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ST. PAUL (AP) – What a difference a few inches of paper makes.

St. Paul bar owners are collecting signatures to repeal to the city’s smoking ban, but they might have to start over. The signatures on the petition aren’t the problem, it’s the size of the paper.

State law limits petitions to sheets of paper 8 by 14 inches, but the form being circulated by St. Paul bar owners is printed on 11-by-17-inch paper.

That’s too big, Ramsey County elections manager Joe Mansky said. “On its face, this does not comply with the procedural requirements of state law,” he said.

When asked if he thought the bar owners should start their signature drive over, Manksy said, “Yes.”

The ban took effect March 31 and opponents need to gather 4,700 signatures to put the issue on the fall ballot. Victory would mean smokers could again light up in St. Paul bars.

Jim Farrell, executive director of the Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association, said he hoped a compromise could be reached, perhaps by reducing the petitions to legal size after they have been signed. But with two months left, Farrell said the group will start over if necessary.

“If there’s a problem,” Farrell said. “We’ll change it.”



FLINT, Mich. (AP) – It was just a penny, but to Consumers Energy it was enough to cut off power in a local home.

Jacqueline Williams, 41, had an electricity bill of $1,662.08 and paid all of it, except for one cent. That wasn’t enough for the power company, which blacked her out for seven hours Wednesday.

The CMS Energy Corp. subsidiary told Williams the power would not be turned on until the penny was received.

“I went down there, paid my penny and got a receipt,” Williams said. Shortly after, the electricity was turned back on.

“All of this for one penny,” said Williams, who went to the state Department of Human Services for help in April and was told the agency would pay most of the bill.

But she was still short more than $500.

Williams, a Social Security recipient, went to the Salvation Army, where she received $430.67, and Consumers agreed to match $430.66 toward the bill.

However, she was still one cent short.

Consumers Energy spokesman Terry DeDoes said that the utility had no choice in the matter, though he was not aware of any similar incidents where service was stopped for one cent. The company has many programs to help people who fall behind in their utility bills, he said.



NEW YORK (AP) – It’s on to the next caper for Fred, the crime-fighting cat.

The feline, part of an undercover sting in February to get a man authorities said was pretending to be a veterinarian, is in the process of being certified as a therapy cat, according to his owner, prosecutor Carol Moran.

Once the paperwork is filed, Fred will be part of a program that will bring him into schools to show children the importance of animal care, Newsday reported Tuesday.

The tabby received high marks on a behavioral test, Moran said, because he was comfortable with being petted and held by strangers and being in crowded spaces.

Fred posed as a patient as part of a sting operation that netted a man who allegedly treated an untold number of pets without a license.



ARLINGTON, Wash. (AP) – Cliff Garl ignored his doctor’s doubts that the 91-year-old should choose to earn a pilot’s certificate.

In a single-engine Cessna 172, at an altitude of 1,000 feet, Garl flew twice around Arlington Municipal Airport – about 10 miles – last month to make his first solo flight as a student pilot.

“I’m just doing my thing,” he said.

After some initial nervousness before takeoff, Garl, said he was considering logging more flying hours to earn a recreational or private pilot’s certificate.

A former employee of Standard Oil’s maintenance and construction division, Garl said he’s had a longtime interest in flying. During trips to remote areas in Alaska, pilots would allow him try the plane’s controls.

Flight instructor Joe Bennett, 75, asked to teach Garl because he figured they’d have more in common.

“You go into a nursing home and you’ll see people a lot younger than he just sitting there,” Bennett said.

The minimum age requirement for student pilots is 14; there is no maximum age for private pilots. Before attempting his license Garl needed medical clearance from the FAA that required months of physical tests, including a vision test.


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