Local/state briefs

Minnesota tops voter participation list in 2016 election

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota leads the nation once again in voter turnout for a presidential election.

It’s the second consecutive presidential election that the state had the most voters going to the polls, and the eighth time in the past nine presidential elections.

Nonprofit VOTE and the US Election Project compiled the numbers. About 75 percent of eligible voters in Minnesota cast ballots in the 2016 election. Nationwide, about 60 percent of eligible voters went to the polls for the presidential election. That’s up one percentage point from 2012.

The Star Tribune reported experts say same-day voter registration has contributed to high voter participation. Minnesota has had same-day registration since 1974.

Minnesota officer accused of punching girl pleads not guilty

ST. PAUL (AP) — A Minnesota police officer accused of punching a 14-year-old girl in the face has pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor assault.

St. Paul Officer Michael Soucheray II entered his plea Thursday.

According to a criminal complaint, the incident happened in December as officers tried to take the reportedly suicidal girl to a hospital. She was refusing to go and became agitated, so she was cuffed and put in the back of a squad car. The complaint says she then spit in Soucheray’s face, and that’s when he hit her.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported Soucheray’s attorney, Peter Wold, asked for a speedy trial. Wold says Soucheray, who has been on administrative leave, “wants to get back to work.”

Woman suffers fatal injury in fall from horse

UNDERWOOD (AP) — A woman has died after falling from a horse in Otter Tail County.

Sheriff’s officials said 48-year-old Kirsten Laney of Underwood was riding with a friend in the woods near her home when her horse suddenly spooked. Laney suffered a fatal head injury after falling from the horse Wednesday afternoon.

Mayo Clinic faces questions after CEO comments on insurance

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Mayo Clinic is facing questions from the state of Minnesota after its CEO told employees that if patient conditions are equal, its hospitals should prioritize privately insured patients over those under government-subsidized programs like Medicaid.

John Noseworthy’s comments were made late last year in a videotaped speech to staff but surfaced only this week after a transcript of his speech was obtained by the Star Tribune newspaper. The Mayo Clinic has verified the transcript is accurate.

Minnesota Department of Human Services Commissioner Emily Piper said she was surprised and concerned by the comments, and has questions about what they really mean and how Noseworthy’s directive would be carried out. The department is looking into whether there are possible violations of civil and human rights laws.

The agency also is reviewing its contracts with Mayo Clinic to ensure the hospital is meeting its obligations to serve patients in public programs.

In his comments last year, Noseworthy told staff that when Mayo Clinic has expertise that can’t be found elsewhere, it will always take patients, regardless of how they are paying for care.

But when patients have equal conditions, he said, the health system should “prioritize” those with private insurance, according to the Star Tribune.

“We’re asking if the patient has commercial insurance, or they’re Medicaid or Medicare patients and they’re equal, that we prioritize the commercial insured patients enough so we can be financially strong at the end of the year to continue to advance our mission,” Noseworthy said.

Mayo Clinic released a statement this week saying it’s always been committed to serving patients, regardless of insurance coverage, and medical need is the top factor in scheduling appointments.