services for 2,600 Minnesotans with disabilities by half. ” Disability advocates will need to fight again next session to make these reversals permanent,” says Larson.

The issues of funding to key Health and Human Services sectors were first highlighted by Governor Dayton in his 2012-2013 supplemental budget proposal, and were ultimately addressed with his signing of the HHS omnibus budget bill, a bipartisan effort which restored roughly $18 million in funding lost during the 2011 budget compromise. This new spending was offset by savings to the state from a 1 percent cap on health plan profits negotiated by the Dayton Administration which resulted in the return of $73 million to state and federal taxpayers .


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An Open Letter to all Minnesotans from State Health Care Leaders

Posted on June 21, 2012 at 8:00 AM
Categories: Health, Reform

In a matter of days, there will be a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that will have significant ramifications for health care in the United States and Minnesota. The Supreme Court will issue its ruling on the Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s health care reform law.  While the decision will likely generate further national debate, it’s important to acknowledge that the decision won’t change some basic facts about health care in Minnesota.

Minnesota has been a pioneer in health care for more than a century and, regardless of the Court’s decision, we will continue to be a national leader.  We have taken a local, commonsense approach to improving the health of our communities, lowering cost through high quality care and providing affordable coverage in our state.  No matter what the Court decides, Minnesotans already know how to collaborate to improve our health care system and move forward together, in the best interest of our state.

While Minnesota’s health care system does better overall compared to the rest of the country, we all still struggle with unsustainable health care costs and lack of access to care. More than 14 percent of our state economy is consumed by health care costs and even with this spending, nearly 490,000 Minnesotans are uninsured. The fear of unaffordable health care holds back entrepreneurs who want to set out on their own and keeps small businesses from new hiring or raising wages.  If we don’t take action to address these concerns, the problems will only grow as Minnesota’s demographics change and our population ages.


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DHS, Mayo working to improve children’s mental health in Minnesota

Posted on June 20, 2012 at 10:20 AM
Categories: Health

In 2010, the Minnesota Legislature enacted legislation allowing the Department of Human Services to develop a Collaborative Psychiatric Consultation Service. Now, the Minnesota Department of Human Services has entered into a two-year, $1.7 million contract with the Mayo Clinic to deliver specialized guidance to primary care providers and pediatricians who prescribe psychotropic medications for children. The new service is referred to as “collaborative psychiatric consultation” and is based on pilot projects that have been shown to improve quality of care and save money.

Many features of the contract were based on recommendations from the Children’s Psychiatric Consultation Protocols Workgroup. The two-year state and federal investment of $1.7 million in the program is expected to be completely offset by lowered costs for inpatient hospitalizations and medications in the state’s Medical Assistance (MA) program—the state's version of the state-federal Medicaid public health insurance program. Use of the service will be required for Medical Assistance fee-for-service payment for certain psychotropic medications, although all Minnesota physicians will be encouraged to use the service on a voluntary basis.

While developing this service, DHS sought input from pediatricians, family practice physicians, nurses, mental health professionals, families, advocates, school staff and many others who care for children and youth with mental health needs. The contract with the Mayo Clinic integrates many of the suggestions that DHS received from this broad range of stakeholders.


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MPCA and DNR Streamline Permit Process

Posted on June 19, 2012 at 10:14 AM
Categories: Environment

In seeking new ways to save people and the state money, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) will use a permit already employed by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) to meet the requirements of MPCA Clean Water Act permit. 

The MPCA and the DNR are working together to make sure that pesticide discharges to waters are controlled in order to protect aquatic life and water quality.  During the permit development process, the MPCA found it could continue to protect the environment and reduce permit fees by using the DNR’s already employed Aquatic Plant Management permit that would also meet the requirements of the federal Clean Water Act and the MPCA’s Pesticide General Permit. You can read more on MPCA’s efforts to control water quality in the state here: http://www.pca.state.mn.us/index.php/water/index.html

The MPCA and DNR’s reform of this permit will save more than $1200 up front and another $345 annually for more than 180 permit holders representing thousands of Minnesotans.  The estimated cost savings to the state are $150,000 annually.


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