Today on the MPR News Update were following gun, health care and budget battles at the Legislature. Also, we hear from Catholics reacting to news of a new pope, crime-fighting help for the White Earth reservation, Lou Belamy on the Penumbra Theatre's ordeal, and more.
MASS FOR POPE FRANCIS: Twin Cities Catholics celebrated the election of new Pope Francis on Thursday at the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis, which held a special mass over the noon hour. The Basilica was decked out in papal colors, gold and white bunting hung from the entrance, and a flag with the pope's coat of arms was displayed near the pulpit. Read the story here, and take a look at this photo gallery from the event.
FLU DEATHS: Minnesota's death toll from influenza climbed to 176, including seven more deaths that were confirmed during week 10 of the flu season that ended last Saturday. The deaths are the most the state has recorded in at least five flu seasons.
BELLAMY ON PENUMBRA: The Penumbra Theatre's newest production, "Spunk,"premiered Thursday night, marking a rebirth for the organization. The theater canceled shows last year amid financial difficulties that nearly closed the lauded African-American company. The show runs through April 7. Artistic Director Lou Bellamy, who founded Penumbra 37 years ago, spoke to The Daily Circuit about what he's learned from the ordeal.
REVISED BUDGET: Gov. Mark Dayton's revised budget released on Wednesday relies on $1.8 billion in new taxes. Now, DFL majorities in the Legislature have to decide whether to use the governor's budget as a blueprint or come out with a different plan. The governor's plan is dramatically scaled back from his proposal in January, but still erases a projected budget deficit and spends more money on schools and economic development.
TOBACCO TAX: DFL Gov. Mark Dayton says the income tax increase on top earners in his revised budget plan is all about fairness. But his proposal to raise the current tobacco tax of $1.23 per pack by an additional 94 cents will disproportionately hit Minnesotans of modest means, Dayton acknowledges.
UNDERAGE DRINKING AMNESTY: People who've had too much to drink can sometimes wind up in dire situations -- beaten up, passed out from alcohol poisoning, or sexually assaulted. But underage drinkers often will not dial 911 because they are afraid police will cite them. Now, a bill soon to be introduced at the Legislature would give underage drinkers immunity from prosecution if they contacted authorities about an immediate health or safety crisis and then met several requirements.
WHITE EARTH CRIME FIGHTING: Federal help to fight crime is coming to a northern Minnesota Indian reservation. The U.S. Department of Justice announces Friday that White Earth will be the first reservation in the country to be awarded a shared jurisdiction. It means tribal, state and federal authorities will now share responsibility for investigating and prosecuting crimes. Federal jurisdiction at White Earth takes effect June 1.
AUTO SHOW: The 40th annual Twin Cities Auto Show is underway at the Minneapolis Convention Center. Crowds of people come to admire the pristine new vehicles, many with dreams of owning one. New car and truck sales have been on the upswing. Within a half-hour of opening last Saturday, the auto show drew more than 10,000 people.
THERE BE GOBLINS: When Minneapolis writer Will Alexander won the National Book Award for his children's novel "Goblin Dreams" even people in his hometown said "William who?" While Alexander is still far from a household name, he is enjoying the catapult to national prominence in literary circles. He has now published his second book, "Ghoulish Song," which is also set in the strange world he calls "Zombey."
HEALTH CARE EXCHANGE: Landmark health insurance legislation is on its way to the Minnesota Senate after the House on Wednesday night approved a bill enacting a Minnesota health insurance exchange, a cornerstone of the federal Affordable Care act health care law. The measure passed after a ban on abortion coverage was stripped out in conference committee.
GUN CONTROL: A bill that would require background checks for nearly all gun buyers will get a vote by the full Minnesota Senate after the Judiciary Committee approved it Thursday night on a straight party-line vote: Five DFLers voted for the bill and three Republicans voted against it. The legislation -- sponsored by Sen. Ron Latz, DFL-St Louis Park -- would require background checks for private sales of firearms, not just those by licensed gun dealers.
LADY GOPHERS: The NCAA women's hockey tournament is about to start, and there's no wonder about who the favorite is: Minnesota. The way the Gophers have been playing, dominating this sport like never before, the real mystery surrounding the event might actually be whether they'll give up a goal. "It's the perfect time of year to be playing well," coach Brad Frost said this week.
PHOTOGRAPHING WINTER: Lastly, with the dregs of winter almost over here in mid-March, we look back at the ice and snow with a in a Q&A with Grand Marais, Minn. photographer Bryan Hansel, who talks about how and why he captures some of his beautiful winter images in and around Grand Marais.