If only the U.S. Congress could function like the Congress in St. Paul, many of the nation’s problems could be solved or on their way to being solved.
During the last session of the Minnesota Legislature, many achievements were made, some of them with bipartisan support in a Democratically controlled House and Senate.
The following are some of the major achievements:
Raising the state minimum wage to $9.50 an hour by 2016 and then linking that wage to the inflation rate. This boost will help some of our hardest-working Minnesotans, many of them single mothers and young people, lift themselves somewhat above the poverty rate. It was long overdue. How anyone actually thinks anybody can live on $6 or $7 an hour is shameful.
Giving back half of the $1.2-billion surplus as tax relief. That surplus also made possible undoing previous legislation that required increases in sales taxes paid by businesses for certain items and services – a tax that was lopsided, arbitrary and just plain unfair.
Legalizing medical marijuana for medical use. The time was right. It has been proven by now that marijuana can help some people with acute medical conditions. The new law is very strict on how marijuana can be used – through liquid, pill form or vapor. Any further legalization of the drug must be based on ironclad research, including the effects of legalization in states like Colorado.
Strengthening the state’s requirements regarding school bullying. New legislation requires schools to train teachers and staff and to investigate and then do follow-through on all case of reported bullying. This is a mandate many oppose for fear of time-consuming bureaucratic tasks. However, we have all seen the devastatingly emotional and physical effects of bullying physically and emotionally on vulnerable students. Thus, this is a most important step in making all students feel safe and comfortable in and out of schools.
Parents will be able to take up to 12 weeks off work after a birth or adoption. That is six weeks more than now. This is good news because studies have shown how important parental-child bonding is in the first few months of a baby’s life.
Providing nearly a billion dollars for projects throughout the state, including many in the greater St. Cloud area, such as a parking ramp at the River’s Edge Convention Center and $500,000 for development of Sauk River Regional Park in south Sartell.
The legislature has tasks remaining in its work hopper, tasks that can be revisited in the next session. But what the legislature accomplished is most impressive, and we can be proud of our lawmakers. Now if only national lawmakers would pay attention and quit their obstructionist tactics. Well, we can dream, can’t we?