Legislative notebook: House jobs bill adds state spendingST. PAUL — Minnesota legislators voted to increase spending to produce jobs.
By: Don DavisForum News Service, Duluth News Tribune
ST. PAUL — Minnesota legislators voted to increase spending to produce jobs.
The House voted 73-59 for the jobs and economic development bill that for the next two years provides $100 million for economic development, more than twice spent in the current two-year budget.
Of that, $54 million is for two major job-creation programs. The Department of Employment and Economic Development will use the money to offer financial incentives to encourage companies to set up shop in Minnesota.
“This may well be one of the most significant economic development bills to come before this chamber in many, many years,” Sen. David Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm, said.
Senators were expected to pass the bill, but debated it well into Thursday night.
The bill increases funding for the state Trade Office, which aids Minnesota businesses in exporting their goods. The money will allow the state to add offices in three countries besides China, where an office already exists.
A $346 million tax cut is included, with about $150 per employee benefit.
Folded into the jobs bill is an energy provision that requires 1.5 percent of electricity in 2020 to come from solar cells.
The bill appropriates $10 million to attract television shows and movie production to Minnesota.
Employees that employers lock out in a labor dispute would be able to double how long they could collect unemployment benefits. Existing benefits last 26 weeks.
Also, the bill forbids any business other than barbers to use a barber pole to attract customers.
No minimum wage?
An effort to raise the Minnesota minimum wage may be over for the year.
That is what Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said Thursday.
Unions were not happy to hear that.
“If the Legislature adjourns without a meaningful minimum wage increase this year, it will be extremely disappointing to hundreds of thousands of low-wage workers who could use a raise and the countless small businesses that would have benefitted from increased consumer spending,” said Minnesota AFL-CIO President Shar Knutson.
The House calls for a $9.50 an hour wage, while the Senate approved a $7.75 level. The federal minimum wage is $7.25.
Gov. Mark Dayton supports a wage in the area of the House bill.
People under age 21 would have immunity from alcohol citations if they call 911 to help another drinker under a bill the Minnesota House passed 124-8.
“We want to encourage a responsible choice even when the choices up to that point have not been so responsible,” bill sponsor Rep. Tina Liebling, DFL-Rochester, said. She said it will encourage friends and peers to call for help during a medical emergency without the fear of getting in trouble for drinking.
The bill only would provide immunity from underage consumption and alcohol possession charges, she said, and not other offenses such as drunk driving.
Rep. Dan Schoen, DFL-St. Paul Park, said the bill would give law enforcement officers more direction and help young people make the right decision.
“I want everybody to know that it’s OK to ask for help,” said Schoen, a police officer.
Rep. Tim Kelly, R-Red Wing, said while college students might use the immunity to make the right decisions, others could abuse it.
“I’m afraid that the high school students will see this as a way to simply get out of something,” he said.
Abortion provision OK’d
Minnesota senators have voted to forbid insurance companies from covering elective abortions when the new MNSure health insurance marketplace begins Jan. 1.
Sen. LeRoy Stumpf, DFL-Plummer, offered the amendment, which was approved on a voice vote.
While state law already bans elective abortion coverage, abortion opponents said it was necessary to clarify that it also applies to the new health insurance sales program set up under the federal Affordable Care Act.