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Dallis L. Cordes

LA CRESCENT, Minn. — Dallis L. Cordes, 63, of La Crescent passed away Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017, in her home surrounded by her family.

Survivors include her daughter, Michelle Larson; son, Kurt (Brittany) Larson; and grandchildren, Alex and Alyssa Wolter, Keagan and Owen Larson; her brother, Trevis (Deanna Trausch) Loper. She was preceded in death by her father, Morgan Loper; grandmother, Opal “Nanni” Adney; and father-in-law, Virgil Larson. We will all miss her dearly.

A memorial gathering and time for sharing memories will be held from 4 until 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 6, at the Schumacher-Kish Funeral and Cremation Services La Crescent Chapel, 111 S. Oak St. Online guestbook may be signed at

Leota Alma (Kannenberg) Rollins

CALEDONIA, Minn. — Leota Alma (Kannenberg) Rollins, died Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017, at Caledonia Care and Rehab. Funeral services 10 a.m. Saturday at Immanuel Lutheran Church, Caledonia, with visitation one hour before services. Burial in Evergreen Cemetery, Caledonia. McCormick Funeral Home, Caledonia, assisting the family with arrangements.

Alan McCullick

MOUNT STERLING — Alan McCullick, 73, of Mount Sterling died Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017, at Crossing Rivers Health, Prairie du Chien. A celebration of life will be 3 to 5 p.m. with military honors at 5 p.m. Tuesday at Vosseteig Funeral Home, Gays Mills.

AP file photo  

A lawsuit filed by prisoners housed at the Moose Lake, Minn., facility for sex offenders likened it to a second prison sentence rather than the treatment program it was designed to be.

Supreme Court won't hear Minnesota sex offender case

MINNEAPOLIS — The U.S. Supreme Court said Monday that it won’t review Minnesota’s civil commitment program for sex offenders, which had been challenged as unconstitutional for rarely releasing residents.

The program has faced legal challenges for years. An attorney for the system’s more than 700 residents argued the program, which allows people who are deemed sexually dangerous to be committed to a treatment facility indefinitely, amounts to a life sentence and only a handful of offenders have ever been released.

“In the absence of compulsion by the federal court, it seems unlikely that they are going to make any changes (to the program) because the political leadership in this state wants these folks locked up,” attorney Dan Gustafson said.

Gustafson said he’s disappointed in the decision, but also disappointed for the “administration of justice, because that suffered a setback today.”

Minnesota Department of Human Services Commissioner Emily Piper said reforms have been made throughout Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton’s term and that she expects more changes to come. Dayton also said he expects to continue to reform the civil commitment program.

The program currently has 720 residents. Even though the program is more than 20 years old, only eight people have been granted provisional discharge and are living in the community under supervision; only one person has been fully discharged.

Attorneys argued that the residents’ rights are violated because they have little chance for release; the “fatal flaw” in the system is that Minnesota doesn’t require a regular review of cases to see if individuals should continue to be committed.

Attorneys for the state argued that offenders can petition for release using a simple-to-obtain form. They said the program is necessary to protect citizens from dangerous sexual predators who would otherwise roam free.

In 2015, the program was declared unconstitutional by U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank, who ordered changes to the system to create a more achievable path to release. But a three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that decision in January and found the program is constitutional.

The Supreme Court’s decision means the 8th Circuit’s ruling stands.

Gustafson said the federal courts have a history of intervening when states oppress a group of people, and the high court’s decision should concern people who believe the federal courts should protect the rights of unpopular citizens.

The Minnesota case has been closely watched by lawyers, government officials and activists in the 20 states with similar programs. While civilly committed offenders in California, Wisconsin, New Jersey and other states are allowed to re-enter society after completing treatment, Minnesota’s only full discharge didn’t come until August 2016. Minnesota also has the highest per capita lockup rate.

Dayton has pushed to make changes to the program while insisting it’s constitutional, and the state started releasing more offenders in the months after the lawsuit was first filed. Dayton has sought more than $20 million to build less-restrictive housing facilities and biennial evaluations to target more offenders for possible release.

But state lawmakers have shown little interest in addressing the controversial — and politically risky — topic while the legal battle progressed.

Piper, whose department runs the program, said she expects to continue to seek funding for less restrictive housing and other changes.

When asked whether it will be harder to get lawmakers to pay for more housing options without enforcement from the court, Piper said: “I expect them to do their job.”

Betty Lou Sterba

HILLSBORO — Betty Lou Sterba, 88, of Hillsboro died Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017, at Rolling Hills Nursing Home, Sparta.

She was born Dec. 5, 1928, to Frank and Lela (Boldon) Kallian at Mauston. She was united in marriage to Richard Sterba in 1948. They farmed in the Hillsboro area for many years.

Her parents preceded her in death and Richard preceded her in death May 8, 2011.

She is survived by two sons, Roger (Kathi) Sterba and Steve Sterba (Carl McGraw); six grandchildren, Lesa (Jason) Perry, Brenda Sterba (Jori Dunse), Greta (Daamian) Bender, Erica (Dan) Schultz, Ira (Jessica) Sterba and Mica (Miranda) Sterba; several great-grandchildren, Abigail, Paige and Jenny Perry, Blake Sterba, Trinity Sterba-Dunse, Titus and Teegan Bender, Annalisa Schultz, Bailee Cavallino-Pratt, Lily Miller, Logan Sterba, Landon Sterba, and Liam Sterba; a brother, Frank (Jan) Kallian and their sons and a daughter, Dan, Linda and Mark; a nephew, John (Beth) Sterba; great-nephew, Johnny Sterba-Green; a nephew, Don (Jeannie) Sterba; a niece, Mary (LaVere) Leverenz, their son and daughter, Mark and Le Anne; other relatives and friends.

As per Betty’s wishes, no services will be held.

Alice H. Hannon

WINONA, Minn. — Alice H. Hannon died Saturday, June 3, 2017. A celebration of life will be 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, Oct. 7, Sugar Loaf Senior Living, Winona.

Ruth A. McLean

Ruth A. McLean, 100, of La Crosse died Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017, at Eagle Crest South. Services are pending and will be announced by Schumacher-Kish Funeral and Cremation Services of La Crosse.

Joyce H. Matthews

STODDARD — Joyce H. Matthews, 91, of rural Stoddard died Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017, at Gundersen Health System, La Crosse. Memorial service 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 9, at Seland Funeral Home, Coon Valley, with visitation 5 to 7 p.m. A complete obituary will follow.

Alfred B. Millen

SPARTA — Alfred B. Millen, 75, of Sparta and formerly of Georgia, died Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017. Funeral arrangements will be announced by Lanham-Schanhofer Funeral Home, Sparta.

Janet L. Minor

Janet L. Minor, 83, of La Crosse died Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017, in her home. A memorial service 11 a.m. Friday at Olivet Lutheran Church, French Island, with visitation 10 a.m. to time of service. A full obituary will follow. Coulee Region Cremation Group is assisting the family.

Bonnie Leah Sands

Bonnie Leah Sands, 74, of La Crosse died Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017, at Mayo Clinic Health System, La Crosse. Memorial service 6 p.m. Thursday at Coulee Region Cremation Group, Onalaska, with visitation 4 p.m. to time of service. A full obituary will follow.

Dr. Richard 'Dick' Strand

Dr. Richard “Dick” Strand, D.D.S., died Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017, at Bethany Riverside Nursing Facility, La Crosse. Funeral services with military honors will be announced by Jandt-Fredrickson Funeral Homes and Crematory, Woodruff Chapel, La Crosse.

Stable, dropping insurance rates on tap for Minnesota

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Minnesotans who buy health coverage on their own should see only slight rate increases, and even some reduced ones, after state regulators on Monday announced the final rates for 2018.

It’s a welcome change after years of double-digit premium hikes and concern that the state’s entire individual market was on the brink of collapse.

Premiums for 2018 will range from an average increase of nearly 3 percent to a decrease of more than 13 percent, though consumers’ final prices will vary widely based on their plan selection, age and location when open enrollment begins Nov. 1. The largely stable rates came as little surprise — insurers released preliminary rates in July that more or less mirrored Monday’s release.

But as states brace for the premium hikes of 50 percent or more that Minnesota has weathered in recent years, Minnesota’s top insurance regulator pointed to lawmakers’ efforts to control health insurance costs as the main factor behind dropping costs.

“This is positive news for Minnesota,” Department of Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman said. “The numbers show that the new state reinsurance program will help stabilize rates for 2018.”

Four percent of Minnesota residents buy health care on the individual market, either through the state health insurance exchange called MNsure or directly through insurers and brokers. But that market was fundamentally reshaped by the Affordable Care Act, and it has consumed state politics for years.

Just a year ago, Minnesota prepared for premium hikes as high as 67 percent and every insurer selling plans planned to flee the individual market, leading Rothman to call it an “emergency situation” and Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton to declare that President Barack Obama’s health care law was “no longer affordable for increasing numbers of people.”

Minnesota’s Legislature responded by creating a new, $549 million reinsurance fund to help insurers cover costly claims and bring down premiums. The federal government finally signed off on that program late last month.

Rothman said premiums would be 20 percent higher or more without that funding. Meanwhile, Iowa is bracing for an average premium jump of 50 percent on average, while Tennessee, Florida, Maryland and other states prepare for rate hikes between 20 and 50 percent.

Republicans who control the Legislature celebrated Monday’s rate release as a sign their effort paid off, stressing that Dayton allowed the bill to become law without his signature.

“Minnesotans put their trust in Republicans to lower health care costs, and today’s news confirms that we’re making good progress,” Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt said in a statement.

Still, many residents won’t see a decrease even if the sticker price of their plan drops, because a one-time, 25 percent discount for shoppers who don’t get federal subsidies won’t carry over into 2018. Open enrollment for choosing plans begins Nov. 2.

And it could come at a hefty cost to the state. While approving Minnesota’s reinsurance waiver, federal health officials indicated they would cut funding for MinnesotaCare — the state’s subsidized program for the working poor — by an estimated $369 million, despite repeated promises that funding would go untouched.

Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Emily Piper said and Minnesota’s congressional representatives are still pressing officials at the federal level to relent and restore that critical funding.