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Our View: Don't veto statewide sick, safe rules

While many decisions that affect local residents are best made at the local level, when it comes to workplace laws — including requiring employers to offer paid days off for illness and personal emergencies, an issue hotly debated in Duluth for at least a year — uniform rules that apply statewide make the most sense.

Imagine if you do business across city lines, like most businesses do, and all of a sudden Minnesota's 850 cities each started enacting their own so-called sick-and-safe time rules and other workplace mandates. Imagine the mess. Imagine the confusion.

Minnesota lawmakers this session envisioned precisely that after Minneapolis and St. Paul adopted sick-leave ordinances of their own, and then other cities, including Duluth, started to move in the same direction. Legislation was written for statewide rules instead. A Senate bill passed last week. It's now being merged with the House version. Then it'll be up to Gov. Mark Dayton to sign it into law.

There's speculation, though, the governor might veto.

He can resist any urge.

That's because, "A patchwork of laws just does not work for employers, large or small," as Minnesota Chamber of Commerce President Doug Loon said in an interview with the News Tribune editorial board in February. "You're going to have cities rolling this out over a period of time and all of them are going to be a little bit different, meaning compliance will be complex. How will they be enforced?"

Are such measures even necessary? Many employers already offer paid sick days, recognizing they'd lose their best workers if they didn't. The benefit, like others, can be negotiated at contract time. And how many workers presently without the perk are part time, seasonal, temporary or in positions that historically don't get it? How many work for small companies that couldn't afford it or for their families and shouldn't expect it? What would happen to businesses and their bottom lines if they were forced by the government to offer the benefit more broadly? The push could result in layoffs or lead to other unintended negative consequences.

Is the problem in Duluth or elsewhere in Minnesota even severe enough to justify government intrusion?

If a determination is made that it is, then regulations ought to at least be as unintrusive and as harmless as possible. And they can be clear and uniform, meaning the same rules for everyone, from Beaver Bay to Beaver Creek and from Warroad to Winona, as the News Tribune first editorialized in February.

If the legislation being finalized in St. Paul accomplishes this, as is expected, then Gov. Dayton will have little or no reason to even consider a veto.

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